“Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.” (Zech 9:9, introit)
The One who is coming in glory, might, and power is the One who came by the humility of the Virgin, the manger, the donkey, and the cross. And He is the One who comes to us here and now, hidden and sublimely “with us,” present in water, Word, bread and wine, to prepare, to forgive, to strengthen, and to keep us. That is the very heart and core of the season of Advent. “Behold, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation.
The word “advent” means “coming” as in the coming of a king or even a god. And imagine the excitement, the anticipation, the preparation that would go on if we were expecting a king or some dignitary come and visit us. Well, maybe we’re not so impressed by kings, so how about a president then. And if you don’t particularly like the current president, then imagine a favored past president or perhaps a future presidential hopeful. This is a non-partisan illustration. Just imagine some dignitary, some very important person coming to visit us here at Holy Trinity.
Would we do anything different? Would you do anything different? Come early, be sure to get a seat? Dress differently? Prepare in some way? I’m fairly certain we all would do something a little different if someone with the status of “king” were to show up here on a Sunday morning. Well, the good news of Advent is that your King, the King of all kings, the King that comes bearing salvation, has come, does come, and will come.
Your King has come to you, righteous and having salvation. In one sense, it is past and accomplished. “It is finished.” He left His royal throne at the right hand of the Father and came to us, born of the Virgin daughter of Israel, in the fulness of time, at just the right moment in God’s plan of salvation. The plan that God had ordained from before the beginning of the world was put into effect when the angel spoke the word of promise to Mary, announcing that she would conceive and bear the promised Messiah-King, the Son of God, God come to be with us.
He came in deep humility, ignored, rejected, despised by those He came to save. “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” He is the creator of all things, yet the world in its unbelief did not recognize Him. He is the Messiah of Israel, the promised Son of David, yet Israel rejected Him. Yes, He had a few disciples. One hundred and twenty when the final count was taken. Hardly much of a movement. Certainly not enough to register on the world’s scale of greatness. Imagine today, someone claiming to be a great religious leader, having a following of one hundred and twenty disciples. The world would laugh; and the world did laugh and mock and spit.
He came into His own city, Jerusalem, the holy city. The place of the temple, of sacrifice and priesthood and prayer, the dwelling place of God on earth. He came as the royal Son of David, riding on a donkey as the prophet had foretold it; His disciples shouting “Hosanna” and “Blessed is the King!” anticipating that the time had come for Jesus to take His throne. His disciples rolled out the royal carpet of palm branches and coats. But the donkey was borrowed, pressed into service because “the Lord had need of it.” Imagine a king borrowing someone else’s car to make his grand entrance. Hardly the stuff of kings now, is it?
That borrowed donkey is a clue as to what sort of King Jesus is – a beggar King. One who was rich, but for our sakes become poor. One who stepped down from His throne to become the Servant of all. One who left the power and majesty of the right hand of the Father to take up the humility of the manger and the cross. One who wore royal purple only as people mocked Him. One who was openly called a King only in derision and as a reason for His crucifixion. His crown was made of thorns. His scepter was a nail driven through His hand. His throne was a cross on which He died. His victory was His death by which He defeated the last and greatest enemy of our humanity, namely Death and the Grave.
The religious in the crowd were offended by Jesus, as He still is an offense to human Religion today. The Pharisees called on Jesus to silence the celebration, to shut up His disciples. But even the mute rocks and stones knew who Jesus was and would cry out, if called upon. He didn’t come to fix the world; He came to save it. He didn’t come to fix injustice; He came to do justice. He didn’t come to rid the world of suffering, of poverty, of disease; He came to deal with the root cause and source – our sin, the corruption of our humanity, the Law that damns us, the wrath of God that hangs over us. He’s the King that fights and dies for His people, and there is no other King like Him in the world.
Your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation. He came once in humility to fight and die and rise. He comes now to bless, to forgive, to make you His own, to give you a share in His life and royalty. He comes to establish His reign – not on earth, but in the hearts of men, turning hearts in faith toward Him and to the Father. As we wait for Jesus’ coming in glory, He comes to us “sacramentally,” through the means He has ordained for us – through the Word proclaimed, through the water of Baptism, through the bread that is His Body and the wine that is His blood. He has His “advent” with you, with His Church throughout the entire last days until the Last Day, lording His death and life over us to prepare us for His final advent.
The Church is always in a perpetual advent, celebrating her coming Lord even as she awaits her coming Lord. As Jesus once entered Jerusalem atop a donkey, now He enters His Jerusalem in the hidden humility of His Word, HIs Baptism, His Supper – no less here or present, but hidden under the ordinary and the humble so that we might approach and receive Him without fear. He comes to forgive, speaking words of absolution into your ears that you might know with all certainty and without any doubt that His death applies to you, His blood covers your sin, His righteousness is your righteousness.
There is a quirk in translation that is noteworthy in today’s reading from Jeremiah verse 16: “In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which she (not it) will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.” She – as in Israel, the Church, the Bride of Christ. She is called by her husband’s name. She receives His righteousness. You are covered with Christ in your Baptism, and you wear Him like a robe before the Father so that your sins are washed away, your sinfulness is covered.
This is what we call “forensic righteousness.” God declares it to be so, and it is. He calls you righteous and you are, solely because He says so. And it is in Jesus’ righteousness, His holiness, His innocence, His perfection that your hearts are established blameless in holiness before God the Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Your King is coming to you, righteous and having salvation. The One who comes now by Word and sign is soon to come unattenutated glory. Now a hint, then the full blast. This is Day the season of Advent anticipates and prepares for. It really isn’t so much a countdown for Christmas, Jesus’ first advent, as it is a look forward to His final advent in great glory and power to judge the world in His righteousness. Luther said, “He will then not be bedded in the manger, nor ride on an ass, as He did in His first advent, but will burst forth from the clouds in great power and glory.” What we now hear will be seen. What we know believe will be manifest to all. What we long and hope for will be ours. What is promised will be delivered.
Then you will know, my dear baptized believers, what it means to be justified for Jesus’ sake, when you rise from the dead (or are instantly changed), and are presented blameless and holy before the judgment throne of Christ to hear of the good He has accomplished in and through you. Then you will see, my dear baptized believers, what you now hear, that your sins are forgiven, put as far from you as the east is from the west. Then you will possess in yourselves and experience for yourselves what you now long for and hope for, and what is already now true of you in Christ – life in abundance, life eternal, life in Jesus, life in union with all who trust in Him, life forever.
The day is coming soon. The King is ready to ride. The time is at hand. Prepare to greet your King. He comes to you righteous and having salvation. He comes to save you. He comes to give you life. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
In the name of Jesus,