Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1

First Sunday in Advent
Luke 19:28-40
Bror Erickson

[28] And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. [29] When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, [30] saying, "Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. [31] If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this: 'The Lord has need of it.' " [32] So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. [33] And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" [34] And they said, "The Lord has need of it." [35] And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. [36] And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. [37] As he 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, [38] saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" [39] And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." [40] He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." Luke 19:28-40 (ESV)

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Thus a jubilant crowd greeted their Lord and savior as he entered Jerusalem. Thus a jubilant crowd greeted our Lord and Savior as he entered His city, Jerusalem. Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Comes, Advent, the coming, It is a season in which we wait for our Lord to come. It is a season in which our attention turns to preparation for him to come. Everyone thinks it is about Christmas, and I suppose in some ways it is, as Our Lord comes in the Flesh on Christmas day, but it is also about his second coming in Glory to judge the living and the dead. And it was this coming that the Jews of Jesus day so eagerly awaited, the day when their lord would come and set things straight. Blessed is the King. Oh and he was and is a king, no doubt about that, but a wholly different king then they expected. This king rode a donkey.
A donkey! A donkey like the one that carried him from Nazareth to Bethlehem for his humble entrance into the world he created. Now a donkey carries him into His city, another humble entrance that erupts in Jubilation as a city recognizes their King! The Prophecy of Zecharia comes true; the expectation of the people is heightened as they remember it:
[9] Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zech. 9:9 (ESV)

Jerusalem has been waiting for a King. The Pharisees are horrified, doubly so when Jesus does not rebuke his disciples, but accepts their praise, and there by identifies himself as the righteous king who has salvation. The king has come, the people expect vindication. The Pharisees foresee war. Perhaps everyone but Jesus misses the point of the donkey.
A king on a donkey. I think about the Romans and the Greeks who must have witnessed this spectacle. And what a spectacle it was. Assuming these people understood as much Aramaic as I do Spanish, they would have understood that these people were hailing a king, they would have looked to see a man riding on a donkey. They might have thought for a second that Jesus was being mocked. It is quite ludicrous. Donkeys were beasts of burden, fit to transport pregnant peasant girls. They certainly weren’t meant to occupy center stage in a parade. Kings rode horses. Parades were meant to show the stability, strength, and glory of a king, they rode horses decked out in the regalia of war. Perhaps a defeated king would ride on a donkey as a sign of humiliation. This is like our president showing up to his inauguration in a Ford Pinto, we would be embarrassed. Here the Jews cheer, and hail their king on a donkey.

The Pharisees no doubt see an imposter. They knew Zecharia, but they didn’t cheer every peasant that rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey. They no doubt saw Jesus as an imposter, one of many who had come, and would come, indeed still come, claiming to be the messiah. For a second they put the best construction they could on things, and thought maybe his disciples had just gotten carried away, and he did not approve of it either. “Rebuke your disciples” they say. Fat chance. Rather Jesus confirms their worst nightmare; he affirms everything the crowd is doing.
But the crowd? They are right in seeing Jesus as their King, the one who comes in the name of the Lord, with peace, salvation and glory. But their expectations are wrong, just a bit off. Sure they see the donkey too. But it does not dampen or change their expectations. They have been waiting for this king. Sometimes impatiently they tried to make Jesus their King, like after the feeding of the five thousand. Here finally was a man who could do it. He could fulfill their expectations. He could cast out the unrighteous Romans, he could set up a just kingdom where the poor would not be exploited, nor the innocent incarcerated and the corruption encouraged. Now they thought, finally, He is willing. Now it will happen.
Jewish thought of the day concerning the coming messiah, the coming King was remarkably similar to that of the Millennialist today. In fact this is in large part why so many so-called evangelicals out their today support the rebuilding of the temple. It was remarkably similar even to what Mormons believe concerning the second coming. Perhaps a small period of hard times, to be followed by a thousand year reign of righteousness. This is what they expected of Jesus. Even as He ascends to heaven, after dying on the cross, after coming back from the dead, the disciples ask: “Lord Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They did not understand that he had, because they expected something different. They couldn’t lift their eyes up further than the corrupted powers of this world.
Are we any different? I wonder? I don’t think that we should be disinterested in the politics of this world. But I marvel at the hopes people have for earthly governments, the faith they put in earthly princes. Republican or Democrat I don’t care, we invest our government with high hopes that can’t help to be shattered. So strongly do we feel about our political convictions that we begin to think people can’t be Christian and republican, or can’t be Christian and Democrat. Libertarian and Christian? You mean those guys that would legalize pot?
It betrays in a way what we think of Christ. Even if we don’t expect him to set up an earthly kingdom for a thousand years of bliss and earthly righteousness. We expect him to judge these people around us, possibly even for their political sympathies. We expect a judge much the same as an earthly judge but with eternal consequences. One who will reward us for being good, and punish them for being bad. A judge who will make all the earthly powers that be, and ever have been answer for their injustices of which they are all guilty. Oh, the United States will not come out a city shining, on a hill or otherwise. And there will be plenty of judgment on that day, and should he judge all based solely on their deeds, we would all go to hell. No one would be rewarded for good, no not even you.
But Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem that day to be an earthly king or judge. No he rode in on a donkey carrying salvation. He rode in with salvation, a sacrifice he would make as King on behalf of his people. He has salvation with Him that day, salvation in the blood he was carrying to the Cross, atonement for your sins, for my sins. And it is with that blood that he judges, with that blood he judges you and me, and pronounces us righteous.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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