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First Sunday in Advent
“A Different Kind of King”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Matthew 21.1-9; Jeremiah 23.5-6
29 November 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Jeremiah the prophet reminds us today that God promised to raise up a new and righteous branch of King David’s once glorious line. David indeed was a humble picture of our Lord’s coming, especially when David the lowly shepherd boy was anointed with oil by the prophet Samuel to be the future king, in front of his seven older, taller, handsome brothers.
Jesus, David’s Son and David’s Lord, the Good Shepherd, was anointed in the humble waters of the Jordan River with the Holy Spirit and with power at His baptism: “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,” said the Father’s voice from heaven.
God’s Son was incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary to be the King, the Anointed One, the Christ. Upon His shoulders the government would rest, and His kingdom would be established and upheld “with righteousness from this time forth and even forevermore.” (Isaiah 9.7)
Jeremiah says of Jesus’ kingship in the OT reading today, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23.5-6)
Jesus Christ was not anointed to rule an earthly government, as He told Pontius Pilate, the ruler appointed by the great Caesar in Rome, at His trial. The chief priests on Good Friday would make this “fake news” accusation about Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate: “We found this man misleading out nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” (Luke 23.2)
“We have no king but Caesar,” they even said to Pilate. (John 19.15)
“So you are a king?” Pilate asked Jesus. (John 18.27a)
“You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world,” Jesus replied. (John 18.27b)
“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus to Pilate. (John 18:36) This corrupted world is mired in sin and death, this world is destined for destruction by fire on the Day of Judgment. This world needs a heavenly government, a heavenly solution, a heavenly anointing, a heavenly King who comes to bring and restore righteousness from God to man. Earthly kings do not deal with heavenly righteousness. Judah will be saved and Israel will rest securely not on some political or economic righteousness, not on some military victory, but on God’s vindication and justification of His people from their sins. Such a king and kingdom are indeed “not of this world.”
Jesus Christ was anointed and came into the world as King even more humbly than David the shepherd boy, for eventually even David was given an earthly throne and crown and palace and took for himself all the trappings, including multiple wives, military successes, and such. Then David’s son Solomon was given even more earthly abundance by God. But for our Lord Jesus Christ, there was no gleaming gold crown, no royal diadems or horse-drawn carriages, no white stallion, no palace, no impressive ceremonies in Westminster Abbey or on the steps of the US Capital, or any other earthly hall.
Today’s sermon hymn sums up the way set out for the Lord Jesus Christ:
Here a maid was found with child, yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne.
Then stepped forth the Lord of all from His pure and kingly hall:
God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.
God the Father was His source, back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down, back then to His throne and crown. (LSB #332, stz. 3-5)
His throne and kingly hall was the womb of a lowly virgin, and out of nowhere He came upon the scene on this earth in real time: incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, lived in our flesh as our brother, healing the sick, calling sinners to repentance, and at last, approached His throne and crown riding humble and lowly into Jerusalem on the colt, the foal of a donkey, just as foretold by the prophets.
So, when the people shouted on the Mount of Olives, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn 12:13), this was the confession and recognition of the anointed King of righteousness foretold by the prophets, come to save His people from their sins.
Jesus’ Kingdom of Israel is not an earthly kingdom, “not of this world”, but it does have to do with you on this earth. For Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to be your King, albeit humbly on the donkey, and arrived humbly in the Virgin’s womb in the city of David, Bethlehem, all in a real time and a real place, real history, this is not a fairy tale or a fable to teach a moral lesson. For this King came to rule real flesh and blood subjects who live real lives and suffer real death, who are in need of real righteousness.
Unlike earthly kings and rulers, Jesus comes not as a despotic dictator looking to lord it over you and keep you under His thumb, nor with the temporal solutions to make one earthly nation great again at the expense of others, as helpful as that might be to our pocket books. Nor does He come to rule as a judge who is looking to come down upon you in judgment and who only rewards those who do exactly as He says or desires.
He comes not to rule over you as a religious coach or cheerleader either, who urges you to do better in your so-called spiritual walk, giving you a list of subtle little suggestions that you might try and accomplish in order to feel better about life and so fulfill your emotional desires and the lusts of your eye.
He comes not to rule over you by telling you to pray more or harder, to be more thankful, to have a happier disposition, or any other such advice.
Jesus does not rule over you by giving you things to do. Jesus is not your King only so you can accomplish something, only so you can be obedient, only so you can try harder to reach up to Him.
Jesus did not come to be that sort of King.
Jesus does come to rule over you by doing something no other earthly potentates are known for doing: by giving of Himself for and to His subjects. This King, in order to be “our righteousness” comes not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
We needed a different kind of King and a different kind of Kingdom, because this life we live on earth is corrupted by sin, and the power of the devil, causing real problems, real heartache, real misery, and ultimately, a real death. Because of the real sin in your life, you cannot accomplish your eternal salvation, be obedient to God’s Law, nor try as hard as you might, reach up to the heavenly King, or prove anything to Him or anyone else.
Thus Jesus came to rule for you by ransoming and redeeming your soul and your body from the devil. He exchanged His righteousness, His holiness, His perfection for you. He suffered the humiliating punishment for sin in your place, in service to you. His blood was the price paid. He came to Jerusalem on the donkey to ascend the holy cross, which became His ultimate throne, the thorns on His brow, His crown of glory. By His execution on Calvary, justice and righteousness were enacted on this earth for all of you to be saved, and not just saved to have a happy temporal life, but saved for all eternity.
For He is the Father’s Son, who in flesh the victory won.
By His mighty power makes whole all our ills of flesh and soul. (LSB #332, stz. 6)
Today, the New Testament Church is the new and better Israel, a spiritual kingdom, gathered through faith in Christ around her crucified and resurrected King Jesus by means no earthly ruler uses: the forgiveness of sins proclaimed and given in Word and Sacrament – heavenly, spiritual gifts. In this Christian Church, His Kingdom on earth, He pours those gifts out upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism, in His Body and Blood given at His altar and rail, in His living voice that absolves and sends away your sins and the guilt for them as far as the east is from the west, in His living voice that comforts, calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and quickens your hearts and minds and souls when His Gospel is spoken and preached and taught.
The King comes even now, again today heaven meets earth, and the Lord chooses “such a birth”: to be present in humble bread and wine to forgive your sins. Children of God: behold your King! He comes! Hail Him as you do every week: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +