Text: Luke 19:38
Date: Advent I + 12/2/12
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! So is the shout of faith and hope with which we begin this new Church Year. Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! This King is blessed. For we have come to proclaim and to worship not an earthly king or sovereign, but the King of the universe. He is King because “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2-3). Though we rebelled and sin has separated us from Him, nevertheless, out of pure love this King of all creation “came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” “Though he was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself” (Phil 2:5-8). Still the King nevertheless His kingdom was not and is not of this world (John 18:36). For us and for our salvation He divested Himself for a little while so that, as a man, He could fight the battle we could never win, the battle that has meant death for all mankind. It was a strange and dreadful sight to see Him who was King taking the sin of the world to the cross there to atone for it by spilling His own holy and sacred blood. Yet our strong King, having destroyed death and risen from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, now lives and rules all things both as its Creator and its Redeemer. So we say, now in Advent and pretty soon at Christmas, and through the telling of the rest of the gospel, “Blessed is the King! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
We didn’t make up this cheer on our own! It was given to us by God as He has taught us to pray in Psalm 118. It’s almost as if this ancient prayer had in mind our entire Advent expectation and hope completed in the triumphant entry of the Great and Holy Week, the Good Friday sacrifice and the Easter triumph as it says: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!” And then the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Ps 118:19-26). These words were given to us and predicted by the Lord Jesus when He said to the Pharisees, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers he brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Luke 13:34-35).
Well, that day came on the first day of the week of the final Passover. “And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Luke 19:36-38).
To the casual observer this “triumphant entry” as they called it into the holy city seemed appropriate and joyful. And it was, but, as St. Luke tells it, only insofar as the folks had in mind “the mighty works that they had seen.” Take away the miracles and replace them with the accusations and denunciations of the full force of the religious leaders of the community and the joyful rally would quickly turn into an angry, bloodthirsty mob. Throughout history it tends to surprise us and strikes us as beyond explanation how easily people, even large masses of people, can be manipulated by those who put themselves forward as leaders, deliverers, even “saviors” to nothing less than mob mentality usually playing on peoples’ envy and spite.
And what about us? We may not have turned against our King and Savior like they did, and yet we must confess that it was not only their sin but ours that caused His grief His innocent suffering and death. Even His closest disciples abandoned Him on that dark and fearful Friday of His sacrifice.
And how have we abandoned our Lord? What is it that makes the words “Blessed is the King who comes” get stuck in our throat or is even the last thing to enter our mind or proceed from our mouth? Is it not when our minds and souls become darkened by doubt and the fears and failures of our days seem to turn all our days into but an eternal Good Friday? We may be frustrated at others who only seem bent on making life difficult or miserable for us. Or we may be so overwhelmed by our own weaknesses, shortcomings or sins that there seems no miracle, no sacrifice, no hope of deliverance from this body of death.
Remember that I said that triumphant cheer was given and taught to us by God in Psalm 118? Well, so is the truth that the only way of reconciliation with God and the breath of new life is by faith in Christ our King and His full and complete sacrifice for our sins. That’s the story it takes us a year to tell in detail, but is behind every detail whether it be our Advent anticipation, our Christmas solemn wonder, our Epiphany enlightenment, our Lenten repentance, our Easter joy or our Pentecost growth and witness. This saving faith is the creation not of your own momentary enthusiasm or subjective good feelings, but this faith in the objective truth of God’s grace to and for you is itself the creation of God the Holy Spirit when and where He wills in those who hear the gospel—in those who hear the gospel! So even when you don’t feel like shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” still, you know better. The Word of God, the gospel of Christ, enters your ears over and over again and enlivens your heart and enlightens your mind sometimes to quiet joy and silent confidence and sometimes to the loud praise of God in words of praise He Himself has given: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna! Save us now! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!