Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Sunday of the Great Entrance



Advent 1 (Levavi) 
Matthew 21:1–9

This morning Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey as the prophets of old preached. The crowds welcome him with shouts saying “Hosanna in the highest.” The Savior predicted since the foundation of the world is now here. He rides into to Jerusalem on a donkey – a beast of burden. The king born in Bethlehem in a feed trough, to poor parents. And this child is God. But today his work is getting closer to it’s completion. This King rides into town to do what no other king has done. To die for his own subjects.  Today’s reading is the center of human history. God rides into Jerusalem as a poor king to save this whole dying world from sin, death, and hell itself.

But it’s easy to miss it, especially this week, after Thanksgiving, black Friday, and now a full weekend of football. Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is bigger than all this but it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Because our Lord is not making a show of it – he’s in a parade or sorts – but it’s not like the Macy’s Day parade on thanksgiving with Clydesdale horses, trumpets, and marching bands.

The people around Jesus recognize who he is. He is the Lamb of God – the Savior of the world – the Messiah. They cry out saying “Hosanna,” which literally means “save us now” or “save us quickly.” And this is fitting becomes Jesus name in Hebrew simply means “The Lord saves.” And here he is. But not everyone is rejoicing because the Pharisees and the Jews are watching but they don’t like what they see. This Jesus has been preaching about repentance, the seriousness of sin, and talking about dying and rising and the coming kingdom of God. For some, for most, this is a message that falls on deaf ears, because frankly, most observers were rather secure in their sins in Jesus day like they are now. Which is to say, if someone does not consider themselves lost or damned by their sins – they don’t really need to be saved at all. No rescue is needed. They have no need for Jesus.

But for us Christians it’s different, because without him, God’s word tells us we are all on one giant funeral procession into eternal death. The scriptures say that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. The Scriptures say that apart from him we can do nothing. But we still have a tendency to puff ourselves up and parade around as if we needed no help from God or anyone at all.

But we all know the truth. Since that crunch of the apple in paradise we have been carrying around a heavy weight. We carry around on our hearts a lot of guilt. We know we don’t measure up to what God demands – and He demands perfection. He demands holiness. But all we feel for the most part is a crushing sense of shame. Our sins are real. And sin kills. All sin is deadly. Let us not be like those Pharisees who are suspicious about Jesus preaching. Because he is preaching and riding into Jerusalem for the likes of us. He is the Savior that we so desperately need.      

Jesus rides in on a donkey because donkeys are good for one thing. They are beast of burden – they carry baggage – a heavy load is thrown upon their back – and they schlep it all away. That is why the crowds singing Hosanna and greeting him are throwing their clothes at his feet. Because it is their prayer that Jesus will carry their garments of shame all the way to the cross. They need a Savior who comes down from heaven to do something truly wonderful - to be a beast of burden – to carry a heavy load that no one could ever lift. To carry all our anger, all our mistrust, all of our rebellion, adultery, gossip, and deceit. To be weighed down with it all, pummeled and stuffed with our sins, dressed up in our shame – roasted for the sins of the world.  

Behold your God. He rides into Jerusalem this morning to be your Savior. To carry every weight that bears you down. To tread down death itself under his feet. When he walks out of the dusty tomb on Easter morning he gives proof to the whole world that your sins were no match for the power of his love. So this morning give it all over to him. The best thing you can actually give Jesus is your sins. Be like the crowds greeting Jesus this morning. Sing Hosanna, which means “Lord, save us now” and lay everything you’ve got at Jesus feet.  Lay down all your sins and let him carry them to the cross. There is nothing he can’t handle.

He marched through hell itself to bring you to where He is in heaven. And it is done. It is finished. The funeral procession has ended and the parade to heaven has commenced. So hold your head high and follow cheerfully in his train.     

Zechariah in our first reading had it right. The Lord is your righteousness. Though your sins were as scarlet they are now whiter than snow. You are forgiven and loved by God. You are pleasing to your Father in heaven because you are washed in his atoning sacrifice.     

So come, dearly beloved. The Lord sets a table before you this morning much better than any Thanksgiving meal. All of God’s family is here. His very body and blood given and shed for the life of the world. He gives you everything that belongs to him - His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

Like a donkey, he comes in humble ways. In ways you might not expect. He rides in under a preachers voice. A taste of bread and a sip of wine. Body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.

This is a meal, ultimately, to give thanks for. Because he is a king like no other. You are more than guests. You are his royal family. Belonging to the kingdom of God which endures forever. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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