I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1

From Humble to Exalted

First Sunday in Advent – Pr. Anderson sermon
St. Matthew 21:1-9 “From Humble to Exalted”
December 3, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church

In Nomine Iesu
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Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, we bless and praise You forever, that You sent Your Son to rule over us poor sinners, who for our transgressions justly deserved to remain in the bondage of sin and Satan, and that in Him You gave us a meek and righteous King, who by His death became our Savior from sin and eternal death. We beseech You so to enlighten, govern and direct us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may ever remain faithful to this righteous King and Savior, and not, after the manner of the world, be offended by His humble form and despised Word, but, firmly believing in Him, obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, by Veit Dietrich, p. 147)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)

The sermon text for today is taken from the 21st chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:

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.”…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!”

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)

In Christ Jesus, who shows us His ways and teaches us His paths, dear fellow redeemed:

It is a typical day. You are ready to head to work. You start down the road. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. Then you see it, a crowd starts to gather along the road. They are carrying palm branches, laying down their cloaks on the road. You wait a little longer and the crowd continues to gather as they look expectantly down the road. Then you see Him coming. He is “humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” The crowd is all for this. They are shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The man on the donkey is not ornately dressed. He is not even wearing a crown on His head. Yet He continues to ride into the city. This humble man is what many are not expecting. Indeed, He does look humble riding on that colt. In one week, however, there is a change. When they turn their backs, this man who rode humbly into Jerusalem, will come back down from Heaven holy and exalted!

Jesus has a hard journey left to get to that exalted stage. After spending the week teaching His last lessons to His disciples, the crowd that was shouting, “Hosanna”, “save us now”, are going to have a different tune later. If you ask the right people, it looks like the reason that Holy Week ends like it does, is not because of the crowds changing their tune, but because Jesus doesn’t look like He should look. What should Jesus look like? Well, if you are going to get a grand parade. Then you should look like someone who deserves a parade. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He does not look like a king, the Son of David. He is not dressed like a king. They have already tried to put Him in power a few times and He vanished from their sight.

If Jesus doesn’t want to be king, then why are the people throwing Him a parade? This is their last attempt to make Him one. The people are sick of having another nation rule over them. They liked it when they had their own kingdom. They finally have Jesus’ right where they want Him. Now He has to take the fight to the Romans, right? They have treated Him like a king. The crowds take all this excitement, and they use the excitement along with their expectations and they ignore everything that Jesus has taught them for the last three years. They ignore the kind of kingdom that Jesus says that He will rule. It is not an earthly kingdom over a certain location. Jesus told them so many parables about the coming of the kingdom of heaven and they need to repent because it is coming soon. They waited so long for Jesus to come, but He does not look or act like what they want. They waited for the King to come and when He came, they all will turn away from Him by the end of the week.

Most of the time we will look at the problems that the Jews had with Jesus, and we will think that those problems are only their problems. How could they possibly affect us today? Don’t we live “after the end of the week?” We know how this account ends. Jesus rises from the dead! As the Jews looked on waiting for this humble man riding on a colt to restore an earthly kingdom, we can sometimes expect Jesus to come again and do the things we want Him to do. We forget about Him being exalted. We want to push around a humble man. We might not be asking Jesus to be our bread king, but we might longingly want Him to help us out of problems that we created. Our earthly expectations of Jesus coming again can fall short.

Can’t Jesus just accept that I will break some of these commandments? Who honestly is going to try and keep them all one hundred percent of the time. He must ignore a couple of these because everyone is doing it. If I don’t join them, then I will be left out and if Jesus cares about me and my feelings, He won’t want me to be left out. When we try to get Jesus to justify our sins, it is because we think He is this humble pushover. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He is going to come again exalted, demanding all glory, and honor for He is the One and only coming King. The Jews very quickly forgot about the reason for His first coming. We can forget about the reason for His second coming. Instead of being ready, waiting for His glorious return, we can be just like the Jews in our text. We can ignore His parables of the kingdom of heaven, ignore His call to repentance and as He comes on clouds descending, it will be too late.

It is good that Jesus has us in mind when coming down from heaven for the salvation of the world. He didn’t worry about the human expectations that the world has on Him. His plan was to live out His life, live out the purpose that His Father wills. “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” (Jeremiah 33:14). A promise, thousands of years in the making, is going to be kept with the birth of a humble infant. Who doesn’t look like much of a king. He would grow up, not in a castle, but live as a carpenter’s son. The expectation was that He would sit on an earthly throne. The reality is that He would humbly ride into Jerusalem to be stricken, smitten, and cursed by God, raised up on the cross for the salvation of the world.

Jesus’ state of humiliation has a purpose. It is not what the world wants, and why would it want it. Jesus coming to earth humble means that He is true God, that He did obey all of the Laws commands, perfectly. He didn’t sin against one of them. This gives the world no excuse. As the world continues its path of sin, Jesus kept on His pat of humility and with the steps of humiliation comes the steps of exaltation. Jesus rides into Jerusalem, and He was victorious over His enemies. He is the exalted King over all the earth. His first coming brought the world salvation and in keeping His promise, He will come again to judge the world and to bring those who trust in Him eternal rest.

To enjoy eternal rest means that this rest must not be your own. It is a gift of rest. A gift that can only come from an exalted Christ who will come again to take you to it. The prophets foretold this time of righteousness. “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'”(Jeremiah 33:15-16). Jesus the righteous branch executes that justice. Jerusalem dwelt securely as the coming Savior rode in, saving them from their sins. It is through these kept promises that you can rejoice and be glad. Jesus died on the cross so that your lives would have His righteousness. He ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you. He promises that He will come again, and He keeps His promises.

In this time of celebration, you can be thankful that Jesus did not worry about fulfilling human expectations. He could have told you that you are a hopeless cause. He could condemn you as He returns as King over the living and the dead. In that first coming, that had Him humbly riding in Jerusalem for the sins of the world, it is this mercy that comes to you in His second coming. He didn’t forget about His mission, so He comes again from heaven for you.

When He comes again in all glory, you will see with your own eyes the kept promises of God. “For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 33:17). History teaches that Jesus came into the world. He looked like a regular man. Yet He was humble, not making full use of His divine powers so that He might save you. And after He died on the cross, He rose the dead exalted as the living Christ. We end our prayers, proclaiming that Jesus lives and reigns. Jesus might not have looked like much as He rode into the city on the colt of a donkey, but it is because of the events of Holy Week that you confidently confess what Jesus Christ did for you. He will come again in all glory and honor. He forgives you and has prepared a place for you. Your life is renewed by the righteousness of Christ, who obeyed God’s commandments so you would be saved.

As Christ clothes us with His righteousness, we now wait for His return. St. Paul writes, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now that when we first believed”(Romans 13:11). We don’t know when it will be. It could be soon. It could be years down the road. As we wait for His return, we stay awake in His Word, hearing how He strengthens us, how He rode into Jerusalem to win us salvation. Now that He lives and reigns on High, we can sing and rejoice with the crowds as He traveled down the road. What great joy we have, Jesus saved us with His death, He is blessed. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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