03 December 2013

Blessed is He Who Comes

Sunday's homily for the First Sunday in Advent - Ad Te Levavi:

Today we begin the season of Advent. Advent means “coming.” The Advent color is blue, symbolic of the eager hope for the coming King. We anticipate the One who comes to save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). We rest in the sure and certain hope that He who comes has already come and will come yet again. He comes to seek us who are lost in our sin, to heal us from the plague of death, to rescue us from this valley of sorrow and take us to Himself in heaven. For all this it is our privilege to sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

But who is this One who comes? How will we know we have the right One? God’s people of old were eagerly waiting and hoping and looking. God salted the history of His chosen people with many beautiful promises and clues of the Coming One. He would crush the serpent’s head. He would be a prophet greater than Moses. He would be a king in the line of David. He would be the sprout of new life shooting up from the stump of God’s people, who had been cut down to bring them to repentance. But Zechariah gave the clincher of a picture: “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9).

Why does God give this promise through the prophet Zechariah? So that we won’t be deceived by the TV preachers who proclaim a king of pomp and circumstance, of wealth and splendor. So we won’t be deceived by the false teachers who proclaim a health, wealth, and happiness gospel and promise a life without troubles or setbacks just because you follow Jesus. The whole story of the Coming One unfolds openly in broad daylight, for all to see: the Savior comes riding along like a beggar on a borrowed donkey, without a saddle or other trappings. He needed His followers to place their cloaks and garments on the donkey—a makeshift arrangement for this poor king! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Now there’s no excuse—for the ancient people of God or for us modern people of God. We cannot say, “Gee, we missed the king. Which one was he?” You see, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem, He does not do so as some earthly king or president. He does not come with “Hail to the Chief” played by the Marine band. He does not come in a bullet-proof limousine with secret service men all around. No, King Jesus comes in humility, in poverty, in lowliness. Yes, He is Immanuel--“God-with-us”--but He comes among us in very human ways, down at our level: God on a borrowed donkey. That way you can’t confuse Him with other kings.

Actually, it’s a refreshing scene—a King without the pompousness and pretension we see in our earthly leaders. What else do you call it when presidents and congressmen and senators act and talk as if they were above the law and beyond reproach? If any of us were to do or say the same things, we’d be in jail. What else do you call it when leaders in the Middle East would rather keep fighting than work out some peace agreement? Such are the earthly leaders. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Ps. 118:8-9). How refreshing to have a King who comes not in earthly splendor, but in lowly humility!

You see, this Beggar-King Jesus has a different might and authority than other kings. He comes “righteous and having salvation” (Zech. 9:9). Beggar-King Jesus is the One who brings righteousness and salvation with Him. He is sin’s enemy. He is death’s destroyer. He is the champion over sin and death for all who believe in Him and receive Him as their King. You see, believers are not offended by this poor King on His borrowed donkey. In Him believers have their sins forgiven; death will not harm them; they have eternal life and will not die. Sure, they may die physically and be buried in the earth, but that’s not dying, that’s falling asleep.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Why? This is the King who devours sin and strangles death. This is the King who pulls out the weeds of sin by the roots and knocks out the fangs of death. This is the King who rescues all who believe on Him from sin and death and conquers the devil. This is the King who paves the way for you to be with the angels where eternal life and blessedness are. Let earthly kings and rulers have their power plays and their wealthy ways. Beggar-King Jesus still has a better way of life! You see, earthly rulers cannot help you with your problems of sin and death. Only Beggar-King Jesus can do that. Yes, King Jesus is poor and lowly, but He is also righteous and having salvation. He prevails not just over one sin or a few, but over all your sins. He prevails not just over your sins, but over all the world’s sins. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

As Beggar-King Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the crowds go ahead of Him and shout with their mouths. You see, they don’t get tripped up with what their eyes see. All their eyes can see is a poor, lowly beggar of a Man who must borrow a donkey to process into the holy city. But they listened to God’s Word, the prophecies of the Coming King. They paid more attention to what their ears heard and learned than to what their eyes saw. So, they were able to open their mouths wide and bring their throats to full throttle and shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

So, let’s follow in their joyous path this Advent season. Do not get tripped up with what your eyes see—the poverty of Jesus in contrast to the commercial Christmas signs. Instead, trust what your ears hear—the message that poor King Jesus removes your sin, rescues you from death, and gives you His everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. If you don’t want to understand the Word that your ears hear, but rather accept only what your eyes see, then you will miss your King. Then you’ll be lost.

But Beggar-King Jesus wants to prevent that from happening. His mission in coming is to rescue you and keep you from being lost. So King Jesus comes even now to save you. He has placed His help in Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper. He has also given His help in the Word and preaching. To your eyes, Baptism appears to be no more than ordinary water. To your eyes the Lord’s Supper seems to be only ordinary bread and wine. To your eyes the sermon seems like nothing but hot air from a man’s mouth. But you must not trust what your eyes see. Instead, listen to what your King is teaching you in His Word and Sacraments.

Here’s what King Jesus tells you, even today: “I poured out My blood to save you from your sins, to rescue you from death and to bring you into heaven. To that end I have given you Baptism as a gift for the forgiveness of sins. To that end I preach to you unceasingly by word of mouth, telling you of this rich treasure. To that end I seal this message with My Body and Blood, so that you need never doubt.”

Do you recall when we have the privilege of singing, “Blessed is He who comes” in the liturgy? After the Lord’s Table is prepared, and after we lift our hearts to the Lord and give thanks to the Lord our God, then we sing these words: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, Lord God of pow’r and might: Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” We do not sing of ourselves coming to the Lord’s Table. That would be a bit egocentric to call ourselves “blessed” as we come forward to the altar. No, we are singing to Christ as our Beggar-King who comes among us to feed us. We are calling Him blessed because He comes to us in His Word and in His Meal. The crowds that day had Jesus in their midst as He rode on a donkey. We have Jesus in our midst when we partake of His Body and Blood.

Here’s the Advent message: “Here comes the King! Poor? Yes. Lowly? Yes. And, yes, even riding on a borrowed donkey and ready to die a criminal’s death. But don’t let your eyes deceive you. His poverty means rich treasure for you. His death means life for you. Behold, your salvation comes, in His Word and in His Sacraments! Behold, His reward of forgiveness is with Him, and His recompense in water and Word, Body and Blood is before Him (Is. 62:11). Amen.

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