December 2, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
The arrival of a King is the theme of Advent. But not just any King is coming. He is upright and just; He is powerful and mighty; He is benevolent and merciful. Such descriptions sound similar to how monarchs in the past had described themselves. Yet the King spoken of is different than those who have ascended to the many thrones of the world’s empires and kingdoms. This King is who arrives is unique: He has been promised and foretold for centuries; He has been raised up by the Lord; He has come down from heaven.
That is what the readings which start the Advent Season, this new Church Year, convey to you. You are to anticipate the arrival of this unique King. To prepare for this, you heard the retelling of a divine promise made to His people. You heard the prophet’s words: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” Not only does the Lord state that He had made a promise, He tells you what the promised action is: “In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch to spring up for David, and He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.” This is the King that is to be anticipated, the King who is arriving.
This King foretold in the promise is the Messiah, the One anointed by the Lord. Some of the promises about Him sound like what other rulers claimed to be. What ruler wouldn’t want to execute justice and righteousness…or at least make their rule appear to be fair and equitable? What emperor wouldn’t want their capital city to exist in safety and security? What monarch wouldn’t want to be known as a great deliverer and protector of his people? But a difference about the Promised King begins to be noted when He arrives.
The arrival of this Promised King was told to you. It took place according to promise of old that had been made. Jerusalem, the capital city, was about to have Him appear: “When Jesus had said these things, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” He selects a mode of transit that had been described centuries before: “When He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go in to the village that is in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you shall say this: “The Lord has need of it.”’” And riding into the city, Jesus is acclaimed by the crowds: “And as He rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As He was drawing near—already 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!’”
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Messiah. This is what He had been destined to do for eternity. His arrival is a bit odd for a monarch who comes to take his spot on the throne: most would not choose to ride into the capital city on a young colt with only the coats of followers adorning it. Yet, this unique arrival leads to the people’s recognition of Jesus’ identity. He shows up as the prophets declared. So they spread their cloaks on the road, rolling out the proverbial red carpet for Jesus. They praise God for what the mighty works that Jesus had done. And in their statement of praise, the crowds allude to the true uniqueness of this arriving King.
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The crowds’ statement of praise refers to the authority that Jesus bears and the divine sanction that had been granted Him. Jesus comes to Jerusalem as King, a monarch that the Lord had established. No foreign occupiers of Jerusalem could claim such status. The previous kings of Israel and Judah could state that they had the Lord’s power delegated to them. But this time, it is not just someone with divine approval who comes to Jerusalem; the Lord Himself enters the city. Recall what was said earlier: the Lord had need of the colt; it is the Lord who rides it.
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The crowds’ statement also reveals the greater agenda that this King executes. Jerusalem had seen plenty of rulers who came with war and strife. Many lived in luxury and opulence. Occasionally, there were some who both brought concord to the region and displayed magnificence. Solomon was clothed in splendor and ruled as a prince of peace. Caesar Augustus wore his purple robes and enacted his Pax Romana. But Jesus’ arrival brings peace in heaven. He comes with the glory found in the highest heavens. This is what He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem through His death and resurrection. And this is how the ancient words about that city would be fulfilled: “And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
The arrival of this King is what you also anticipate. That is what the Advent Season is meant to accomplish for you. Yes, the Promised Messiah has already come in the past. Just 23 days from now, you will specifically acknowledge and celebrate the Messiah’s Nativity, the birth of that King. But there is a promise made to you about another arrival, one that is prefigured by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and foretold in the ancient promises about Jerusalem’s salvation and safety.
“In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.” That was part of the Promised Messiah’s agenda. Yet, what is seen in those places? Again this year there have been wars and conflicts. And what about your lives? Are you safe and secure? Are there no threats or hazards around you? No, you live in the midst of perils to body and soul. “Change and decay in all around I see,” one hymnist wrote. Another puts it bluntly: “I walk in danger all the way…. I pass through trials all the way…. And death pursues me all the way….” The threats of Satan are around. The grave looms near. The opponents of the King are active and present. It was so when Jesus entered Jerusalem: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’” Jesus’ experience in Bethany included the death of His friend Lazarus, as well as one of His disciples beginning the road of betrayal.
But what Jesus accomplishes is the beginning of the salvation and security that will be brought to you. He does not leave the treats of Satan unchecked, but overcomes them and grants His protection to you. He does not leave death undealt with, but answers it with His resurrection and the promise of your own. He does not leave sin untreated, but gives you the remedy of His righteousness for it. This is how you receive the benefits of what this King gives to you. It is what He brings with His arrival that takes place today for you.
You prayed 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 might deliverance.” Even now, He arrives to you and brings His justice and righteousness to you in the midst of this land of guilt and iniquity. Even now, you are made to reflect the truth of the name that His people bear: “The Lord is our righteousness.” Even now, you are saved by what this Promised Messiah has done for you by achieving peace in heaven through His atoning work for you. Even now, the Promised Messiah comes down to you in humility. He comes in word, water, wine—the preaching of the Gospel and reception of the sacraments.
Yet, there is an even greater arrival of the King that you anticipate. There is another glorious arrival of the Messiah promised to take place. It has been looked forward to from the first generation of the Church: “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” You are looking for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. You are looking for the time when Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. You are looking for the full participation in His kingdom that has no end. You are anticipating the fulfillment of every promise about what the King will do.
The arrival that you look forward will be another descending of Jesus to you. But it will not be on an unridden colt borrowed from some friends. It will not be walking on the cloaks of people strewn on the road. No, it will be as you heard last Sunday: “they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” Then the fullness of what the Messiah has done for you will be made yours. Then you and all of the Lord’s people—the house of Israel and the house of Judah, all the saints—will have the divine promises fulfilled. You will be saved. You will dwell securely. You will join in the worship that all creation will give to Jesus, even the words of acknowledgement that will flow from the mouths of those who first rejected Him. You and all His believers will praise Him, saying: “Blessed is the King who comes in name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
This is your fate because the Promised King has first arrived in time and made atonement for you and your sins. The Promised King arrives now and delivers His benefits of that work to you. The Promised King will arrive again, removing all the shame and perils that you endure, not letting your enemies exult over you. These are the mighty works that the King—the Incarnate Lord—does for you. And so you will gladly say: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.