Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are times when I am completely blown away by Jesus. I’ll admit, it doesn’t happen as often as it should, but when it hits, it’s hard to forget. It’ll be something He’s said or done, a look here, an emotion there. Today in John’s Gospel, I was blown away by Jesus’ actions. Everything He does is intentional. He’s planned it all, down to the last detail. Jesus is on a mission, and He’s going to do everything that needs to be done to make sure it happens. Today, as Jesus comes into Jerusalem, He knows exactly what He’s doing. He knows how it looks; He knows how the people will react; and He knows what’s going to happen as a result. He’s orchestrating His own death.
During this Advent season, we’re taking a look at four different “advents,” four different comings of Christ. Last week, we saw His first advent: His birth in Bethlehem. Today, we’re watching as Jesus makes His advent into Jerusalem, setting in motion the events of Holy Week that end not with His death, but with His resurrection. Then in the next couple of weeks, we’ll see how Jesus comes to us in the Lord’s Supper as well as how He will come to us again on the Last Day. Four comings, four advents of Christ. And they’re all intentional.
For John, the action is still building. For the first eleven chapter, he’s been elevating the tension. Sign after sign, miracle after miracle, John’s been cluing us in on who Jesus really is. He’s not just any human, He is also divine, fully and completely God. Jesus has been saying things only God can say, doing things only God can do, and claiming titles for Himself that only belong to God. The religious leaders, however, are having none of it. At every turn, the more they hear about Jesus, the more they hate him and want to get rid of Him. Jesus’ latest offense was the worst. He had raised Lazarus from the dead. But the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t like it. So, they planned to kill not only Jesus, but also Lazarus as well. Too many people are following Jesus, so let’s get rid of Him and any evidence of what He’s done.
So Jesus does what He needs to do to keep the plan moving. He makes these leaders even more mad. They’re worried about how things look. The people wanted to make Jesus their king, but Rome as in control. If Jesus is King, then Herod isn’t. And if the people of Israel revolt, which they’d already done a number of times, if they revolt again, the Romans are going to come in, crack down, and shake things up. The Pharisees and chief priests were on the top, but that wouldn’t last if someone else was put forward as king.
The people have gathered around Jesus as He makes His way into Jerusalem. They wave palm branches, tied to religious processions. They cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” words spoken in the Psalms about the coming Messiah. They they add, “even the King of Israel!” Not only is Jesus the Messiah in their mind, He is also the King. So Jesus, knowing what the leaders know and are thinking and recognizing what the people mean by their words and actions, Jesus makes things worse for himself. He finds a young donkey and sits on it.
To our ears, that’s not a big deal. But Jesus is well-versed in the Old Testament. He knows who rides donkeys in the Old Testament: kings. If Jesus wanted to make Himself look like a king as He headed into Jerusalem, there was nothing better for him than to ride a donkey. Later, Jesus’ disciples even remembered the prophet Zechariah, who said, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”
Jesus has done this on purpose. He’s doing everything intentionally. And that blows me away. Jesus meant to make himself look like a king. He meant for this to upset the Pharisees and chief priests. He meant for them to get so upset that they’d put Him to death. Jesus meant to go to the cross. He meant to die. He meant to be buried. He meant to rise from the dead. He knew what was to come. He knew what His actions meant. And He did it anyway.
Jesus came into Jerusalem for a purpose. He came to die and to rise for you and me. This advent into Jerusalem was an advent of salvation. Jesus came to save. And in all reality, this advent of Christ is tied in with the Christmas season as well. The baby born in Bethlehem is the same person who would go to the cross. The One whose birth we’ll be celebrating in just over two weeks is the same One whose resurrection we’ll be celebrating in April. Jesus came as a baby in order to die and rise. Christmas doesn’t mean much without Holy Week. And Holy Week wouldn’t happen without Christmas. They are intentionally intertwined.
While we celebrate the birth of this baby in Bethlehem, there’s more to it than just the birth of a baby. His birth led to His life led to His death led to His resurrection led to His ascension. We celebrate Christmas because there’s more to the story than just a baby. This baby is the Savior, who is Christ—the anointed one, the King—the Lord. Christmas is tinged with Good Friday, but it is filled with Easter Sunday.
As odd as it is for us to think about, this is what we’ll confess in just a moment. In the Apostles’ creed, we go right from Jesus birth into His death. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. This is your Savior and your King.
Prepare the royal highway, the King of kings is near; let every hill and valley a level road appear. Then greet the king of glory foretold in sacred story: Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell