Ps. 25:1-10; Jer. 33:14-16; 1 Thess. 3:9-13; Luke 19:28-40
Descent, [The disciples] … throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent … the whole multitude of the disciplesbegan to rejoice (vv. 35-37a).
For St. Luke salvation advances over geography that has Jesus descending and ascending for peace in heaven (19:38b) with men on earth (2:14b).
In “going up to Jerusalem” (Lk. 19:28) Jesus’ and his Passover pilgrims ascended from the Dead Sea plain on the east face of Mt. Olivet to Bethany near its crest. There Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave for which chief priests and Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus. After Lazarus’ resurrection and fellowship with family, Jesus commenced a triumphal descent into Jerusalem; up and down, down and up.
Advent prepares the church for her proper celebration of Jesus’ descent out of heaven, the Nativity. The Christ Child came to earth for the singular purpose of dying outside the “Holy City”; that in the power of his reconciling sacrifice, he reigns in heaven and on earth for God’s peace with men.
Jesus descended into the grave, proclaiming in hell God’s victory over death for a new epoch of peace (Eph. 4:9; 1 Peter 4:6); on the 3rd day Jesus rose, ascending to his, and our Father. On the Last Day Jesus, glorified Son of Man, will appear out of heaven for both judgment and mercy; down and up (cf. Jn. 3:13).
So, what do we make of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on this 1st Sunday in Advent? Last Sunday, Jesus gave notice of his Final Coming in power and majesty, to which the church responded singing, “Lo, He Comes in Clouds Descending” (LSB 336).
What did you discern from Jesus’ promised reappearing; was it not, to prepare for advent of the new creation coming into being? On the Last Day Jesus will not come alone. He will appear at the voice of an archangel; followed by an angelic and saintly host through star-spangled heavens. The first to behold Jesus’ majesty and authority will be heavenly “powers” having made their own place apart from God (cf., Acts 1:25); these star-powers will be shaken to pass-away (v. 31a).
Out of the grave’s impotent claim Jesus will resurrect, the bodies of all asleep in faith; and believers alive, caught-up in the clouds to meet their Lord (1 Thess. 4:16, 17); the old earth too will pass-away revealing a new heavens and earth that will manifest new Zion in the purifying flesh of Jesus, God’s new Temple and eternal place of worship.
Still, some might ask; “Pastor, why preach the Parousia as preparation for Nativity worship?” If Jesus’ Coming in power and majesty on the Last Day fulfills his First Coming in weakness and humility; then entry into Jerusalem, rejection, and elevation on the cross are of apiece with his Christmas descent; there is no majesty, no glory apart from Jesus’ utter submission to his Father’s will.
Let’s put some flesh to Jesus’ descent down Olivet. As would be on the Last Day, Jesus was not alone; but accompanied by exuberant disciples who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus four days in the grave.
Jesus’ disciples included recent follwers: the formerly blind Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, repentant tax-man. Both responded with new sight; typifying the Christian congregation abiding in word and meal fellowship.
Out of Olivet’s clouds, the disciples descended to witness the promise of Jesus birth descent, God’s victory over sin, Satan, and death. Jesus taught three times that his victory would travel through rejection, passion, and death; and only then receiving ascended resurrection power and glory.
The disciples did not understand; seemingly there was nothing about Jesus’ humble birth or his arrival in Jerusalem on a lowly colt to suggest power and reign, or that Jesus lifted on the cross would be God’s righteous Branch for David’s house (Jer. 33:15).
Still with the raising of Lazarus fresh in mind Jesus was mounted on a “virgin” colt (cf. Rev. 14:4, 144,000 “male virgins”) to betoken kingly investiture, reminiscent of Solomon’s conveyance into Jerusalem on David’s royal donkey (1 Kg. 1:38-45; Zech. 9:9).
The Christ child out of heaven came to his own (Jn. 1:11); there was no room at the inn; and so, birthed among field beasts. In today’s triumphal descent Jesus mounts such a beast, coming to Jerusalem in humility for kingly service; seeking hospitality from those who would be brothers and sisters.
Jesus sent two to collect the colt; a beast of burden like Jesus to bear the weight of sin, hardly human (Ps. 22:6). By crucified baptism, Jesus was invested into the power and rule of God’s justice and mercy toward sinful men.
As Jesus’ disciples descended, they doffed their garments, making a saddle on which Jesus sat, a king’s mercy seat. The colt propelled forward, treading renounced garments; an exchange of man’s old covering (Gen. 3:21) for a new washing in water and blood and entry for a new Passover meal.
Jesus on the cross, was obedient to provide the Way for man’s ascent into heaven’s fellowship in the Holy Communion. His conveyance out of heaven to earth was Mary’s flesh; an angel choir proclaiming, “Peace on earth among men of God’s favor” (Lk. 2:14b). God’s favor comes by the Baptism of those who acclaim: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Like Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, the church seeks out and receives Jesus in word and Sacrament; whereby the elect has their hope on the Last Day of being received in air. So, we begin our new year with Christmas’ end promise by triumphal entry into his city. Amen.