INI + AMEN.
Well, here we are again—Jesus riding into Jerusalem. And, I’m saying “again” not because we’re in another Holy Week, or we’re winding down to another Good Friday and Easter. I said “again” because we have this reading twice in the Church Year. Jesus riding into Jerusalem is the Gospel reading for Advent 1 and Palm Sunday. Using this text twice shows us how important this reading is! This text embodies everything of the Christian faith. It embodies everything about Jesus, too. Bethlehem and Golgotha, the coming of our Lord (Advent and Christmas), the dying of our Lord (Lent and Easter) are all embodied in this one account. Almost everything contained in nine verses!
((2. Humanity embodies the quest to gain what is high instead of what is low.))
What’s embodied in this text of our Lord and our faith, embodies the opposite of who we are as human beings. Humanity can be embodied in the quest to gain what is high rather than what is low. That’s certainly the story of our country, isn’t it? Come low, work hard, die higher than you came. That’s our ancestors. That’s us, too. Pull yourself up. The “American Dream” is the embodiment of all human longing and thinking.
Who wants handouts? No one. Who really wants to be last? What about poor? Who wants to live only from someone else’s mercy? Again, no one. Maybe if you have to, but it wouldn’t be a life-long thing. You’d have to move past that. No hand outs.
But what about divine ones? That’s really where the rubber meets the road. That’s how God wants us to live. In fact, all we have is really from His hand. But we trick ourselves into thinking it’s from me. But this is really the case with the one thing needful: Jesus and our salvation. The human heart can’t accept that we’re “poor” and “miserable” before God. “Miserable” means “able to receive mercy.” “A poor and miserable sinner” is a beggar saved only by the God-given handouts of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Power and success. Hard work. That’s how we’re hardwired. After the fall, God’s command to “tend the garden” was enshrined, hardwired, embodied in our hearts as a desire to gain, work, succeed, move from low to high both in this life and the next. It’s why the crowd wanted their Messiah King to destroy the Romans. It’s why all of us embody our hopes and dreams in power: Kings, Presidents, our own hard work. Like Eve, we desire more and better “highs.” She saw that “the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” So, we, too, crave the higher, the highest, the better, the best. Bigger trucks. Better TVs. More money. This creeps into our faith, too: more faith, more works—better pray more, read more, do more.
In both faith and life, we embody striving and working toward what we think is higher and better.
((1. King Jesus embodies the exact opposite.))
And so our text: Jesus rides in. What does He embody? That’s what we’re about today. Well, He embodies the exact opposite not only of what we would expect, but He embodies the opposite of all human ideas about kings and even God Himself. He is certainly King—God Himself. He is equal with God, as Paul says. He is “Lord God of Sabaoth Of Whom the prophets wrote, Whose chosen, humble steed Declares Him king indeed!” Jesus is King of kings, “by whom all things were made.” Jesus has eternal, everlasting, unending kingship, power, glory, and dominion. He didn’t have to steal it, strive for it. He didn’t crave it. He just had it. It’s who He is.
But He upends all human history of god and kings, and He embodies something completely different. He’s not one who demands those lower than Him to come up to Him, to strive after His perfection, His salvation. We’re stuck, our hearts are stuck, like a skipping record, like a looped track, on climbing up the mole hill. We don’t have “clean hearts.” We don’t have “pure hands.” We don’t even have pure motives! So, Jesus rides in. He invades!—not just Jerusalem, but our hearts, too. He forsakes what is high to save what is low: He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant;” “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
He comes for the lowest, the low, for “poor and miserable sinners,” those who only live from the handout of His mercy. He rides on a donkey into Jerusalem. Gentle, humble, rejectable. He suffers Himself to be that. What silly sort of King allows His subjects, those He’s claimed as His own, those He’s saving, to reject Him, make fun of Him, crucify Him, kill Him? But that’s King Jesus. And in His rejection, not only from us but from His Father, is His saving. He “claims the cross as throne!” There He enters His Kingdom. There He is “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
He rides humble into your heart, too: water and Word. What could be more simple than that? But there all of Him, His Kingdom, His throne. There He hands out His mercy. Enlivens us to Him. Today He rides in: bread and wine that are His body and blood. So, simple, humble, rejectable—He doesn’t force you to eat and drink His salvation! He purifies your heart. He brings you too Himself. He does it. If there’s trust in Him, He alone did it.
That’s what Jesus embodies—bringing high and low together. He doesn’t lay out the framework for working up from low to high. Instead, He just does it. He lives it, embodies it. You who are lowest, low, lost, sinner, He brings high, to righteousness, to salvation, to His Father. With His flesh and blood He does it. There is no “pray more,” “do more”, “believe more” with Jesus. As Paul says, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” The wall is down again today: body and blood for you. Heaven and earth brought together, embodied in this very sanctuary in the body and blood of Jesus.
Today embodies your Christian faith, your King Jesus. It’s opposite of what’s hardwired into our hearts. But it is our salvation. It’s embodied in Jesus, embodied in His body and His blood. He brings high and low together. In fact, JESUS EMBODIES BOTH HIGH AND LOW. That’s Palm Sunday—Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter, too. JESUS EMBODIES BOTH HIGH AND LOW. He is God, the Highest. He is man, servant, lowest, almost dead man walking. He brings you up from your low, lost, “poor and miserable” place. He does it by being low for you—crucified, dead, and buried. Now, in Him, only in Him, you are highest, saved.
Humble and low He came and invaded. Water and Word. There all of Him. His cross and death. His lowest is made your highest there. Today, He still comes again. JESUS EMBODIES BOTH HIGH AND LOW. God, the highest, made low for you, the lowest made highest in Him. “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble,” meek, low: bread and wine. “Holy Lord God of Sabaoth.” “Blessed is He that cometh.” “Hosanna in the highest!” His body and blood for you.
INI + AMEN.