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Worship Theme: When the Lord Comes Near
- O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel
- CW 4: Lift Up Your Heads, You Mighty Gates
- CW 2: Savior of the Nations, Come
- CW 9: Jesus, Your Church with Longing Eyes
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Message: When the Lord Comes Near
Pastor Jake Schram
It’s hard to invest in something you are unsure about. We don’t like putting our time and effort into something just to watch it fail. We don’t like uncertain results. Some people apply these thoughts to church in order to justify not coming. Sometimes people wonder if the whole religion thing is worth the time. Will Christianity work out in the end? Today, we see that Christ’s church doesn’t have to worry about those things. On the very first day of the church year, we see what Jesus is all about. The first Sunday in Advent sets the tone for the entire church year. It’s like a banner displayed over the starting line of a race, announcing what we are to expect at every stage. Today we see the Lord draw near to us. He wins the certain victory and humbles himself to bring us peace.
Before we jump right into our text, I think it might be good to provide some background information. The parable right before our text for today is the parable of the minas. In it, it talks about God rejoicing with those who have remained faithful and mercilessly judging those who were unfaithful. In other words, it talks about God as a just judge, doling out rewards and punishment as he sees fit. It’s a scary picture that makes us wonder how we could ever measure up before such a righteous king. Today’s text shows us that before God the king returns to judge us, first he returns to save us and win the victory for us.
Our text for today comes from Luke 19:28-40. As you heard it in our Gospel lesson, you might have thought, “Wait a second. Doesn’t this part of the Bible belong on Palm Sunday instead of Advent?” First of all, God’s Word is awesome whenever and wherever. Second, the text also fits here as well. Advent means the coming or arrival of something. And we see Jesus arriving into Jerusalem to enact his salvation plan. And because Jesus is our champion, our hero, our only hope, he leaves absolutely nothing to chance when it comes to saving our souls. He makes sure everything happens just the way it is supposed to.
Our text says, “After Jesus had said this [the parable of the Minas], he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
If I was a disciple at this point, I’d have all sorts of questions and alarms going off in my head. “Why am I supposed to untie it? What do you mean if someone asks, “Why are you untying it?” Are we going to look like we are stealing it? How are we supposed to know it’s the right one? How will we get it back if it’s untrained? How will you ride it if it's untrained? I hear that usually doesn’t end well for people. Who? What? Where? How? When? Why?”
If it hasn’t already happened, there will come a time in your life when God asks you to do something you don’t quite understand or perhaps don’t want to do. And often we don’t trust what God wants us to do. Maybe you’ve been forcing your kids to go to church and they don’t like it. You expected them to go, “Thank you. We love going to church!” and it might be tempting to stop bringing them when they don’t respond in the way you wanted them to. But God wants you to bring them to church. Maybe you were reading through the Bible and saw something you didn’t like or understand and thought, “That can’t be right. That’s not the way I would do things.” But God wants you to follow his way, not yours. Or perhaps the great commission given by the Savior is really hard for you to carry out. “I don’t want to go and make disciples of all nations. I don’t want to talk to other people who are broken and need Jesus.” God wants you to and will further his kingdom through it. God says to trust him and follow his decrees. He’s just and knows what is right and wrong. God knows what he is doing. We should trust him and follow his commands even if keeping them could bring difficulties or persecutions or a sacrifice of our time. It is better to be on the side of the omniscient, almighty God who brings victory than on the side of a powerless world that brings nothing but defeat.
The disciples would trust Jesus despite his strange instructions. God’s way works. Look at the text. Everything happens exactly as he said it would. “Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.”
The whole scene is charged with the miraculous. This animal has been set aside for the holy purpose of a holy person. This untrained animal, which should be kicking and screaming for this random guy to get off his back, gives Jesus no problems whatsoever as he travels through a crowd of shouting people. It all happens exactly as he said it would. In fact, this isn’t the first time Jesus had told people this was going to happen. Through a prophet named Zechariah 500 years earlier, these words were said,
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey 9:9).”
