First Sunday in Advent| November 27, 2005| Rev. Rolf Preus| Matthew 21:5
The name of the little city of Bethphage means “mouth house” because it is here that God spoke to His people, introducing to them their King. Since God has adopted us as His dear children in our baptism and through that sacred washing has taken away all of our sin with the redeeming, justifying, and sanctifying blood of Jesus, we know for sure that He is also our King. So we take to heart the words spoken by the prophet Zechariah as these words are given to us in the Gospel Lesson for the First Sunday in Advent: “Behold, your king comes to you.” That is our text.
Behold, your king comes to you. Today’s sermon has four parts. We consider first the word: behold. Second: your king. Third: your king comes. Fourth: your king comes to you.
Behold. We don’t talk that way in English anymore, although in some parts of the country folks will say “Lookit” when they want to make a point.” Pay attention. Look at this. There is something here that requires your undivided attention because it is important. It matters to you, and you should know this. It deals with the most momentous and significant things of your life. Behold! Look! Pay attention!
People pay no attention. They don’t even bother to look. They won’t go to church because they don’t think there is anything there that they want to hear, see, or know. But there is! When the prophet says to behold, he’s got something you’d better hear. If you won’t, you’ll surely wish you had. You see, the prophet is talking for God, and God won’t be ignored. Children can and do dismiss their parents’ advice and as long as the folks don’t see it the children get away with it. Students may have a teacher who is really boring and they pay no attention because it doesn’t make any difference to them what the teacher is saying. But when God talks through his prophet, you should listen. This is something you need to hear.
Behold your King. Now one thing we know about kings is that they aren’t elected by a popular vote or even an Electoral College vote. They are born. The people don’t vote for a king. Nowadays the vote is the almighty and omniscient voice of authority, as if the people are their own gods. Well, they think they are. That’s the problem with democracy in America. The people make themselves into their own gods and consider their votes to be the voice of God and so politicians do their level best to prove that they have the approval of the people. The approval of the people has become more important than any promise to uphold the law. That’s no way to run a country, and God doesn’t rule his church in that way. God surely doesn’t rule according to the by your leave of the people. Behold your King. You didn’t elect Him. God did. From eternity, God chose Him to be your King. And over the years God explained in clear detail the various facts of His coming. Through the prophet Isaiah God said that He would be born of a virgin. Through the prophet Micah He said that He would be born in Bethlehem. Through the prophet Zechariah He described the events that came to pass as recorded for us in the Gospel reading for today, the First Sunday in Advent. God chose this King. God elected Him. God’s vote is the only vote that counts.
Behold your king. He is a king. He rules. He doesn’t waste his time consulting anyone on how He should govern. Nobody can advise Him. As the Bible says:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? (Romans 11:33-34)
And He is your king. He rules over you, not as you would teach Him, but as He would teach you. Other kings make demands on you and take your money, your sons, your land, and your time. In return they offer you protection and some basic governmental services. But this king comes into the world to meet the demands you failed to meet. He comes to become a king like no other who, instead of ruling over you by law and force, rules over you by taking off of you all of your sins and taking those sins upon Himself. This is what He did. It was on the cross that He was publicly identified as King. It was to the cross that He was riding as He went into Jerusalem on that donkey. It was to Calvary to become your King. There He would face your enemy. I am talking about the enemy inside of you. He faced your sin. He came into the world to do just that. Only by facing it as the One who would suffer for it; only by bearing the punishment of it; only by overcoming your sin with His innocence would He be able to take off of your soul the guilt you have earned. And this is what He did.
Behold your king comes. He comes. He who came comes. Advent means coming. At His first advent He came as a baby born in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary. This birth we celebrate on December 25. We call it Christmas, which comes from the words Christ and mass. The mass, as you may know, is an old word used to refer to the church service. Now the word service is an interesting word. If you were to take a group of Christians at random and ask them about service and what kind of service is going on when Christians gather together on a Sunday morning, I think I know what most people would say. They would say that we serve God by going to church. Now that is perfectly true. You should serve God by giving him your complete attention, your heartfelt praise, and the sincere intent of your will to seek out his will for you and to do it. If you are a child of God you must serve your Father in heaven. You must serve the king, His only Son. As David writes in Psalm 2:12, “Kiss the Son, let he be angry.”
