Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 21)

From Wrestling with Theology
Jump to: navigation, search


Service Notes

First Sunday in Advent + December 2, 2018
  • Order of Service: Divine Service 1
  • Hymns: LSB #341, 332, 331, 343
  • Audio:
Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord

Theme Verse

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!" (Matthew 21:9)

Sermon Text

Happy New Year!
As we begin this new Church Year with the season of Advent, we have the account of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As we see the fulfillment of the Psalm[1] and Zechariah's prophecy[2] in Jesus' first Advent, we can prepare ourselves for His second Advent when He comes back in judgment.
His second coming will be very much like His Triumphal Entry. The Jews were on their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover.[3] It was one of the three annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem that God commanded Israel.[4]
As Jesus and His disciples approached the Mount of Olives and Bethphage, those who were following Him from Bethany were joined by those who had come up from Jerusalem.[5] The infectious joy of those who had come to see this Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead spread to those who had anticipated Jesus' arrival. Jesus, mounted on the donkey, came into Jerusalem in the middle of a great crowd. A crowd who was excited for what was happening: Jesus was coming into His holy city to sit on His throne. Because of this, "they gladly sacrificed their holiday garments, their festival ornaments, they brought the palm branches and waved the green fronds of early spring to give full expression to their joy, to their confession of their Lord, the Messiah."[6] They prepared the royal highway for their eternal King.[7] They truly believed that Jesus was the Son of David who had come in the name of the Lord.[8]
They believed what St. Paul would later write, "The day is at hand. … Let us walk properly as in the daytime."[9] So they walked with their Lord. They sang praises to their Lord! "Hosanna to the Son of David!"[10]
Hosanna! Save us! The people were looking for salvation. They were looking for the promised Son of David who would execute God's justice and righteousness.[11] They had heard about Lazarus' resurrection. They firmly believed that God's salvation was coming through the Messiah at that moment! They believed that Jesus was the One they were waiting for. They believed that the kingdom was coming back to Israel at that time.[12] They flung wide the portals of their hearts to Christ, but the Temple they were ready to employ for His praise was still Herod's Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus must open their hearts wider to understand what He truly accomplished when He went into Jerusalem.[13] His Triumphal Entry was not as a conquering hero, reestablishing Jewish rule in Jerusalem. His Triumphal Entry was as the humble Son of David, bringing eternal salvation into the world. Not political salvation. He enters Jerusalem to bring eternal salvation through peace with God.
The pilgrims' shouts of "Hosanna" rung out through the countryside as they descended the Mount of Olives, but the shouts rang out in the heavenly Temple where God the Father was delighted to finally fulfill the promises He had made throughout history. Just as the "fullness of time had come"[14] with Jesus' birth, now the time was fulfilled for His death. Death already seen in the pilgrimage.
What were the people doing when they had removed their outer garments? They were cutting palm branches off the trees along the road. These branches were cut off from the tree and therefore dying as the donkey walked over them. The donkey carrying the "righteous Branch" from David's house.[15] The Branch that would be cut off from the tree of His own people so that they might be saved. The Branch who was supposed to be the ruler who executes justice and righteousness. They were signifying His death, even though they didn't realize it at the time. They simply sought to praise the Son of David.
And that's what we seek to do as well. As we look forward to this new Church Year, we'll see Jesus as the Son of David come back again. Especially when we look at our upcoming Lenten midweek series. Again, we will hear "Hosanna to the Son of David" as we look at David's physical sons and their flaws and then the one Son who would properly hear these words.[16] The Son who would not only hear "Hosanna to the Son of David!" He would also hear "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"[17]
Blessed is He who is one with the Father.[18] Blessed is He "who has clean hands and a pure heart." Blessed is He who "will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation."[19] Blessed is He who enters Jerusalem, the city founded on peace, to bring eternal peace with God.
He comes into Jerusalem to fulfill the Scriptures.[20] "He comes for thy benefit, for thy peace, for the salvation and joy of thy heart."[21] Everything Jesus did was for you. His birth, His life, His Triumphal Entry, His death, His resurrection, His ascension. All of this for you.
The Psalm asks, "Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place?"[22] The answer the Psalm gives is basically, "No one." Because no one living has "clean hands and a pure heart."[23] Only the Son of David who humbly came into His creation. Who humbly rode into the city of Jerusalem on the donkey. Who humbly died for the forgiveness of sins. He can ascend the LORD's holy hill. He can stand in His holy place. He is victorious even in humility.
The pilgrimage coming down the Mount of Olives is a picture of this humble victory. "The fact that the donkey walks on the branches and leaves of palm trees would make it clearly known that not only he who was mounted upon it but also those who would believe in Him were going to subdue all their enemies, trample them under their feet and win a glorious victory. For the branches and leaves of palm trees are the emblems of the victory."[24] Jesus' Triumphal Entry is a foreshadowing of your triumphal entry through the pearly gates of Heaven. When Jesus comes back "as judge, on clouds of light, … His true members all unite with Him in Heaven to reign."[25] All true members of Christ will be with Him because they believe and hold fast to the name of the Lord.
"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."[26] This name is important. Therefore we have a commandment and a petition of the Lord's Prayer involving it. "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."[27] "Hallowed be Thy name."[28] The LORD's name is so important that we have multiple times in the Catechism where we are encouraged to use His name properly.
Jeremiah tells us this as well. David's righteous Branch, the king who will deal wisely, who will execute justice and righteousness, who will save Judah and make Israel dwell securely, has a most important name: "The LORD is our righteousness."[29] There is no righteousness outside the name of the LORD. Therefore the pilgrims shouted.
Not only "Hosanna to the Son of David." Not just "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." They ended their praises with "Hosanna in the highest!"[30] They extended their Hosanna from the current moment to eternity. They echo the great song of the angels at Jesus' birth. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased."[31]
They believed that God was fulfilling His Word through Jeremiah, "In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely."[32] They were awaiting their security and salvation because they believed, "Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed."[33] From their Hosannas, they believed the day of salvation was that day. So they prepared the royal highway before Him with their cloaks and palm branches.[34]
Their hosannas also proclaimed Jesus as the King of Glory who was coming into the gates of His city.[35] He came into Jerusalem to fulfill His victory over sin and death. He came not to reclaim Israel's physical kingdom. He came to reclaim the entire world. There are no boundaries to His kingdom.[36] And He brings you into it through His death and resurrection.
As part of His glory, He has set us on a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to the ultimate destination where we shall see His glory face to face. Where we will shout our hosannas. Where we will be blessed by His eternal blessings. As pilgrims on the journey, we are surrounded by other pilgrims. "So great a cloud of witnesses."[37] They surround us to encourage us and to be encouraged by us. Encouraged and encouraging because "the disciples of Christ of all times may trust implicitly in the Word of their omniscient, omnipotent Lord, knowing that even in dark ways His authority will hold them up."[38] On this pilgrimage, we can "prepare the royal highway" so that we can "greet the King of Glory foretold in sacred story."[39]
Your pilgrimage has been laid out before you.[40] Jesus has laid it out in a circle. It repeats from one Advent to the next. We begin the circuit with Jesus' Triumphal Entry. We end it looking for the Last Day. "The night is far gone; the day is at hand."[41] When the gates and ancient doors of your heart are lifted up, the King of Glory enters. You lift up the gates to your heart that He may enter every time you open your ears to hear His Word. He enters your heart so that He might deliver you from the threatening perils of your sins.[42] So that He might lead you through the dark night of this world into the eternal Day of Heaven. Amen.

