[Read Matthew 21:1-9] “….. 5Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And 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!’”
King of Kings: Comes, Liberates, Reigns
What liberty are you looking for? What freedom? The Thanksgiving Day season can stir up feelings of patriotism, causing words like ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ to ring in our hearts.
Do you love liberty and freedom? From what and for what? “Behold, your king is coming to you…”, our text says. Do you want a king? Have you thought of what liberty and freedom this King Jesus might be bringing to you? What are you looking for? And what liberty and freedom is He bringing?
The crowds marched before and followed behind Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. Jesus rode as their King of Kings, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, choosing a small, young donkey as His chariot.
The throwing down of their robes, the waving of the palm branches, and their shouts – “Hosanna to the Son of [King] David” – this all shows that these crowds believed Jesus to be their king and to be riding into the Holy City as their king. But for what did they want a king? For what kind of freedom? For what liberty?
Jesus was, in fact, riding into Jerusalem as King of Kings to take the city – to take that city from its captors and liberate it. But what captors and what captivity?
The people of Israel had once been captive as slaves in Egypt. By the hand of Moses, God liberated Israel from that slavery. From then on, the people of Israel would call God “the Lord who brought us up out of Egypt.” Jeremiah says, in his day, that the people of Israel would no longer call God “the Lord who brought us up out of Egypt”, but instead they would start calling Him “the Lord who brought us out of the north country and out of all the countries where He had driven us into captivity.”
God’s people had a history of captivity. God had a history of liberating them from their captors – from the Egyptians, then from the Assyrians and from the Babylonians.
Would God now liberate His people from the Romans? Perhaps the crowds marching before and after Jesus were thinking about this kind of patriotic freedom. Perhaps their cries of praise and help, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” – meaning, “Save us, now! Save us, please!” – meant for them, “Save our nation! Save our country and our city!” – a political liberty; a liberty for nations.
As you think of the Kingship of your King Jesus, do not think of this nation in which you live. Jesus comes bringing liberty and freedom – but not the kind of freedom our forefathers fought for. Jesus has come to be King of Kings, but not a king of the kingdoms of this world. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36].
Jesus did not die on the cross to rule nations, but to reign in human hearts. Jesus did not die on the cross to save your country, but to save your body and soul from hell.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem in our Gospel reading today, on the foal of a donkey, to become Jerusalem’s King of Kings by dying the death of thieves. The captor holding Jerusalem captive was not the Roman emperor. The captor holding Jerusalem captive was human sin in the heart.
Their sin. Jesus took that city back – released it from its true captor – by dying for that city’s sins outside its city wall. Jesus rode in to die for the sin of His guilty people. That’s the liberty. That they would be freed from their sin by His death was the true liberty. Yet it’s a liberty most of them rejected. Their hearts sought the worldly.
You can be freed from all captors in this world. You can gain and enjoy all political freedom and liberty in this world. You can seek that your free nation prospers. You may even employ the name of Jesus to this end. But once all that liberty and freedom has been fought for and gained, you will have spent your life on a life that still only ends in the prison of eternal death.
Like the people of God in Jerusalem, your true captors are not the political forces of this world. Your true captors are within you. Your captivity is captivity to the sin of your heart and the sin of your body. Your captivity is captivity to the selfishness of your mind. Your captivity is captivity to the desires of your flesh. Your captivity is captivity to your anger and your waves of emotion. Your captive heart is captive to worldly benefits. Your captivity is to a heart which desires not to worship God and not to believe God.
Your liberation, brothers and sisters – your freedom – is that Jesus has freed you from these captors. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” – you are the slave to the sin you do. But, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free truly” [John 8:34-35].
What liberty do you seek? What freedom are you looking for? Seek that freedom and the liberty which truly frees. Christ is your Liberator. Your sin, your ugliness, your death, your grave, all became Jesus’ on the cross. On the cross, He put on all your bonds of captivity. In His resurrection, Jesus burst those bonds to set the captive free.
The people of God do have a history of captivity. Jesus died and rose to set you free. Jesus came, liberated, and now reigns. Not an earthly throne, but your heart has become His seat. His reign there is freedom. Captivity to my King is now my liberty.
It’s Advent, brothers and sisters. Advent is about the coming and arrival of Jesus – past, present, and future. He has come, comes now, and will come again. Seek that true freedom and liberty for which the Son of God came – the freedom for which the Son of God died and rose to give you.
Be freed from sin’s slavery. Be captive to God’s righteousness. Put off the works of darkness. Put on the Lord Jesus. This is the freedom for which Christ died and rose. Jesus has come to liberate truly and to reign. All He has come to do is now yours, given and lived daily in your Baptism.
Even today, after you sing your Hosanna cries in the Sanctus – “Hosanna in the highest, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” – Jesus will come in His body and blood, hidden under bread and wine, and will liberate from sins committed, and will more and more, in the receiving of this meal, rule on the seat of your heart. So, here again, in this meal, be freed with the true liberty and have as the Lord of your heart the coming King of Kings. Amen.