First Sunday in Advent
Passage: Mark 11:1–11:10
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Mark 11:1-10
Date: December 3rd, 2017; Advent 1; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Alexander the Great, the warrior and king of the ancient world, entered Babylon as their new king.
The ancient historian Rufus describes the scene for us:
A large number of the Babylonians had taken up a position on the walls, eager to have a view of their new king, but most went out to meet him, including the man in charge of the citadel and royal treasury, Bagophanes.
Not to be outdone by Mazaeus in paying his respects to Alexander, Bagophanes had carpeted the whole road with flowers and garlands and set up at intervals on both sides silver altars heaped not just with frankincense but with all manner of perfumes.
Following him were his gifts - herds of cattle and horses, and lions, too, and leopards, carried along in cages.
Next came the Magians chanting a song in their native fashion, and behind them were the Chaldaeans, then the Babylonians, represented not only by priests but also by musicians equipped with their national instrument.
At the rear came the Babylonian cavalry... Surrounded by an armed guard, the king instructed the townspeople to follow at the rear of his infantry; then he entered the city on a chariot and went into the palace.
Now this is the entrance of a king!
Riding on a chariot, surrounded by mounted soldiers in full military regalia. Followed by legions of infantry men, and then herds of cattle and horses and even caged lions and leopards.
The incense is burning, the choirs are singing, the people are crammed on the top of the city walls to get a look at this triumphal entry of Alexander - and the vision they saw inspired awe and fear at the greatness and might of this new king.
So it is with kings of this world; they come with great splendour and might and glory and power.
Look at President Trump’s motorcade - he rolls up in an armoured limo worth 1.5 million dollars, there are rows and rows of cars filled with special security, there are helicopters flying overhead, medical staff on hand.
It is a complete spectacle when President Trump enters a city.
Now enters Jesus. He makes his triumphal entry, “lowly, riding on a donkey”.
And it's not even his donkey. It’s borrowed.
Jesus enters Jerusalem humble, poor, as a beggar.
He has no chariot or war horse. No armies, no sword, no might, no glory. No spectacle that inspires awe or fear.
Jesus and his kingdom comes with great meekness, with great humility, with nothing to dazzle the eyes, nothing amazing to touch.
We only know that Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was triumphant because of the words from the prophet Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; Righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
It sure didn’t appear to be a triumphant entrance. In fact, according to what was seen, a lowly man riding on a donkey, it appeared to be anything but triumphant.
The Word of God - that is the only way we know that this Jesus, riding on a borrowed donkey, is the King of kings and Lord of lords, that he is the Son of God.
It is only by the Word of God that we know that the Author of Life is riding on a borrowed donkey to his death.
Jesus entered Jerusalem lowly, humbly, hidden.
Jesus continues to enter into our world lowly, humbly, hidden.
Hidden in the same words and promises of the Holy Scriptures.
Hidden in water. Hidden in bread and wine.
There is no glory in the font, no splendour in the Sacrament of the Altar. It all seems quite ordinary.
The Gospel goes out not with the strength of horses or armies or the sword - but in humble, lowly preaching.
It sure doesn’t seem like much.
It is only by the Word of God that we know that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Our lives as God’s people most often are not filled with glory, honour, and splendour.
We experience tragedy in our lives. We get sick. We suffer injuries.
We continue to struggle with our sin and fall into temptation.
We too have become like one who is unclean.
We experience death like everyone else.
To the naked eye, it sure doesn’t seem like there is anything glorious about our lives as God’s people.
The Word of God - that is the only way that we know that we have victory over sin and death now - and the tragedies, sickness, injures, and death are only temporary.
It is only by the Word of God that we know that we have been forgiven for all of our sins - and we are holy and righteous before God today - because we have been robed in Christ’s righteousness.
Though we see and experience death, the Word of God reveals to us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and that all who believe in him will live, even though they die, and whoever lives and believes in him will never die.
All of this was accomplished for us in the most unexpected way!
God took on our flesh - and instead of defeating sin and death with great power and might - he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).
He came in humility to die on the cross - because there on the cross - he won for us righteousness and holiness and he took away all of our sin.
Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.
Jesus is the lowly, humble, meek King.
The king crowned with thorns, mocked, beaten and murdered.
Jesus is the King who comes with the gifts of life, salvation, and the forgiveness of sins - gifts greater than any earthly king could ever give.
And so, with peace, comfort, and certain hope - we live under our King by clinging to his Word of Truth.
We live under our King by receiving his gifts that are wrapped up in the humble things of earth - words, water, bread and wine.
We live under our King, praying that he stir up his power that we be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and be saved by his mighty deliverance.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; Righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Come Lord Jesus! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.