The Savior Arrives to Deliver - The First Sunday of Advent
[Matthew 21:1-9] Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5 “Say 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!”
The Savior Arrives to Deliver
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. An “advent” is the arrival of a significant person or thing or event. So, when the first automobile hit an American street, that was the advent of the automobile in American society. When a new king is enthroned, that’s the Advent of his reign. When the king’s army marches into your town, that’s also an advent. An advent is an arrival.
The season of Advent in the Church year marks the arrival of a new church year on the calendar. Much more significantly, the season of Advent points our minds to the future Advent of our King and the arrival of His reign on earth. Advent points us to the Last Day – the Day when Christ our King will return and establish His kingship once and for all.
What will be the significance of Jesus’ arrival, His advent, on the Last Day? Will it be a day of joy? Or will it be a day of gloom and darkness? Is it an arrival to fear or one to anticipate? Will Christ’s arrival – the advent of His throne – be for violence or for peace?
Scripture speaks both ways – and therefore, we must hold that both things are true. The arrival of Jesus will be violence to His enemies. It will be peace to those who are waiting for His arrival in hope.
Think like this: If your hometown is occupied by enemy forces, the arrival of your King with his army is peace for you but destruction for the enemy occupiers.
Now consider today’s Gospel lesson: The true King of Israel, Jesus, God’s Son and David’s Son, with a young donkey as his ride, arrives at what is truly His city – the Holy City – the city of Jerusalem – the capital city of His Judah, occupied by enemy forces, yet filled also with His people. Is Jesus’ arrival one of peace or of destruction? Joy or dread?
For the crowds going before and following behind Jesus, having cast their cloaks upon the road to make a royal carpet for His entrance, this arrival is a joy. It is for their peace – they shout, “Hosanna!” – a triumphant cry of salvation. Their Savior King has arrived to deliver them from their enemy occupiers.
But is it really a city Jesus has come to deliver? And who are the enemy occupiers who dread His arrival?
There are a couple of significant events happening right before and right after today’s Gospel. If you look in the Gospel of Matthew, you’ll see that just before today’s reading of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem you get the healing of two blind men by Jesus. And just after today’s reading you get what? The cleansing of the Temple. Blindness healed and the Temple cleansed.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus’ Kingdom that is arriving is no kingdom of this world, and it has no capital city in this world. More than for cities and earthly temples, the Advent of Jesus is for the healing of our blindnesses and for the cleansing of the temples of our bodies.
You live not in a city of God on earth, but, instead, you are a city of God on earth and are a dwelling place and temple of God that has also been occupied by an enemy. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” [1 Corinthians 6:19]. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them.” [Revelation 21:3].
You yourself – the human body and soul – is made to be the temple of God the Holy Spirit, and is such by your baptism. You all together, the flesh-and-blood baptized people of God, are the city of God in this world. You are His “Jerusalem”. Yet, you are occupied also by an enemy. And, so, the Advent of our King is for you.
The enemies of God are what? Sin, death, the world, and the devil. Sin and death dwell within your flesh and soul – wrongfully occupying the temple of the Holy Spirit. The world and devil hold the territory around you – and also hold a good amount of territory within this city of God on earth, within His Church.
When Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, riding on the donkey, some of His earthly enemies – the chief priests and pharisees – quaked. And some of His earthly friends cheered. But, truly, it would be sin, death, and the devil who would soon quake in everlasting dread.
Jesus’ advent in Jerusalem on the donkey was the beginning of His arrival, that week, at Golgotha where He would be carried, not on a beast of burden, but on a cross where He would carry ours burdens. Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem, and His subsequent arrival on the cross at Calvary, meant destruction for God’s true enemies which had so long burdened His people.
Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem was for the cleansing out of you, His temple, by the cleaning out of your sin. Jesus has made you a clean Temple by atoning for your stain of sin by His shed blood. And now, in you, His death continues to put your sin to death hour by hour.
His arrival at Jerusalem and on Calvary was for the healing of our blind eyes. You see clearly now, on the cross, who God really is – a dying Savior paying the price for you.
Jesus’ advent in Jerusalem was destruction for those enemies of God – sin, death, and the devil – and therefore is peace and freedom for those who cling to Jesus their Savior.
What does this mean for that future Advent of Jesus, that arrival on the Last Day? That coming Advent will be the concrete completion of what was accomplished in His first Advent. The coming arrival of the King is the day when His city and His temple – you all, and your own flesh and soul – will finally be fully occupied by the risen and returning King. No more room for the enemy.
That coming Advent will be a day of dread for the corruptibility and mortality that remains in our sinful flesh – but a day of joy because of the immortality and incorruptibility we will then put on in the twinkling of an eye [1 Corinthians 15:52-54]. A day of joy for those awaiting their Savior, but dread and gloom for this world which is ending.
What should we do in the meantime? Should we slather ourselves in the enemy and live like the perishing world? No – let us not be found being friendly with the enemy when the King arrives. Instead, as the Apostle Paul said in today’s Epistle lesson [Romans 13:11-14]:
“Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Make no room in yourself for the enemy. Put on the Lord Jesus – be richly filled with His Word and obedience. In other words, let’s wear the King’s colors – purity and godliness – as we wait for Him. By our way of life, let us seek to be recognizable as His when He arrives.
The final advent of our King will complete His first advent. He will finish all that He has begun in you and will deliver His dwelling place from its enemies of sin, death, and the devil thoroughly and forever. In short, that advent too will be the advent of a Savior. Therefore, we pray: Come, Lord Jesus! Arrive for us who are waiting for you. Amen.