Text: Matthew 21:1-9
“Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in.” These words of King David in our psalm were written, perhaps, for the return of the Ark of the Covenant to the tabernacle in Jerusalem. Because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, the Lord allowed His ark to be captured by Israel’s longtime enemies, the Philistines. It remained among them for a time, until the Lord heard and answered the prayers of His people – that He would dwell among His people once again. Therefore, David and all the people sang for joy in confidence that the Lord was with them, yet again.
From the rest of Scripture, we learn that the Ark of the Covenant, which represented (and was) God’s presence among His people, is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God – begotten of the Father before all eternity – entered into His creation to redeem it – us – from all sin and death. And the way He did that is in a way wholly different than the world would expect. Jesus humbled Himself to be born of a virgin, and then bore the punishment of all mankind’s sin in Himself. By His humble submission to death on a cross, our sins were paid for. The same humble Son of God who bore our sins on the cross, comes to us – even now, in this new year – in the humble means of His Word and Sacrament. Through these things, He sustains us until the time when He will come again in glory.
Our text this Sunday, the first of a new Church Year, the first in Advent, is from Matthew 21. The English word Advent comes from the Latin phrase Adventus Domini, which means, “the coming of the Lord.” In the season of Advent, we confess what is called the threefold coming of Christ. We believe that He came to us, first, in His incarnation of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. We believe, second, that He comes to us now in His Word and Sacraments. And, we also believe that He will come again on the Last Day. In these things, Jesus shows Himself to be unlike any other king. He, who is the creator and possessor of all things, went into Jerusalem that Palm Sunday, knowing what would happen only five days later.
In our text, Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead of Him into the village of Bethphage. He knew that when they got there, they would find a donkey tied and her colt with her. He knew that someone would stop them and that they should say to him “The Lord needs them,” – and he would send the donkey and colt. Jesus knew that the large crowd going before and after Him would change over the course of the week. Many would leave Him or be convinced to asked for Barabbas’ release instead of His. He knew all these things – that He would die – so, why did He go? Jesus rode into Jerusalem so that these words might be fulfilled, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you.’”
Jesus came unlike all the other kings of the earth. He came to not be praised or to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. He came in perfect meekness and humility, neither breaking off the bruised reed nor snuffing out the smoldering wick. He came not to demand homage, but to be obedient in all the ways that we have disobeyed and strayed from the Lord’s Commandments. He came to suffer and die on the cross for your and my sin.
The true King of Glory came into His creation by His humble incarnation and birth some 2,000 years ago. Yet, on the mount of His Ascension Jesus made this promise, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the Age.” His last words to us on earth assured us of His continued and continual presence among His people. The way He remains among us is not in some incredible or bombastic way, but in a way keeping with His Incarnation. Just as our Lord came to us, first, in humble flesh and blood, He comes to us now clothed in humble Word and Sacrament. Jesus created these and gave them to us so that the words, “Behold, your king is coming,” would be forever true for you and me. Jesus gave us these things, and He will never tire of being present among us through them.
We poor sinners grow both cold and bored in our faith, at times we walk away; but our Lord never tires of forgiving us – even after 2,000 years of dwelling among His people. He comes to us daily and weekly to bring to us the forgiveness of sins which He won on the cross. In the washing of Holy Baptism, He joins us to His own death and resurrection and gives us entrance into His eternal life. Through His Supper, He gives us His true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, and the strengthening of our faith and love. In His Word, in the words of Absolution, and in our Christian conversations with each other, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, keeps true His promise to forgive and be with us always. Though the world may look at these things as items to be discarded or – at best – as things which are not essential, we know that there is no greater treasure on earth than what our Lord has given us in His Word and Sacraments.
2,000 years ago, our Lord entered into His creation clothed in humble flesh and blood. He bore in Himself the guilt of our sins, and the wrath of God which we deserve was poured out on Him. As the world’s true king, He came only to serve. He continues to serve and be with us now in this new year through His Word and Sacraments. Through these means of grace, He gives to us the forgiveness which He won on the cross. By these things, He binds up our wounded and broken hearts, He strengthens our faith by pointing us to Himself, and increases our love for each other and our God.
In this Advent season we confess not only our Lord’s coming in the flesh and His coming to us now in His means of grace, but we also confess that someday soon He will come again in great power and glory. Soon, the King of Glory David spoke about in the psalm will come on the clouds to judge the living and the dead. By God’s grace, through faith in Christ, our names are already written in the Book of Life and we will enter with our Lord and King into the joy of the new creation.
“Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors,” David sang, “that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in.” The words were fulfilled in our Lord’s humble entrance into Jerusalem to suffer and die for us. Even now, in this new church year, the Lord comes to us in His humble Word and Sacrament. And, someday soon, the ancient foundations of the earth will be shaken as the King comes in all His glory to gather us to His side.
Let us pray:
Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.