Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “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.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!” Mat 21:1-9
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” Blessed is he who comes. It was a name of sorts, he who comes. The people used it to speak of the messiah. The one who comes. They had been waiting with expectation for so long. Their expectations ran wild. And now he came riding on a donkey, their king, just as Zecharia had foretold. And all that morning the people cheered this unlikely messiah. They cut branches of palms and laid them on the road before him.
The reading seems a bit out of place doesn’t it. Everyone is in a Christmas state of mind. Christmas songs playing on the radio for a month now. Of course we’ve let this fever invade our church practices too. Everyone thinks it is Christmas, and then we have this reading reminiscent of Palm Sunday for the first Sunday in Advent. Definitely doesn’t go with the Christmas tree in the chancel does it? But it does go with the season of Advent. Blessed is he who comes, blessed is he who advents. I mean that is what the word means, advent, coming , arrival. It’s the season that kicks of the church year, so it begins here with our lord entering Jerusalem where everything he came for would be accomplished. Because the life of the Christian centers on Christ’s Death and resurrection, so does the church and everything about the church including it’s year. Because Christmas means nothing without Good Friday, and Good Friday means nothing without Easter. So we celebrate our Lord coming to us. He is the Lord who advents, he is the one who comes, who even comes in the name of the Lord.
In the name of the Lord, it’s a charged phrase. The word name means so much biblically. Solomon knew that the Lord inhabited the whole world and the highest heavens could not contain Him. But then he built the temple to be the place where his name would dwell. His name would dwell, his name would live. The name of the Lord was his existence his being, his glory, his power, and that which blessed his people. And now Jesus enters the city in the name of the Lord. The name of the Lord dwelled in Jesus, lived in Jesus, and through Jesus would bless his people. Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days this man riding on a donkey had said. Yes, he comes. It is the advent of our Lord, and he comes unexpectedly, even as a thief in the middle of the night, he steals in amongst us.
He steals in amongst us. Oh, the people had expectations of the messiah, this one who comes. They were waiting for his advent, and now it was here. The people were finally figuring it out, he is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Today they cheered him on. Perhaps a few remembered the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah. And yet the donkey ride defies expectation. When we think of the advent of our Lord we think of clouds and glory and judgment, chaff and a winnowing fork.
But when our Lord comes to judge Israel, to judge us, as Samson and Gideon judged for Israel of old, he comes not on a charger, a stallion trained for war. Yes, Jesus is riding to judge Israel like the great judges of old. Those whom you read about in the book of Judges, who would vanquish the enemies of Israel, three hundred Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey. With the jaw bone of a donkey. When the Lord Judges he does so unexpectedly. And now it is a donkey he rides to judgment, where he will vanquish the enemies of Israel, your enemies and mine, where he will do away with sin, death and the devil once and for all, and he rides into battle on a donkey, because he comes unexpectedly.
Yes, he steals in like a thief in the night. No one knows the day or the hour. No one sees him coming. But come he does, he is the one who comes. The advent of our Lord, who always advents. We expect him now as a little baby, and we get him a man riding on a colt. They expected him then, a great general and they get him a little baby born to humble parents, born in the same barn that sheltered his mother’s transport to Bethlehem. So he comes unexpectedly, even before his expected coming. Because he is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, and he comes even now to you.
He comes to you, and he comes to you in the name of the Lord also, as water is poured over your head in the name of the Lord, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and sin death and the devil are vanquished there from your life, as you are washed in the blood of the lamb. Yes, he comes like a thief in the night, stealing into your life unexpectedly, when you least expect it. In the midst of suffering as friends comfort you with his words. He comes. This man, in the name of the Lord. Yes, even here, in bread and wine he comes to give his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, because he comes in the name of the Lord, which blesses the people of God, blesses you.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.