Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent 1 Sermon -- Mark 11:1-10 (LSB Advent 1B)

November 30, 2008 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mechanicsburg, PA

Those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

The Triumphal Entry of Jesus is the event in the Scriptures that is closest to how it will be when Christ returns in glory. Thus, it is good and right that you hear about it today on this First Sunday in Advent. For this season is all about the arrival of Jesus. But the arrival of Jesus will not be in humility, but in the fullness of His glory.

Though the Triumphal Entry is a glorious event, with the crowds’ waving of palm branches and their singing, it is still veiled in humility. There is the expectation of someone and something great, as you hear in the shouts of the crowds: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” But look to whom they sing these words: a man from Nazareth riding a borrowed colt.

The Gospel writer wants you to note this, as he includes many details about it: “Jesus sent two of His disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.”’” In order for Jesus to fulfill the prophet’s words about how He would enter Jerusalem, He must use someone else’s animal; He must have someone else’s permission. It is not the expected means of arrival for a monarch.

Despite the unorthodox means of transportation used by Jesus, the crowds recognize His identity. Their songs are a confession of their faith, their belief in who Jesus is and what He would bring. They proclaim Jesus to be the Christ, the promised Messiah: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The faithful Israelites, the ones whose faith clung to the divine promise given through the prophets, referred to the Messiah as “the One who is to come” or “the Coming One.” As Jesus enters Jerusalem, these faithful people of the Lord God point to Him and say that He is it. But not only do they make this confession, they also believe that Jesus is bringing in the promised kingdom and He would eternally sit on the Davidic throne: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

And so it is that the Jerusalem crowds accompany their confessions of faith and their acclamations of Jesus with a devout prayer. Framing their statements of belief are the words: “Hosanna” and “Hosanna in the highest.” The crowds make known to Jesus what they want: divine deliverance. They want all the promises fulfilled, including those that referred to a restoration of Israel’s fortune. They had often sung the verses of the psalm that you have prayed this day: Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!”

This prayer for deliverance is the same prayer that the Church offers in this age. The season of Advent brings this prayer to the forefront in a most deliberate way. With the focus on the arrival of Jesus come the Church’s petitions that He would make good on His promises. Though you do not need the Christ to come to bring you redemption, for your sins have already been atoned for by His sacrificial death, you do need Him to return. For all you have is a promise of resurrection: a promise without fulfillment is of no value. And so you pray like the Israelites did in the psalm and as they did on Palm Sunday: “Hosanna! Save us now!”

What you want is exactly what the prophet Isaiah, another faithful Israelite and believer in the Lord God’s promises, desired: Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make Your name known to Your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at Your presence!” This type of arrival, veiled in no way, brings the fulfillment of the promise of resurrection given to you. For that would be a glorious return, a return with all of Christ’s authority and power, even His power over death and the grave. That is what the Lord God’s faithful people desperately want.

So you have heard a foreshadowing of it with Christ’s Triumphal Entry. But with that desire and expectation comes the preparation that this Advent season brings. The prayer for Christ’s return and His salvation is always made with the recognition of sinfulness. So it was for Isaiah: But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all Your people.” Likewise you have prayed already this morning: “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.” The prayer calls for divine deliverance from what still plagues you. It is offered with the expectation that it will be heard.

That is the purpose of this Advent season: to give the expectation of deliverance from sin and all its effects. Like Isaiah, the Church always confesses: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” But also like the Israelites in Jerusalem, the Church also shouts aloud: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Sinfulness is recognized and followed quickly with the petition to Christ: Save us now, Lord!

Such is the penitential life that you are called to. It is for your salvation. For the day will come when Jesus arrives to His Holy City without sitting on His disciples’ cloaks on top of a borrowed colt. Instead, Christ will come, sitting on His glorious throne and having all His angels accompanying Him. You must be prepared for such an arrival. For those who are, then great things will be given. So the prophet tells you about your God: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides You, who acts for those who wait for Him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember You in Your ways.”

So you will have the opportunity to be ready, to remember the Lord God in His ways, during this Advent season. You will hear again the promises of Christ’s return. You will hear the call of the prophets and John the Baptizer to put away your sin and to turn back to the way of righteousness. You will hear the exhortation to holy living. All this is to prepare you for Christmas, when the Church remembers and rejoices at the first arrival of Christ, but more importantly for the day of His Second Coming.

Thus the preparations begin with hearing about the Triumphal Entry. For there is no better way to be ready for something than to have a preview of it. To be ready for the Second Coming of Christ, pay attention to the events of the Triumphal Entry. Remember what the Lord God’s faithful people did: “Those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’” These will be your actions from this day until the time of Christ’s return. Your sinfulness and weaknesses will impel you to call out to Christ: “Hosanna! Save us now!” Your faithful following of Christ’s institution will lead you to the Lord’s Supper, where “He who comes in the name of the Lord” is present for your forgiveness. And your hope will be for “the coming kingdom” that Christ will bring for your everlasting life.

This is what you are preparing for during this Advent season. Even more importantly, this is what your Lord is preparing you for. So it was told to you this morning: “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” His people will be prepared for His arrival and will welcome it, just as the Israelites welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. That is what He will use His power to do, delivering you from your sin as you call out for His aid. For Christ will not let His people’s cries go unheard. Hosanna will ring out in the highest heavens and He will hear it. And then, as He has promised, “God will work for those who wait for Him.” So may it be for all those who call on Christ to save us now.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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