Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent based on Luke 19:28-40
Dear crowd singing “Hosanna”: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Why are you here? Why did you get up on Sunday morning on a winter day to gather here this morning? If you came here for entertainment, you’d be better off spending your time at a show or concert. If you came here to hang out with people you like, you’d be better off spending your time at a coffee shop or a bar. If you came here to praise God, well you can do that anywhere – you might as well praise God in the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, or on a Caribbean beach. So why are you here?
Is it because you recognize that what happens here doesn’t happen in any other place? Jesus is here in ways He is not elsewhere. Jesus promised that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, there He is (Matt. 18:20). Jesus promised that where His ministers speak His Absolution, there He is, absolving. Jesus promised that He is truly present in His body and blood which He gives us to eat and drink (Matt. 26:26-28). Jesus is here in this church in Melville. Sure we’re aging and looking more grey than in previous times. Sure our numbers aren’t what they used to be; our numbers are a little humble. But Jesus is here.
Does the humility of our numbers bother Jesus? Jesus knows humility better than we can ever wrap our heads around the concept. Jesus left the perfect joys of heaven to become a man. He put Himself under the Law that He has written. He came to serve the people whom He has created. He sacrificed His own life to save sinful rebels. Jesus is the definition of humble.
On His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He did not choose a noble steed on which to ride. He didn’t gather the leaders of the nation and the richest noblemen to sing His praises. He rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey’s colt. Not a majestic beast of war, but a humble beast of burden. The crowds who happened to be on the streets sung His praises. If the crowds would have been silent, Jesus said the stones would have cried out. It was a rather humble entry into Jerusalem, even though it was to shouts of “Hosanna”.
Did the Palm Sunday crowd even recognize who was there among them? Why was the Palm Sunday crowd shouting “Hosanna”? Luke tells us it was because they had seen Jesus perform miracles (v. 37). Thus they said, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowd wanted to make Jesus king, as they had wanted to do earlier when Jesus fed the 5000 (John 6:15). They were looking for an earthly king; a king that would save them from under Roman rule. They wanted to be free from paying taxes to Caesar. They sought the benefits of a victorious king who could miraculously feed them with food for which they did not have to pay, and heal those suffering in their midst. They missed the point. They did not understand that this was God in their midst, riding into Jerusalem. They misunderstood the King and His Kingdom.
It wasn’t just the humility of the donkey that they missed. This King also did not come to be crowned with a golden crown but a crown of thorns. This King would not ascend an earthly throne but a cursed wooden cross. This King would have not have the many royal privileges of kings except burial in a tomb in which no one had before been laid.
This King was humiliated by what was said of Him. He was spat on and mocked. He was whipped and beaten. He was stripped of his clothes and crucified, lifted high for all to see. He suffered all this pain and humiliation for you, His creation who has fallen into sin. Jesus came so humbly, that He could be rejected and despised. Jesus came so humbly that He could be even further humiliated.
Nothing has changed. Jesus still comes so humbly that He can be rejected and despised. He comes in His Word which is neglected, mocked, and twisted by many. In Holy Communion He comes in His body and blood which can be scorned and taken for granted. In Baptism He comes with forgiveness which can be forgotten before the child even grows up.
Why does God come so humbly? Why doesn’t God come to us in His might and power, with His mighty angel hosts baring their swords? Why doesn’t He come with vengeance and justice to punish the wicked? Well, rest assured, God will do exactly that. He will come in glory, power, and might. When Jesus returns He will show His strength and punish all those who reject Him and send them away to eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 25; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
But Jesus did not come in glory, power, and might the first time. If He would have, we would have been those wicked people He came to punish. If Jesus would not have come humbly to pay for our sin, then we would have had to pay for them by suffering eternally in hell. Jesus came humbly for us, to save us.
And now, just as when He came to earth through the Virgin Mary, He comes humbly. He comes humbly for you. Not with force or violence.
We see the effects of those who bring their religion through force and violence: millions of refugees seeking shelter, bombs blowing up and murdering scores of people, countries in civil war and turmoil. In the end they’re going to lose the battle anyway when Christ returns in His glory because they reject Him and His free gift of salvation. But Jesus does not come now with force or violence. The only violence in His coming is the violence He suffered at our hands.
Jesus still comes humbly to us for our benefit. He gives us the benefits of His humble suffering and death in humble form. A little wafer of bread and sip of wine combined with God’s Word give the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith. A word of Absolution absolves sin as if Jesus pronounces you innocent Himself. A little water sprinkled over the head in the name of the Triune God gives eternal life. Yes, we just witnessed little Navy receive the promise of eternal life in the humble-looking rite of Baptism, as God put His name on her, adopting her as His child.
As humble as these means of grace appear, what they give you is by no means humble. These means of grace give you the forgiveness of all your sins. Not one sin is left unforgiven. No sin is too great. No sin has been too frequent. Yes, because these means of grace give you the forgiveness of sins, they give you eternal life. You will live forever. Not here in this world of sickness, sin, force, and violence, but in the new heavens and the new earth which will be revealed when Jesus returns in His glory.
What happens here, in this church, is truly amazing! Jesus is here with His forgiveness. So don’t be disappointed if our we’re looking a little grey. Don’t be too upset if our numbers are few. Jesus is here for your benefit, to give you great gifts even though they are wrapped in humble form. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.