Preached November 27, 2011
St. Matthew 21:1–13
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today, being the first Sunday of Advent, we begin a new Church year, but even with that new beginning, there is a continuity with the previous year, having prayed last Sunday, Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to ask that the Lord awaken us to the coming season of Advent. The focus of Advent is Prepare to Meet Thy God, where we think of this primarily in terms of Christ’s First Coming as The Babe of Bethlehem, an infant in the manger some 2000 years ago, and His Second Coming at some unknown future time in glory to Judge the World. In His First Coming, He came to purchase salvation by His death on the Cross and His mighty Resurrection for those who will accept Him. In His Second Coming, He will fulfill that salvation for those who have believed on His Name.
We might do well to begin by considering Jesus’ discussion with the lawyer which resulted in the Summary of the Law: Matthew 22:35-40 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. We see that at the heart of the Law is the love of both God and our fellow man. When we look at the Epistle lesson for today, we read Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. The first phrase, Owe no man any thing, particularly enjoins Christians not to carry any debts that they are able to payoff, but rather to go ahead and pay them now. We should not be unnecessarily in debt to anyone. If we do, it may lead to our eventual failure to pay them, thereby depriving others of what is rightfully theirs and reflecting badly on Christ and His Church. The remainder of the sentence is really the key element, because it points out that the person who truly loves others fulfills the Law, thus satisfying the Summary of the Law.
St. Paul then proceeds to work his way through much of the Decalogue, before finally summing up with the phrase if there be any other commandment, Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Thus we see that St. Paul comes back to the same result as before, that true love of others is the satisfaction of the Law.
Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. We prepare because we know the time, not in the sense of knowing an exact date for Christ’s Second Coming, but simply that we know that it is nearer today than it was yesterday, nearer today than when we first believed. Our own time is limited by our own impending death, coming at a time we known not when, but not too far off. We know that our salvation is at hand, that the coming of our Savior is near, and that there is no time to be lost before His coming. We know the time in the sense that we know that it will come like a thief in the night, and that no one knows when it will come. This leaves us with a sense of urgency at all times.
We know that while we have happy times in this life, we also experience much travail and sadness in this world. Our expectation is that our life in Heaven with God will be free from all pain and sadness, and instead will be a life of endless joy, gladness, worship, and praise. It is not surprising, then, to find this life compared to a night that is coming to an end, about to give way to the new bright day of eternal life. Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. It is in the darkness that men carry out their evil deeds, the things that must not be done in the light of day. Thus we are exhorted to cast off those evil deeds, the things that make us unfit to enter into the new day of eternal life, the things that prevent our growth in holiness that will enable us to enter into Heaven. We are to put on the armor of light which is holiness itself, that we may be protected and be made welcome by Jesus Christ Himself at His Coming.
Finally, we are to fully identify ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be visibly associated with Him, and we are adopt His causes and outlook as our own. In every respect, we are to be as closely associated with Christ Jesus as we possibly can. This is what it means in v. 14 where it says, put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We turn to our Gospel lesson for today to see an example and warning of the preparations that were involved when Jesus made His first triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem. We should see in them a similar example and warning as He comes nigh to His Bride, the Church. The story begins on the Mount of Olives when Jesus sends two of the disciples to fetch a donkey for Him to ride upon: Matthew 21:2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. It is understood that in the course of the journey, Jesus will ride first on one of these animals and then on the other, one symbolizing the Jewish nation and the other representing the Gentile nations, showing His claim to both. In directing the disciples to go for the animals, he anticipates that they may meet some objection, but He provides the answer that they are to give, thus showing His complete omniscience and mastery of all circumstances. Even today, Jesus’ ministers labor in limited knowledge to prepare the people for the great day of His return. Jesus needs many workers to help to prepare for his return; let us all join in that work.
The multitude went out from Jerusalem to prepare to receive their King who was coming, riding on a donkey. Matthew 21:8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. They prepared a carpet on the road from palm branches and their own cloaks, a suitable entrance route for their King. At the same time they sang, Matthew 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. They recognized that this was indeed the Messiah from David’s line who was finally come to them. They rejoiced and gave Him honor and praise. These simple hearts were far better prepared to receive Him than many of the wise and learned men who supposedly knew all things concerning the coming of the Messiah. They showed the strong desire for salvation, which is a great mark of readiness. Hosanna, which means Save Now was their song which Christ was so very pleased to hear.
There was a part of Jerusalem that was completely unprepared for the first coming of Jesus Christ, and that was the Temple and specifically the Court of the Gentiles. This is where animals and birds for sacrifice were available for sale and the money changers operated. It was a place of commerce and corruption, at least as bad as the market square, even though it was a part of the Temple complex. This is the first place that Christ went after entering the city of Jerusalem. Matthew 21:12-13 12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. There is nothing wrong with honest commerce, but it does not belong in the House of God. But notice the key word there, honest. Most, if not all, of the commerce carried on within the Court of the Gentiles was not honest, but was extortionate, taking advantage of the fact that people had arrived at the Temple without the necessary gifts for sacrifice and other Temple worship, and so fleecing this captive group of travelers by charging extortionate prices for the things they needed to complete their pilgrimage. This is unconscionable, and certainly contrary to love. Thus we see these people physically driven out by Christ in His First Coming. We may well understand that they will be driven out by Him at His Second Coming also, but the consequences at that point become eternal. May He likewise cleanse our hearts, driving out all long held sins, that we may be His forever.
Jesus has indeed come into this world once already for our sakes. He has shown us the way, and He has paid the price for our sins, defeating sin and death forever in His resurrection from the grave. He has left us with instructions to be people of love, people who love God, and people who love other people. We have difficulty at times understanding that to love other people does not always mean saying “yes” to them, but rather being concerned for, and attempting to work for their eternal well being. Let us be thankful for a Lord who cares for us in this way, who cares for our eternal souls, and who loves us with genuine love.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.