First Sunday in Advent [b] November 29, 2020
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
In the Name of Jesus.
We’re at the First Sunday in Advent, the first week of the new church year.
The Church year begins, of course, with Advent, then it’s on to Christmas and the Incarnation, then on to Epiphany, which brings us up to Lent and the week of Good Friday and our Lord’s death on the cross.
So Advent is pointing everything in the Church toward Calvary.
This King will take his throne on Calvary’s cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem, and everything is toward that. Everything Jesus does, everything he allows to be done to him, it all takes him to the sacrifice he will give for all sinners.
So, as he enters Jerusalem, it’s on a colt of a donkey.
Jerusalem is packed. The city is crowded for the Passover Feast. With all the excitement and clamor of the crowds, Jesus enters in a way no one can miss.
All have heard of Jesus at this point—he’s been going around Galilee and Capernaum and the districts outside Jerusalem for about three years. They would’ve heard the stories of how the prophet John had baptized Jesus out at the Jordan, of how Jesus had then gone about healing diseases, touching leprous skin, eating and drinking with tax-collectors and drunks, of him casting out demons, even raising dead people—they had surely heard the stories, and now he enters Jerusalem at the year’s busiest week, Passover.
And he enters on the colt of a donkey.
No political parade ushering in a new government, no military equipment, showing off swords and warhorses, but a single man riding on the back of a simple animal that had never been ridden before.
If he had been setting up a new government—and that’s what kings do, or if he had been riding into town to throw the Romans out, then coming in with a political movement or with warhorses would’ve made sense.
But they saw a solitary man on the back of a donkey.
Because, he’s on his way to Calvary. And to go to the cross, you need nothing of power or strength or effectiveness. You need only to come into town lowly and meek on the back of a donkey.
If there’s one thing we can’t do, it’s to confuse Jesus with a political leader or the organizer of a movement. He’s here to make no big changes in our world.
He’s here to go to Calvary and give himself on the cross. What political leader has ever set out to do something life that?
He’s here for the cross. How does that organize a movement?
No one is being intimidated or put to death by his actions, no political powers are being overthrown, no communities are being organized.
When he’s done with what he is riding into town to do on Calvary, all the world powers remain in place, all the communities go about their daily business as before, the world has not been brought into a new political reality.
He’s here to go to Calvary for one simple reason. To save the sinner. To shed blood to cleanse the unclean. To forgive you and me of all sin, and thereby, to make us his own. The solitary man riding on the back of a donkey doesn’t let us get away from it—everything he does is toward Calvary and toward you and me for the forgiveness of our sin.
So how shall we receive this King?
We know how to receive kings and princes of our world. We know how to join up with political organizers and movements.
But how do we receive this King, the one riding on the back of the donkey?
The crowd received him with the shout,
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Hosanna comes from the Hebrew. It means “save us, we pray.”
They shout “Hosanna” to him who comes in the Name of the Lord. Which is to say, as you see this lone man entering town in such a shocking way on the back of a lowly donkey, you wonder who he is, by what name does he come?
He comes by the Name of the Lord. The Lord’s Name is Yahweh. The Name Jesus means, literally, “Yahweh who saves”—that’s the Name by which he enters to go to Calvary.
So who is this riding into town in such a shocking way? It is Yahweh, true God, on the back of a donkey, coming into Jerusalem to save us.
“Hosanna,” shout the people to this man on the donkey. That is, “Save us, we pray, for you are Yahweh who saves the sinner.”
And then, it’s Calvary. It’s the humiliation of the trial before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, it’s the shame of being publicly crucified, it’s the torment of dying so that you are forsaken by your Father.
For Jesus, everything is toward Calvary. That is, everything is toward giving himself unto death on the cross for you and me. Everything he does is toward redeeming the sinner and ransoming his people.
And now, everything in the Church is toward bringing the gifts of Calvary to those whom Jesus gathers to his Name.
He is the Lord, Yahweh in the flesh, answering the prayer of Hosanna, “Lord Save us.”
He is doing what he rode into Jerusalem to do.
He is saving you and me and our children, as he brings the Body and Blood of Calvary, the same Body and Blood that rode on the back of that donkey, that stood before Pontius Pilate, that was nailed to the wood of the cross, that was put, dead, into the tomb, and that was then raised up as living Body and Blood—he is saving you and me and our families as he has his Name proclaimed in our midst and brings that Body and Blood to us for the forgiveness of our sins.
Everything Jesus did as he rode into Jerusalem was toward Calvary.
Now, everything he is doing in the Church is toward bringing those gifts of Calvary to us.
And our prayer is joined to the prayer of those at the side of that rode as they watched him ride in on that donkey. “Hosanna,” we say along with them. That is, “Save us, we pray. For you are most blessed, you who comes in the Name of the Lord, that is, who comes by the Name Jesus to save us.”
In the Name of Jesus.