Monday, December 2, 2013

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Advent (December 1, 2013)

MATTHEW 21:1-9 / PSALM 24
BEHOLD!  THE KING OF GLORY COMES!
In the name + of Jesus.

     Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news!
     It was King David who wrote the words of today’s Psalm.  Though David had been a glorious king at a glorious time in the history of Israel, even he looked forward to the day when the King of Glory would come.  And even though David got to see his son, Solomon, ride into Jerusalem on a royal donkey (1 Kings 1), that was not the King of Glory he longed for.  A greater King of Glory, a greater Son of David, would come.
     Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news!
     The Israelites longed for such a king who would rule such a glorious kingdom.  They had seen what happened to their country whenever it was overrun by enemies.  Their flocks and herds were taken from them.  Their fields were harvested by others.  Their roads were not safe for travel.  Fathers, husbands, and sons were slain in battle.  Cities were burned.  Heavy taxes and tribute were demanded from them.  King Nebuchadnezzar had razed both the Temple and the entire city of Jerusalem to the ground.  Oh, for the days when King David had conquered Israel’s enemies!  Oh, for the days when King Solomon had expanded Israel’s power and influence.  Oh, for the days when tribute was brought to Jerusalem and enemy nations sought mercy from them!
     That’s not the way it was in Jesus’ day.  The Romans had control of the entire Mediterranean world.  Caesar demanded his taxes.  Herod, the Edomite, made and enforced the laws over Israel.  Israel yearned for a king.  Israel yearned for glory.  King David had foretold him.  The King would come.
     Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news!
     As we enter a new church year, we recall how our Lord entered our world.  He is the King of Glory who the prophets had foretold.  He is the King of Glory who the people longed for.  King David identified him for us in our Psalm as he urged Jerusalem to receive her king.  Lift up your heads, O gates!  Be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, might in battle!  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Psalm 24:7-8,10) 
     There is no doubt – this king has enemies.  There is no question – there are those who want nothing to do with this king’s reign.  And there is no surprise why: This king does not negotiate.  He has given his law.  He demands obedience from all people—obedience without complaining, without compromising, and without ceasing.  He not only gives the Law, but he enforces it.  Every violation of his commandments is an act of rebellion.  Every unkind or perverse thought is treason. 
     King David had asked, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?  And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3,4)  Our hands are dirty, lifted up not with prayers for our enemies, but with vows of revenge.  Our hearts are impure, despising not just strangers who make us wait, but even loved ones who need a favor from us, even if that favor is ten seconds of our attention. 
     Who is this King of glory?  The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Psalm 24:10)  He is the Lord of hosts, the Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of armies.  The angels stand ready at his command to harvest the world for judgment.  The King shall reign without a rival, without a challenge, and without end.  Who, then, can stand before the Lord?  Who will endure the King’s judgment? 
     Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news!
     It is good news because when Jesus enters our world, he does not call upon the angel hosts which are at his disposal.  He does not come with his sword drawn to slaughter all who sin against him or sneer at him.  He does not even come in glory!  Jesus fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matthew 21:4-5) 
     The king has come into the world not to destroy the rebels, but to deliver them from destruction.  He has come to deliver the captives from their oppressors.  He comes to save you.  Who, then, are your oppressors?  It is sin, which has corrupted your hands and your heart.  Sin which dwells in you is the reason you continue to think such wretched things about others.  Sin is the reason you have no patience for people who need it.  Sin is the reason you get angry because God acts like he is God.  Your enemy is Satan who is pleased that you do such sinful things, and who encourages you to think that, in spite of them, you are a good person.  If you think you are good, you are insulted at the idea that you must repent.  You won’t care about the righteousness Jesus brings because you believe you have all the righteousness you need.  Your enemy is death, which has us all marked.  If you fear death, it is because you know the judgment that comes with it.
     Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news!
     The King comes to deliver you from your oppressors.  The Lord of Hosts goes forth into battle alone.  He fights your enemies for you.  But again, he does not come with his sword drawn, not even for these enemies.  Instead, he makes himself the ransom to set you free.  Jesus comes to give himself up for your sin.  Jesus comes to receive the accusations of Satan.  He comes in humility to suffer, to give himself into the grave on behalf of all mankind. 
     There is no compromise with this King.  He will not negotiate for a lesser sentence.  He will not bargain so that he will only pay the price for a select few.  He does not even complain that he will suffer and die for people who will never care.  The King of Glory comes in humility.  The Lord of hosts comes alone.  The Son of God comes to set the children of men free.  The King is the ransom price for the rebels.  The Righteous One exchanges himself to free the unrighteous.  He suffers in shame so that you will inherit glory.  He dies so that you will have everlasting life.
     Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news!
     Jesus is the one with clean hands and a pure heart.  He has earned the place on God’s holy hill.  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of salvation. (Psalm 24:5)  But now, this righteousness he gives to you.  He has baptized you to cleanse you from every impurity.  He has clothed you in his own righteousness.  He leads you to continue to repent of your sins, and he continues to absolve you so that you remain pure before him.  He continues to come to you in humble fashion, giving you his body and blood under the bread and the wine for the forgiveness of your sins.  What he has won for you at his first coming, he delivers to you as he comes again to you from the altar.
     Lift up your heads.  Open the gates.  Sing his praise.  Pray for his return.  For the King of Glory will come.  And we will enter glory with him.  Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  This is good news! 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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