Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:1–11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Well this story seems a bit out of place. I thought Christmas was coming, not Easter. Isn't this Palm Sunday? Are you sure this is the right text for today, Pastor? Yes, it is the right one, and if we think about it a little bit I’ll bet we can come up with a few ideas just why it is a good text for the beginning of Advent. Most of us think of the Christmas season beginning as soon as Thanksgiving is over. I’ll bet a lot of you did some Christmas shopping on Friday. But really, the Christmas season (according to the church year) is the time after Christmas. The song the 12 days of Christmas is all about the 12 days after, not before. We are careful here in the church to hold off singing Christmas carols during the time before Christmas because, in a way, we want to build the suspense. That’s what this season of blue is all about before Christmas. It sets up the Joy, by emphasizing the wait. So we talk about how our savior is coming. That’s what the word Advent means – coming.
We do some special things to mark the season of Advent. Like the advent wreath, the blue paraments, etc. It's all to get us ready to celebrate Christmas, the coming of Jesus as an infant.
So, what does the Palm Sunday text, the text about Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, have to do with Advent? Why would we talk about something that happened the week he died? What does that have to do with the time before he was born?
Well I’ll tell you; this text is about Jesus coming, and coming as King. The donkey, the shouts of the people, and coming to Jerusalem tell us all of that. And any text about Jesus coming is appropriate for Advent, as we await his coming as the Baby of Bethlehem. You see Jesus is the Coming One. God planned his coming from eternity, even before humans made a mess of things in God’s created world; God had a plan to straighten it all out by sending… himself. By coming to earth as a human being to do what human beings couldn’t do. Jesus the Coming One, came into human history. He was born, just like any human being would be born, but not as we would expect God to be born. Instead of a palace Jesus came in a dark stable in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. And instead of coming to a royal family his parents were a carpenter and a poor teenage girl. But, he is / and was God in the flesh. The ultimate power in the universe reduced to a pink, squirming bundle in a woman’s arms. It was just as messy, just as painful, and just as joyful a birth as any birth, just like yours and mine. Jesus Christ, the Coming One came as promised, flesh and bone, God and man, Savior.
Jesus comes to us still. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 Jesus is with us now, in this place, at this time in human history. It is for that very reason we have gathered together, as the church has for centuries. We are here to be with the One Who Promises to Come in his Word and in his Sacraments. We gather around to listen to God speak to us, to instruct us, to comfort us, and to make us joyful. Jesus Christ, himself, is present in his Word, and it strikes our hearts and does what God wants it to do. It too, is a real physical coming, as the words leave the mouth and pass through the air and strike your eardrums, and enter your consciousness, and cut straight to your heart.
And don’t forget that Jesus Christ, comes in the flesh to us today also. While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. Mark 14:22-24 In a few moments Jesus Christ will be present with us in the very same body that Mary fed in her arms; and the very same body that was broken and bled and died on the cross for you and me; and the very same body that rose from the tomb alive again. And we will eat and drink to receive him. It isn’t a coincidence that we sing the same song that the people who were celebrating the coming of Jesus on Palm Sunday sang. “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Holy, Holy, holy Lord, God of power and might: Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus Christ is coming to us right here. The Body and Blood of Christ enter us and we touch and feel Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and strengthened by his presence with us.
And don’t forget that the same Jesus who came in history to Bethlehem, and the Jesus who comes to us today in his word, and in his body and blood, is the Jesus who is coming again. Over the last few Sundays we’ve been talking a lot about his coming in our future. This Jesus who wore diapers, this Jesus who lived and breath as every human being lives and breathes, this Jesus who suffered pain and death. He speaks to us today and touches us with his very body and blood. And He will come again to make complete everything he has done for us.
Notice how Jesus sets everything up, in the text. He is deliberate about what he says. “Bring me a young donkey that no one has ever ridden. It’s time to go to Jerusalem.” Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9ff Jesus was sending a very strong message. He was saying exactly who he was, and why he had come. He was the king coming into the royal city of Jerusalem. The word of Zechariah would be fulfilled; Jesus, the King was coming. Jesus is the Messiah the King of Israel, and the descendent of David who would rule of God’s kingdom forever. He would be like David but greater.
Remember how David destroyed the enemies of God’s people? He was the shepherd boy who stood against the giant. Goliath shouted out curses against God, and David delivered stone to his forehead and used the giant’s own sword to cut off his head. Jesus too, defeats the great giant enemy of God’s people. Satan shouts curses at God, and Jesus, the Shepherd of his people, defeats him by using Satan’s own actions against him. When Jesus breath out his breath on the cross and died, Satan must have shouted with joy! He thought he’d won, but instead he lost. When Jesus pushed the stone away from the tomb, Satan’s head was crushed, and he went whimpering back to his corner. David’s rule over God’s people ended. But, Jesus reign as King will be forever.
And the Kingdom he brings is for us. We have a Savior. Not only did Jesus destroy our enemy the great giant, Satan, but he also removes the power of sin in our lives. We are his children, born into his family by water and the word. We are re-born into the new life that he won for us by his death and resurrection. That new life is one over which sin holds no power. Sin causes death, but Jesus Christ makes us alive again.
That’s what the Coming One has done for us; that’s what the Coming One does for us, and that’s what the Coming One will do for us; and that’s what Advent is all about. Sometimes we talk about life from cradle to grave… in Advent we think about new life, Jesus’ cradle to Jesus’ grave… but it doesn’t stop there. His grave wasn’t the end, but really a beginning for us, because he came from that grave alive again and he makes us alive again. Jesus Christ is coming! Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.