References

  1. Psalm 24:7-10
  2. Zechariah 9:9
  3. Exodus 12:14-20
  4. Exodus 23:14-19
  5. John 12:9-13; cf. Kretzmann, Paul, Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament Volume I, 115.
  6. Kretzmann, 116
  7. LSB #343.2
  8. Matthew 21:9
  9. Romans 13:12-13
  10. Matthew 21:9
  11. Jeremiah 23:5
  12. Acts 1:6
  13. LSB #341.4-5
  14. Galatians 4:4
  15. Jeremiah 23:5
  16. Bathsheba's infant son (2 Samuel 12:13-23); Amnon (2 Samuel 13); Absalom (2 Samuel 14-18); Adonijah (1 Kings 1-2); Solomon (2 Chronicles 6)
  17. Matthew 21:9
  18. John 10:30
  19. Psalm 24:4-5
  20. Matthew 21:4-5; Zechariah 9:9
  21. Kretzmann, 115
  22. Psalm 24:3
  23. Psalm 24:4
  24. Severus of Antioch, Cathedral Sermons, Homily 20
  25. LSB #331.4
  26. Matthew 21:9
  27. Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11
  28. Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2
  29. Jeremiah 23:5
  30. Matthew 21:9
  31. Luke 2:14
  32. Jeremiah 23:5
  33. Romans 13:11
  34. LSB #343.refrain
  35. Psalm 24:7
  36. LSB #332.5
  37. Hebrews 12:1
  38. Kretzmann, 115
  39. LSB #343.1
  40. Hebrews 12:1
  41. Romans 13:12
  42. Collect for Advent 1