But the more important service that takes place on a Sunday morning is the service that your King renders to you. That’s a fact. It’s not a fact that is widely acknowledged or confessed, and that’s a shame. But when you come here to church, your King, Jesus most certainly comes to you. He comes. He comes of His own free will. You don’t compel Him to come by anything you say, do, or promise. He comes to you. He comes to serve you.
He washed his disciples’ feet and humbled Himself before them. He, the King, serves His subjects. That is how he saves us. He stoops to wash away our sins in Holy Baptism. He preaches words of eternal life to us through the mouths of sinners with clay feet. It is Jesus who comes to us and speaks to us and gives to us His own righteousness in the place of our sins. He comes in the preaching of the gospel.
He comes in the Lord’s Supper. He is the host. He is the food. He comes to us and gives us to eat and to drink His body and His blood. This is how He serves us. We don’t offer that body and blood up to God, as if we could offer up a sacrifice to take away sin. Jesus offers that body and blood to us, so that we may have no doubt at all that He is gracious to us. Why would God give us His body and blood to eat and to drink if He wished to harm us? Why would He bear on the cross all of our sins, and then give to us this holy and precious meal in which there is nothing but sheer mercy, love, and forgiveness, if He meant to judge us or punish us or send us to hell?
He wouldn’t. No, He comes to us in the preaching of the gospel and in the administration of the holy sacraments because He wants to serve us and thereby to save us. He wants to do this for us. So he comes.
Do you want this service? Or does it offend you? Do you want to be like Peter who was too pious a Christian to have his King and Lord and master kneel down before him and wash his feet? If you don’t want this divine service then you don’t want Jesus. He never takes on a personal relationship with a sinner except as that sinner’s Savior. Those who speak so eloquently and at great length of their personal relationship to Jesus, and how Jesus has become the Lord of their life, let them stop to listen to the prophetic words: Your king comes to you. You don’t make Him your king. He makes Himself your king. You don’t draw Him out of heaven to bring Him down to you, nor do you draw yourself up to heaven to bring yourself to Him. But He, the Lord God almighty, who joined Himself to our human flesh and blood and who has given us to share His very name, the LORD, our Righteousness, comes to us in the washing of baptism, in the preaching of the gospel, in the giving out of His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. This is His advent.
Your King comes to you. To you, dear Christian! He isn’t just near you. He is with you. And He doesn’t stay confined between these walls where He serves you. He comes to you and he stays with you and He chooses not to leave you. He is there when you walk your Christian walk. He has come to be with you when you’re out with the guys and face the opportunity either to confess Him or deny Him by what you say and do. He is there when you have a drink and another and another and if you get drunk, it’s a Christian to whom Jesus came to make His home who got drunk. If you tell a filthy joke, make indecent suggestions, behave like a boor, and follow your base desires; you don’t do it alone. No, Jesus is there with you. Jesus, in whose name you are baptized and whose body and blood you have received is there with you. Or can we by choosing to live in darkness turn off the Light of the world? No, brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever we go and whatever we do our King goes with us. And should we bring shame upon ourselves, we will shame the King whose name we bear.
This is why we come here to be served by Him. This is why we make this our home, for here our Lord Jesus has promised to be. And here He is. He is wherever his Holy word is taught and confessed. He is in the Christian home where the word of God is. He is not absent. He is present, really, and truly present. Look! See Him! He governs us by taking away our sin. He rules over us by serving us with His gospel and sacraments. He remains with us by giving us His Holy Spirit. And so we put Him on. We clothe ourselves in His pure white righteousness. We stand ready to greet Him when He returns again in glory to judge both the living and dead. Amen.