Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent based on Matthew 21:1-9
Dear hearers of the prophetic Word: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you live by what you see and feel, you will be sorely disappointed in Jesus. He rides in poverty, humbly on a borrowed donkey into Jerusalem. How is such an advent befitting a king?
But faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. It depends on the Word alone, and not on vision or sight. For this reason, Christ was received only by those who believed the words of the prophets who foretold His coming. Christ was rejected by those who had their own ideas about what the Saviour should say and do. He was rejected by those who did not believe what the prophets spoke about Him.
If you live by what you see and feel, you will be sorely disappointed in Jesus. He comes in mere water with the Word. He comes in humble bread and wine. But faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. Faith hears the words, “Baptism… now saves you” (I Peter 3:21) and “This is my body… this is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:26,28)
Faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. Your king entered Jerusalem to suffer and die. This is not an advent befitting a king. He gave His life for you, so that you will live eternally.
You receive your Saviour, because you believe the words of the prophets who foretold His coming. The prophet Zechariah prophesied, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey.” (Zec. 9:9) Your king. He who was promised to you, whose own you are. It is your king – He whom you have yearned from the beginning, whom the prophets desired to see, who will deliver you from all that has burdened, troubled, and held you captive.
This is a comforting word to a believing heart. An unbelieving heart trusts only what it sees and feels. An unbelieving heart sees only a poor man riding on a humble donkey to die a gruesome death. Thus, an unbelieving heart is left in uncertainty, without a clear conscience, and in fear of death and hell.
Where the heart receives the King with firm faith, it is secure and has no fear of death, hell, or any other evil. The conscience is clear and the certainty of eternal life is known. Your king rode in to Jerusalem to die for you, thus securing your victory over sin, death, and the devil. Your king is the Lord of life and death, of sin and grace, of heaven and hell, and all things are in His hand.
Such great things are contained in these seemingly unimportant words, “Behold, your king.” Such boundless gifts are brought by this poor and despised king. Reason and emotion cannot understand or comprehend, but faith alone does. Therefore, He is called your king; yours, who are vexed and harassed by sin, Satan, death and hell, the flesh and the world. He is your King and He will bring you into His eternal kingdom.
“Behold, your king is coming to you.” He comes to you. This is great news, because you cannot go to Him, neither can you bring Him to yourself. He is too high and too far from you. With all your effort, work, and labour, you cannot come to Him. You cannot receive Him by any merit or worthiness of your own. You have only demerit and unworthiness on your side. He comes to you with grace and mercy on His side.
By this is condemned the teaching of free will in spiritual matters. As if we should by the power of free will first seek God, come to Him, run after Him, and acquire His grace. Beware, beware of this poison! It is nothing but the doctrine of devils, by which all the world is betrayed.
Before you can cry to God and seek Him, God must come to you and must have found you. As Saint Paul writes, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15) God must first seek you before you can seek Him, before you can call upon Him in prayer, before you can cling to Him in faith. Thus, your king seeks you. He comes to you.
Your king comes to you in the Gospel. Hence, it can be recognized that not greater wrath of God exists than where God does not send the Gospel – there is only error, sin, and darkness. On the other hand, there is no greater grace than where He sends the Gospel, even if not all, or perhaps only few, receive it.
This is what is meant by “your king comes.” You do not seek Him; He seeks you. You do not find Him; He finds you. For the preachers come from Him, not from you. Their sermons come from Him, not from you. Your faith comes from Him, not from you. Everything that faith works in you comes from Him, not from you. Where He does not come, you remain outside. Where there is no Gospel, there is no God, but only sin and damnation.
Where the Gospel is preached, there your King comes to you. Where holy communion is distributed, there your King comes to you. He comes to you humbly, but with overflowing grace and mercy.
Christ did not ride into Jerusalem just for the apostles, but for you. He is your Saviour from sin and death. He is your Saviour from Satan and his Satanic crew. He is your King and you too will reign with Him.
Believe your Saviour’s Word and promises to you. As you see the dark times that have overtaken us, trust your Saviour’s Word. As you face illnesses and tribulations, trust your Saviour’s promises. As you face death, believe that your King has come and died for you, that He comes to you in His Word and Sacrament, and that He will come again with glory to take you to Himself.
Faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. So, hear and listen to the Word of your king, and receive Him as He comes to you in bread and wine with overflowing grace and mercy. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
[This sermon borrows content from a sermon by Martin Luther on the same text.]