Text: Luke 19:28-40
Date: Advent I + 11/29/09
Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, Rochester Hills, MI
Probably the most important and most unknown and unexpected aspect of the Gospel of salvation is the fact that people think they have to somehow look for God, try to find God, or come to Him. The surprising truth is, however, that God is the One who looks for you, who finds you, who comes to you. People really don’t get that, or agree with that. This is true of the beginning of the life of faith in a person as well as its continued life in authentic worship where the issue is never about us doing something for God, and certainly not about us doing something just to entertain ourselves, but is all about listening to God and receiving God who comes and speaks, who blesses, forgives, feeds and sends us. So also then with the end of faith. At death or on the Last Day, we are not shot out into an out-of-body experience to appear before a mysterious God all the time wondering what the final verdict with be, rather the Lord comes to us individually to receive us to Himself because we belong to Him already and, at the end of days, He comes with glory to raise us from our graves and judge the living and the dead. He already knows His own and His own know Him. There are no surprises with faith other than the sheer beauty and joy of it all. “Advent” means “coming,” God coming to us. Advent: God has come to our world, in our geography and history and time in the Person of His Son, born of the Virgin, crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, risen and ascended into heaven. Since then, Advent: God continues to come to us in His Word and Sacraments by His Spirit. And finally, Advent: God will come again at the Last Day. So we emphasize and describe the Savior’s three-fold coming on this First Sunday in Advent by meditating on His “Triumphant Entrance” into Jerusalem at the beginning of the Great and Holy Week as recorded by St. Luke. For it’s all summarized there: the Lord’s first advent, the incarnate, in-the-flesh Messiah named Jesus; the Lord’s coming to individual hearts by faith in Him; and the majestic accolades due to the King of Glory and of eternity.
Our text is divided into two sections. First, the immediate preparations for Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, then the response to His arrival. The preparation tells us who this Jesus truly is. The response tells of the joy of those who belong to Him by faith and the rejection of those who do not believe.
Jesus and His disciples have been slowly making their way to Jerusalem during His three-year active earthly ministry. Oh, it’s not that He or they had not visited the Holy City at various times before this. They had. This time, however, He was coming for the last time and to perform His greatest work, the sacrifice of Himself for the life of the world.
If Jesus is to enter as a King and the promised Messiah it required certain preparations to mark the occasion with appropriate dignity. First, royalty doesn’t walk. It rides. To demonstrate warrior-like strength a king might ride into town mounted on an impressive steed, decked out with armor, shield and weapons. However, sometimes the king would visit to emphasize a time of peace, safety and tranquility. Therefore a slower more humble arrival atop of donkey would be appropriate.
Note that Jesus is in control of all these details even as He will be in control of all the events of this last, great and holy week including even those events where it seems that He has lost control! He sends two of His disciples to get a donkey. But He doesn’t just say, “Find me a donkey.” He tells them that, when they enter the village in front of them, they will find a colt tied. “Untie it and bring it here.” Not only that, but He tells them what to say in case anyone (that is, because someone was going to) ask them why they are untying the colt. Here Jesus demonstrates His divine omniscience, that is, His complete knowledge of events even before they happen. Jesus knows and is in complete control even to the giving of His life on the cross for the life of the world.
The fact that the beast of burden is a colt “on which no one has ever yet sat” suggests a special, new animal. This reminds us also of our Lord’s burial in a new, unused tomb in which no one had yet been laid. As His death would be the most unique death broken by the power of His resurrection, so His entry into the Holy City would be but the bringing of new life and a new creation, a holy life and creation. The temple had been the symbol and actual location of contact with the almighty God. Now the location of God moves from the temple to the body of the Son, Jesus Christ. At His triumphant entry, God is coming to His temple. Besides all that, the finding and loosing and bringing of the colt to Jesus is itself a picture of Jesus’ ministry and that also of the apostles in finding souls, loosing them from their sins and bringing them to the holy presence of Jesus.
One more little detail before we move on from the preparations to the response of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Notice that with the other Gospels we take note and call this event as happening on “Palm Sunday,” as many took palm fronds and branches in addition to their garments to hail the Lord’s advent or coming. Luke, however, mentions no palms or branches! Just the garments and cloaks! Luke also omits the Hebrew word of praise, “Hosanna.” We, nevertheless, recall the triumphant entry every Sunday as the Lord comes to us sacramentally in and with His body and blood. So we shout our praise to the coming King, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”
The Lord came to our earth. He made His way to Jerusalem and His holy temple. St. Luke reminds us that it was specifically His disciples—the twelve and the seventy and a multitude who had come to believe in Him—who welcomed Him with rejoicing and praise to God “with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.” It was His disciples that welcomed Him. Others either ignored the whole thing, looked on in detached amusement or complained at the religious extremism of the disciples, just like unbelievers do today! The Pharisees (the only time Luke identifies His opponents with that political party) complained, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Rebuke them for what? For treating Him like…like the Messiah, of all things. That, finally, is the main issue. That, finally, is why they put Him to death. And that, finally, is the main and greatest work of Israel’s true Messiah, releasing the world from the grip, tyranny, death and slavery of sin by taking all sin and death into Himself, making atonement by His sacred blood, and yet triumphing over sin and death by the power of His resurrection.
Today we begin again to tell the story of the salvation of the world; the story that is all about how God comes to us, to seek us out, to find us, to reveal Himself, to save and bless us. He came the first time at Christmas. He comes now by His Word and Sacraments, by His Holy Spirit. And He will come again to receive us to Himself and to judge the world. Our God comes. Blessed is the Coming King.