November 27, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
ADVENT 1/A (11/27/2022), Ps. 122; Isa. 2:1-5; Rom. 13:11-14; Matthew 21:1-11
[W]hen [Jesus] entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (vv. 10, 11).
Well, that’s not right, is it? Jesus entered Jerusalem, crowds in tow, acclaimed him in the royal messianic category, “Son of David”; but when the citizens of Jerusalem pressed, “Who is this?” the crowds merely confessed him a Galilean prophet from a marginal and theologically corrupt Roman province (Jn. 1:46).
Being with the crowd is usually dangerous. When conditions or information changes, often suddenly, crowds invariably are the last to avoid harm’s way. We observed this phenomena two Sunday’s ago, when in 70 AD., the Roman-eagle descended to wreak havoc on Jerusalem and temple. The Christian church informed by signs (Lk. 21:20, 21) fled for safety; synagogues remained to suffer Divine wrath.
Today, we ponder Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem; history’s moment when God’s salvific purposes for Zion, his church, becomes manifest. Having the correct answer to the question, “Who is this?” was pivotal for Jerusalem’s well-being, as for us today. Shakespeare, posited, “past is prologue” (The Tempest); his observation is true this First Sunday in Advent. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem caused the city to be “shaken”.
The city’s turmoil was redux 33 years earlier, when Magoi inquired after Jerusalem’s infant king. “Herod … was shaken, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt. 2:3). In Bethlehem the infant Jesus had appeared on Jerusalem’s doorstep. At news of a new king, Herod set-out to kill his rival at his weakest. In today’s Gospel Jesus is on way to his cross; “past is prologue”.
In humility Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem for his killing; as in infancy, destined Lamb of God to be slain. On Jesus’ birth and on today’s entry, the city was “shaken”. Jesus came for investiture as Jerusalem’s King to shouts of, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
What’s the problem; both arrivals, 33 years apart, portended a radical change in Jerusalem’s relation to God; on both occasions Jerusalem was intent on being shed of its coming king.
Micah prophesied Jesus’ Nativity, “And you, O Bethlehem … are by no means least … for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Mich. 2:6); finding fulfillment in Zechariah, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey ...” (Zech. 21:5).
Today, how do we receive Jesus; with “Hosannas” as from the crowds for a king not adequately known? If so, then we share Jerusalem’s ignorance by their question, “Who is this?”
Do we know our King? Scriptural titles from the crowds were true enough; yet dissonant, Jesus, “a Galilean prophet” was incomplete; on this level Jesus is problematic among some today in the “crowd of Christians”.
James and John, vying for position exampled our dissonance (Mt. 20:20, 21) of Jesus’ identity from his reign. Jesus corrected their misapprehension informing them of a coming Baptism like his.
They would drink his Cup of suffering; soon instituted in the Holy Supper (Mt. 20:23; 26:27, 28; Jn. 20:22). If James and John were still ignorant of Supper and Cross, all would be clarified in the Resurrection.
On leaving Jericho for Jerusalem, James’ and John’s venality is contrasted with two blind men seeking the King’s mercy (Mt. 20:30); unlike James and John, the blind men understood Jesus wielding God’s mercy.
Jesus asked these men what he asked of James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” (20:21; 32). They did not seek prominent office, but God’s mercy, specifically, that Jesus would open their eyes. At Jesus’ touch, not only was their physical sight restored but spiritual sightedness at Jesus’ entry in reigning from the cross. This is the work of the HS.
As with the inhabitants of Jerusalem “Christians” correctly title Jesus; but as the church presents him Fruit of cross in word and Sacrament, we are confronted with questions; what kind of king do we receive; and what kind of king is it who “shakes” us by presence in word and Sacrament?
St. Paul admonished, “[P]ut on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for [our] flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14). This is the kind of king we sight in the Spirit and follow. Christ’s kingdom is foreign to us; He shakes the earth. By our sinful flesh we would be shed of this king.
If Bethlehem is prologue of the cross; then the cross informs our Nativity celebration. From Jesus’ crucified reign between unrepentant and repentant thieves, we discern the Christ child come for mercy and forgiveness; “past is prologue”.
Jesus came into Bethlehem without place to lay his head than on a mother’s sanguine heart; their shared flesh was all God deigned to provide; even as he shares his own heart with God’s new sons and daughters (cf. Lk. 16:22).
On arriving in Jerusalem Jesus was fêted by an uncomprehending crowd. In the end they, with his disciples, would abandon him at Golgotha; all God’s provision, but his body and blood for us stripped away.
On the cross, Jesus, naked as at birth, was bereft of human dignity. His disciples were scattered; giving his mother to another, to experience his Father’s abandon (Ps. 22:1). In this manner Jesus was elevated for God’s love of the world (Jn. 3:16).
God made no provision for his Son’s flesh; except for your feeding in the Resurrection. This is the King and heavenly reign into which we have been baptized; where for Love, the greatest is Servant of all. Amen.