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LSB Advent 1C Sermon – Luke 19:28-40

November 30, 2015

November 29, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

As [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’”

Jesus had finally arrived in Jerusalem. The long wait was over. This had always been His destination. From the day of His conception in Nazareth—even before that!—Jesus had been destined to come to the Holy City. The prophets of old had foretold this day. During His ministry, Jesus had spoken of this moment. He had informed His disciples that Jerusalem is the place where His work would be completed. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ words and works, there is a critical time noted about this: “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

Jesus had finally arrived in Jerusalem. His arrival receives great acclamation from the crowds. They had witnessed what Jesus had done among the people of Galilee and Judea. They had heard His teaching that revealed the LORD’s righteousness to them. Now when Jesus approached the Holy City, the people exuberantly worshiped Jesus and the LORD who had sent Him to them: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The crowd’s praise of Jesus expressed their belief about Jesus’ identity. It acknowledged Him as the LORD’s Messiah. Their worship also noted what that arrival was accomplishing: the reconciliation of the creation to its Creator.

The belief that the crowd confessed in Jerusalem is directly connected to what the LORD had declared through the prophets: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” The crowd’s worship of Jesus stated that they were receiving Him as the fulfillment of the LORD’s promise. They were identifying His works as the execution of the LORD’s justice and righteousness for them. Their hope in the LORD’s salvation being given to them was reinforced and rewarded.

The account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem has been read on the First Sunday in Advent for more than fourteen centuries. This account is read because it stands as a summary statement of what the world will encounter again this year as the Gospel account of Jesus is proclaimed. Each Sunday, the preaching of the Church is given that the LORD’s Messiah has arrived. The record of the mighty works that Jesus has done will be read for all to hear. For the next 12 months, you will hear of miraculous deeds that Jesus performed. You will hear His teaching. And you will hear how this is received by those who first witnessed Jesus’ words and works.

The pinnacle of what you will hear in the Church Year from now until the Last Sunday is the testimony given about the truly mighty work that Jesus performed: His sacrificial death to atone for humanity’s sin and His resurrection from death to bring true life to mortals. The goal of that proclamation is to deliver divine righteousness to those who are plagued by sin and iniquity. The testimony is received about the salvation that Jesus brings. When that is done, the same acclamation that the crowd offered to Jesus at His entry to Jerusalem will be uttered by this generation: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 

But another reaction exists alongside that proclamation of Jesus as the LORD’s Messiah and the acclamation of Jesus offered by those who receive it. You heard about that at the end of the Gospel Reading: “And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’” These individuals did not receive the Jesus as “the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” They refused to believe that Jesus was the LORD’s Messiah. They did not acknowledge Him as the “righteous Branch to spring up for David” or the One who would “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Perhaps the Pharisees would concede the fact that Jesus was a somewhat skilled preacher of the LORD’s Torah, that He had some interesting insights into the Scriptures. They might even acknowledge the mighty works that Jesus had done as a demonstration of the LORD’s graciousness being extended to the afflicted in the world. But Jesus’ being the Messiah? That was just too much for them to believe.

The Pharisees’ reaction is the epitome of unbelief. But it is good for the Church to hear this in the first Gospel Reading of the Church Year, because the Pharisees’ reaction is not exclusive to them. Their statement continues to ring out just as loudly as the proclamation of Jesus does. “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”—that command is offered by many whom you directly encounter and by others whom you may only see or read about from a distance.

Wherever the Church makes the confession that Jesus is the King sent from heaven above, there are calls for that preaching to be silenced. The synagogue does not want to hear Jesus being declared the Messiah. The mosque wants the followers of the Nazarene to be eradicated. Those who choke or chafe at the idea of a divine being shove out any thought of Jesus as Lord. And there are the diabolical and demonic who revel at evil and strife, desiring no peace in heaven and no reconciliation for the world beneath. All of these call for the silencing of those who say of Jesus: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 

But when the call for the Church’s proclamation to be quashed is spoken, the words of today’s psalm are prayed by those who acknowledge Jesus as the King who comes in the LORD’s name: “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” The confession of Jesus as the LORD’s Messiah is correct. He has brought the LORD’s righteousness and justice to the world. It has been done to lead people into the salvation that they are meant to receive. They are to share in the LORD’s graciousness as expressed through Jesus: “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.”

You are exhorted to continue in your belief about Jesus’ identity as the LORD’s Messiah, as the psalmist writes: “Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” You are called to trust in the mighty works that He has accomplished for you. Your hope in a victory over death and a greater life than what you currently possess is rooted in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Your being declared good and just by the LORD is founded upon Jesus’ being the source of your righteousness. The proclamation of Jesus that you hear and which forms your faith is a declaration of divine generosity and grace being shown to you. Jesus has arrived, and He has brought that steadfast love with Him to the world. He has made peace in heaven for you. This is what the first Gospel Reading for this Church Year makes known and what you will hear again.

But as the Church begins its year with the account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, another theme lingers in the background. The First Sunday in Advent also brings to mind what will be proclaimed during the last Sundays of the Church Year, some 50 weeks from now. For there is another arrival that is foretold. Jesus has arrived, but He will also arrive again.

The divide over Jesus’ identity will continue until the end of this generation. But the day will come when that divide will be removed. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives a foreboding prophecy about that day: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

The day will come when everyone will make the same confession about Jesus, acknowledging Him as the LORD’s Messiah. It will even be spoken by the stones and the other parts of creation. But the blessing of that confession is for those who make it before Jesus returns. Jesus’ words are full of sadness and regret over what the lack of receiving Him brings. So you are invited to make that confession now, as you hear of His arrival. Let your voices not be silent, even when those who do not know Jesus want you to be rebuked. For your confession of Jesus as the LORD’s Messiah who brought His righteousness for your salvation will prepare you for the day of His return, making “your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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