November 28, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’”
The crowds’ joyous cries sprang forth from their hearts and poured out of their mouths. They were glad, as glad as any Passover pilgrims ever were. They had been singing the Songs of Ascent, the psalms which formed the soundtrack for their journey to Jerusalem. Their prayers had been what you prayed this morning: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” They had been anticipating the celebration of Passover, remembering when the Lord had delivered their ancestors of old. They had desired to see the place where the Lord dwelt: “Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the Name of the Lord. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.”
But what were these Passover pilgrims going to see? They would see a flawed Jerusalem, a city which was only a shadow of what it was in its glory. Yes, the Temple was there. But the palace of David was no longer the place where the true king of Israel lived. There were no longer the thrones of judgment where David’s heir would sit. No, the representative of the pagan ruler of Judea would be in the Fortress Antonia. Remembering the days of old and the covenant which the Lord had made with their forefathers, these Passover pilgrims were hoping for the arrival of the Messiah, the Promised Deliverer.
On that day outside of Jerusalem, the Passover pilgrims witnessed the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. That is what causes their great joy, a gladness beyond what had been found before in those who had traveled to the Holy City. For what did they see? They saw a Man who was riding into town on a donkey colt. But this was no ordinary Man. He had performed miracles. He had taught with authority greater than the scribes and Pharisees. He was “the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” As this Jesus entered the city, He was doing something that the Lord had promised centuries before: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The witnessing of the Lord’s promises being fulfilled—that is what caused the shouts of joy to come from the crowds. Not only would they remember the act of salvation that the Lord had done over a millennium before, now they were seeing Him act again. He was saving them now. So the crowds sing and pray to Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem: “’Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” Their songs recognized Jesus’ identity, origin, and purpose. He was the Promised Heir of David. He was coming with the Lord’s authority. He was there to save them now. It was exactly like the words of the Apostle Paul: “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Salvation was no longer a long-off thing; it was present in Jerusalem for these faithful pilgrims.
The pilgrims’ hope was in the Lord doing what He said He would do. That is why they were there in Jerusalem for the Passover. They were seeking the forgiveness of sins that the Lord located in the Temple sacrifices. When these pilgrims would have received those promised goods, they would be glad. But when they get to see the Lord’s greater promise fulfilled, they are overwhelmed with joy.
Hope and anticipation in the Lord’s promises is the theme of this Advent Season which the Church has begun this Sunday. We are much like those Passover pilgrims who were present in Jerusalem. Each of us who bear Christ’s Name believes in a long series of the Lord’s promises being fulfilled. It goes all the way back to the promise made to our First Parents cast out of Eden about a Serpent-Crusher who would arise. The promise was made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his Descendent. The Lord brought the people who believed in Him out of Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land of Canaan. All this led up to the sending of the Christ, the Promised Deliverer. His appearance brought atonement for all sins through His great sacrificial death and everlasting life through His glorious resurrection.
These are the promises which the Lord made and fulfilled in the past. We trust and believe that His actions were accomplished for our salvation. And like the people of Israel who trusted in the promises attached to the Temple sacrifices, we also believe in the promises which Christ has attached to Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Supper. We believe that His power is present in these sacraments—Christ’s forgiving Word attached to visible signs—so that our slate is wiped clean and we are restored to righteousness. That is a great and awesome promise which our Lord Jesus Christ has given to us, His people. So we gather around font, pulpit, and altar to receive what Christ delivers to us. Being here brings us great joy, like the Psalm described: “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”
But like the Passover pilgrims who were present in Jerusalem, we also anticipate the fulfillment of one more promise. They awaited the appearance of the Promised Christ. Those faithful people of Israel trusted that the Lord would make good on His promise, that the Deliverer would come. The joy expressed in their shouts of “Hosanna” reflected just how much they believed the promise.
We also await the appearance of the Promised Christ. But we do not look for a King coming to us, humble, and mounted on a donkey. No, we look for a King who will come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, seated on His glorious throne. With anticipation, we long for the arrival of the Son of David to once again take His place on the throne of judgment, but not for political rule. No, we look for Him who has dominion over all things, just as the Prophet Isaiah declared: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
What an outstanding promise that is! It is certainly worth waiting for. And when it is fulfilled, how great will the joy be of those who believed Christ and expected Him to do what His Word said! When seeing the Lord Jesus appear, His people will say: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” For they know the identity, origin, and purpose of Jesus. They know that He is the descendent of David who would sit on his throne forever. They know that He is Son of God who bears the Lord’s Name as His own. They know that He is present to remove all the damage that Satan’s deceptions and lies have caused in humanity and to restore creation to its original perfection. This is what has been hoped for from the Fall of Eden to our day. Its completion will bring joy on a cosmic scale, like a Christmas morning for all the children who have ever lived.
That is what awaits all who trust in the Lord Jesus’ words and works. It is the great hope of Christianity. It is your hope. You anticipate the time when all of the Lord’s people will be gathered together in victorious glory. The Prophet Isaiah described it in part: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’” The great eternal gathering will take place. The Lord’s people will walk in His way of life forever.
But as you anticipate this great fulfillment, there is a warning to be given. The promised arrival of Christ will be of great joy for His people. But for those who are not His people, who do not know His way and do not walk in it, Christ’s appearance will be for great sorrow. Jesus’ descriptions of “the outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” are also true. As the Advent Season brings again the anticipation of Christ’s Return, it also brings the exhortation to faithfulness and vigilance. The Apostle Paul’s words need to be heeded: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . . . Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed.”
As the day of Christ’s Return draws nearer, His followers are called to rise and renew their faith: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. . . . Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” You are called again to remember the covenant which He has made with you in Holy Baptism. You are directed to repent and put away the way of sin and death, since you are being conformed to the new way of life that your Lord establishes for your earthly days. Reinvigorated by the Holy Spirit who comes to you through Christ’s Words, you are prepared for His return.
So then you will be ready to anticipate Christ’s Return. You will look forward to the Day that He has promised will come. As you believe in Jesus—in His identity, His origin, His purpose—His arrival will be a time of endless joy. You will be like those Passover pilgrims and even greater, experiencing what none before them ever had, seeing the Promised Christ in all His glory, just as He said. Then you will sing your songs: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And the Lord Jesus will answer, bringing eternal deliverance and salvation with Him to be your possession forever.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.