Again, this is not something random. This is all part of the plan of Jesus coming near to bring victory to his people.
This is all so precisely planned. Even the donkey he is riding is part of the plan. Why a donkey? Horses are available at this time. Why in the world would Jesus pick a donkey when he could ride a horse? There are two reasons. I’ve bet you heard the first. Jesus is humbling himself. Most kings would be surrounded by a show of power. Sitting on top of their mighty warhorse, weapons and armies would be on display. Despite him being King of the entire universe, he is going into Jerusalem as a lowly servant to die for the sins of the world. So he rides a lowly donkey instead of a horse. There is another reason though. There have actually been cases where a king has ridden a donkey before. In ancient times when every enemy had been defeated and every threat put down, a warhorse was no longer needed. There was peace. Jesus rides the donkey as the majestic king who is about to defeat all his enemies for his people.
In college, some friends and I would wrestle for this plastic wrestling belt. Sounds like something college guys would do, right? One time, I was going to wrestle one guy for the belt and as we were about to begin, my parents called. They had driven up to visit and would be there shortly. They were wondering when I would be down from my dorm room to meet them. I looked cheekily at my friend, whom I knew I could beat, and said, “I’ll be down soon. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.” The rest of the people gathered around to watch us wrestle chuckled at the verbal diss, but like I said. I knew I would win. The victory was as good as mine. My friend gave it all he could, but 3 minutes later he had been pinned and I walked down to greet my parents, still the undisputed champion of the dorm room.
As the Lord is drawing near to Jerusalem the victory is a certainty. It’s as good as if he already won. He knows what is going to happen. He was going to save the world. Jesus knew this since the beginning of time. The devil could do absolutely nothing to stop him. Jesus is the true champion. There was no one who could stop Jesus from gaining the victory for us.
The people seemingly react appropriately. First of all, they place their outer garments on the ground. This is the ultimate sign of respect. This is not like today where your closet is probably stuffed with clothes you don’t wear. Outer garments are valuable at this time and as Jesus comes through they are letting him walk all over them. It’s more like taking your favorite dress and watching a donkey trod on it, but it’s something they were willing to do on this special occasion. “The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices.” They shout praises from their beloved Psalm 118. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” They shout praises reminiscent of Jesus’ birth, when a host of angels sing out. “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They rejoice in his miracles (at this time Lazarus being raised from the dead was still recent news). They recognize him as the Savior who was always to come.
Not everyone rejoices. The Pharisees did what they do best: grumble. They get upset that the people are praising Jesus instead of them. And they voice their discomfort. They basically tell Jesus, “Tell your disciples to shut up!” But the disciples can’t and they won’t. Jesus’ glory must be recognized. The king is shown for who he is. In this case if the crowds didn’t shout God’s praises, the stones would have cried out. Since the Pharisees didn’t shout Jesus’ praises, others did. When many Jews wouldn’t shout Jesus’ praises, Gentiles would. Jesus will be recognized by some until the end of time. At the end of time every knee will bow to his kingly authority and greatness. And we rejoice because this king has come near. He humbles himself to save you and bring you peace.
Luke 2:14 says “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” In Luke 19:42, only two verses after our text for today, Jesus said that he is bringing peace through his work in Jerusalem. Through Jesus' incarnation and his final redemptive work on the cross, he brings an unquenchable peace that the world thirsts for.
This advent season, we see Jesus come as a baby. And just like in our text, he doesn’t come guns blazing, vaporizing enemies with divine weapons. He instead comes as a servant to save his people, humbling himself to become a baby to live the perfect life we couldn’t. Yet recognize, this is no ordinary baby. The majesty is still there, being born of a virgin, and angelic glory filling the skies as the birth of the king of kings is announced to shepherds. Just like on Palm Sunday, despite his lowly appearance, there really isn’t any doubt of who the victory belongs to. It’s our king who brings us peace. This Christmas and every Christmas, we see the king who draws near to win the great victory and bring us peace everlasting through him. Amen.