27. November 2022
Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Who is Jesus? What has He come to do? Those are the central questions of this day and season of Advent. If Jesus on the donkey riding into Jerusalem isn’t about that, what good is He? If He is just another prophet, why listen to Him and not the others? If He is just another Maccabean messiah, why follow Him? If He’s just another son of David, a family has lost both their nobility and status, why acknowledge Him with palm branches and exclamation? Everything rides on the anointed one, Jesus saving you from your sins.
But you can’t underestimate how anxious and underwhelmed the people of Jerusalem, Judea, and all the surrounding region were before Jesus came. They had seen “Christs” or “Messiahs” before, these self-anointed saviors who brought none of the hoped-for deliverance promised. Maybe Greece and Rome were pushed out for a time, but like the tide, they always came back in. A “son of David” shows up, makes a bit of a stink, does some political theater, and ends up stoned or crucified.
Can you imagine it? It’d be like going to church and not getting the gifts Christ freely gives. You expect your sins to be forgiven in Jesus’s name, the Word of God proclaimed in its truth and purity, and the Lord’s Supper fed to you to strengthen and preserve you in the faith today and always. And then, the false prophets, messiahs, and pastors tell you to learn to forgive yourself, preach the thoughts and imaginations of their hearts, and omit the sacrament for convenience, time, or because weekly reception makes it too ordinary.
What would you do? Find another church! Look for another pastor! And in looking, what are your criteria? How would you know you’ve found the real Jesus giving His real gifts? You might look at the pastor’s person or the congregation’s beauty. But that doesn’t work because appearances are deceiving. As Isaiah said of Jesus, “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Is 53:2). By all accounts, the very son of God incarnate of the Virgin Mary was as ordinary as it gets, just the son of a carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee.
You might look for the spectacle of pageantry, crowds, and trumpet call. But the emotional power of the scene can deceive, too. The palm branches of religious procession and cloaks on the road of the inauguration of the king on Sunday gave way to the march of a bloody, wooden cross to the place of the Skull on Friday morning. The cries of “Hosanna in the highest!” were still echoing in the streets when the crowd abruptly cried out, “crucify Him!” The public who celebrated the triumphal entry were so emotionally fickle that they celebrated the Via Delarosa just a few days later. You can’t rely on your emotions to guide you to where Jesus is.
The only way you’ll recognize you’ve found Jesus giving His gifts is by the words you hear. Moses had warned the Hebrews to trust in all their other experiences—touch, taste, see, and feel. He told them the eternal truth that the ears matter alone for faith. The prophets remind the people that their experience often contradicts what they believe is true. Job was nearly annihilated by the trials of Satan under the Lord’s direction. He was worn down to a bare faith. “I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). He cannot trust in himself or his life but only in the promises of God.
The people in the wilderness were humbled and tested when God allowed them to hunger. But He did this “that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3). Everything for Israel depended on their hearing and believing. So, Jesus preached at the synagogue in Capernaum, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33)
Jesus is the Word of God who proceeds from the mouth of God. And this Word is “living bread,” which gives life now and forever. Jesus says, “the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). Now that is astounding! He tells you to seek His flesh, and you will receive life there. And more incredible yet, then He says, “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed—he who eats My flesh and drinks. My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me” (John 6:-55-57).
So, while you can’t trust your experience, experience does follow the Word. Jesus speaks the bread and wine to bless and says, “This is my body and blood!” You are given to touch, taste, see, and feel but with senses informed by faith in what you hear. None of what happens this morning compares to the Triumphal Entry’s Sunday. But all the ceremony and razzle-dazzle doesn’t make the Sacrament any more than your emotional desire or lack thereof. You know Jesus is here for you to forgive you because He says so. You can look for more emotional fulfillment or a more impressive spectacle. But the only thing that will keep you with Jesus in His triumphal entry and through His trials, suffering, crucifixion, and burial is to stick with His Word.
Everything rides on the anointed one, Jesus saving you from your sins. Listen to Him as He rides into this holy congregation to make it His City of Peace. Receive Him with songs of Hosanna! Acclaim the Jesus who comes in the name of the LORD. Live forgiven in His Name. Serve your brothers and sisters with the righteousness He alone gives. And The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin