Your King Is Coming!
St. Matthew 21:1-19
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Matthew 21:9 Then the multitude who went before and those who followed cried out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… A blessed new Church Year to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today marks the beginning of the holy season of Advent, a season and a time in which we look forward to the coming of our Lord. He came once in the flesh when He was conceived in the Virgin’s womb, and He comes now in His church by His holy Word and Sacraments. And He will come again in glory on the Last Day to call His church home to Himself.
But how does the Son of God come to us? How does He do it? What does His coming look like? And why is His coming so different than the kings and princes and royalty of this world? You know that when someone famous comes, there is always a big show. When the King and Queen of England make a royal procession, there are red carpets and horse-drawn carriages and diamonds and jewels and glitter and pomp and circumstance. When the President of the United States comes, there is a motorcade, police sirens, and lights blaring and flashing, tinted Suburbans all in a line, helicopters zooming overhead and sharpshooters guarding the rooftops, men in dark sunglasses lurking in the shadows. You know when the King and Queen are making an entrance. You know when the President shows up.
But how does Jesus show up? In the days of the Israelites, kings rode in on donkeys. But in the time of the Romans kings rode into the city on great white stallions, bedecked with gold and glitter. So how does Jesus do it? He rides on a donkey! How does the Lord of the Universe come into the Holy City of Jerusalem? He comes the same way He always comes: in great humility and lowliness. He comes in a way that the world hardly notices.
Consider our Lord’s many advents, His many comings. He first came to us in the womb of a virgin, in a poor, ordinary, unknown girl who happened to be in the family tree of King David. Then Jesus was born and laid in a manger, an animal’s feed trough, literally in a barn. There’s not much royalty in that. He who is at the right hand of the Father ruling all things sleeps in swaddling clothes on a pile of hay.
Then He comes to the Jordan. Does He announce Himself? Is there a parade? Are there trumpets and a fanfare? Nope. Just Jesus getting into the water with the rest of the sinners, acting as if He too is a sinner, taking the place of sinners.
Then He comes to Jerusalem, on a donkey, NOT on a Roman horse. No majestic stallion, just a donkey, a beast of burden. No army marching in front of Him, just a crowd of disciples shouting the pilgrimage liturgy: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” He comes humbly into Jerusalem, just as the prophet said, “See, daughter of Zion? Your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, riding on a donkey.” And He comes humbly so that He might be completely humbled all the way to death on the cross at the hands of sinful men who think way too much of themselves.
Why does Jesus do things this way? Why doesn’t He tramp around swinging His weight and royalty as the Son of God everywhere He goes? The answer is in the Old Testament Lesson: it is because Jesus comes and has His advent in order to be our righteousness. If Jesus wanted to show the world how righteous He is, He could do all those things we associate with kings and presidents. But the difference between He and they is that He doesn’t come for Himself. He comes for you. He is YOUR righteousness by coming not to draw attention to Himself, but to draw your sins to Himself and carry those sins to the cross. Jesus has His advent in humility so that you will be raised up, so that you will be free of your sins, because He is YOUR righteousness.
Now, having conquered sin and death, having risen from the dead, having ascended to the right hand of the Father, how does Jesus come to you now, today? Does He come in glory and splendor? No. He comes the same way: humble and righteous, bringing salvation with Him. What is more humble than water? Water doesn’t look spectacular and amazing. It looks like…well, water! But Jesus comes to you by water and the Word; He gives you His Spirit; He marks you as the Father’s own child. By water combined with God’s Word Jesus has an Advent to you at the baptismal font, and you are rescued from sin and death.
How about bread and wine? Bread and wine are hardly impressive by themselves. They aren’t fancy; they don’t have a big “wow!” factor. Yet again, with Christ’s own words, the bread and wine deliver Jesus Himself. Not a donkey this time, but something even more lowly: bread and wine give you your Savior. The Lord comes to you in His body and blood to strengthen you and sustain you, to forgive you and renew you and to save you.
That is why we sing “Hosanna!” right before Holy Communion: because, just like the disciples on Palm Sunday, there is a liturgy, a word of God to be sung when Jesus arrives, to show why we want Him, why we should receive Him. Hosanna! “Save now!” We sing it because He comes to save us.
And then there’s the preaching and teaching of the Gospel and Holy Absolution. Words. A preacher. What more humble way is there for Jesus to come to you than through the ministry of a frail and feeble man, a man who makes mistakes, a man who has no confidence other than to speak what Christ gives Him to speak. There’s nothing more amazingly strange than that the Lord should entrust His Word to frail and sinful men. And yet through those men, through His called and ordained pastors, the Lord Himself speaks forgiveness which cannot be contradicted or overturned by the devil or the world or your flesh.
Christ comes to you, lowly and humble and having salvation. To the world, the means of grace look ridiculous: bread, wine, water, and words. But to you there is nothing more certain, nothing more sure, than that Jesus comes through those gifts and gives you everlasting life.
Jesus has His first advent in the flesh, born of the Virgin to die on the cross for you. He has many advents now, in His church, coming to you in the flesh through His Word and sacraments. These all point to and prepare you for His final coming in the flesh in glory.
The Day will come when the Lord Jesus will appear in the heavens like lightning, coming on the clouds of heaven, with angels and trumpets and the whole heavenly host. And on that day, it will be a terror for all those who refused to receive Jesus in the flesh in this life. All those who looked for Jesus somewhere other than where He has promised to be – in His Church where His Gospel is preached and His Sacraments administered – will suffer terror and fear beyond measure.
Those who looked for a super-awesome-mighty Jesus in this life will have exactly what they wanted: a super-awesome-mighty Jesus who is their Judge. Those who thought they had no sins and therefore no need of a Savior, those who despised God and His Word and lived however they wanted, those who wanted to live a royal life apart from the Son of God, those who wanted to be treated like royalty while treating others like peasants – on that Last Day, they will know. They will see. They will receive. And they will weep.
But YOU, dear Christians, have been prepared for your Lord’s Second Advent. You have heard the Good News that when Jesus first appeared in the flesh it was “glad tidings to all people” starting with a band of smelly shepherds. You have heard that Jesus has taken your place in all things, in the river with sinners, on the cross with your sins, to the right hand of the Father with your life.
Not only that, but you have received Jesus in his advents in this life. You are baptized, you are washed and prepared for your Bridegroom as His holy bride. You are absolved, and the judgment of God against your sins is set aside on account of Jesus. You are fed with His holy food, with Christ’s own body and blood, which means that whatever Jesus has is now yours and you are His.
So when that Last Day comes, when Jesus arrives in glory, you will not be afraid. You will lift up your head in joy! You will sing the liturgy that day! “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” What a great and wonderful day that will be! What a day to long for, when our Lord comes back, this time not in humility but in glory, a glory which shines for your salvation because He once came and now comes humbly to save you.
Jesus has come. He was conceived in the flesh of Mary and born from her womb and baptized as a sinner and judged on the cross as a sinner. He did all that for you. Now He has ascended to the right hand of God. He comes to you now, in many advents in His church: at the font, at the altar, from pulpit and lectern.
Jesus comes for you. And He will come again in glory, this time not in humility, but with power and great glory. Whenever Jesus comes, He comes for you. That is your great hope and comfort in this holy Advent season and all the days of your life.
Happy New Church Year!
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.