November 27 – 28, 2010
Matthew 21:1-9, John 8
In the name of Jesus,
If we are to se into the profound mystery that occupies the mind of the church during the Advent season, we find that this mystery of the advent of our Lord is at once simple and threefold. It is simple because it is the same Son of God who is coming; it is threefold because He comes at three different times and three different ways.
In his first coming, he comes in the flesh and in seeming weakness—humble and hidden. In the second, he comes in spirit and in grace—mysterious and full. In the third, he comes in glory and in majesty. His second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third. For, in his first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly. In His second coming, He rendered the unjust just by His grace. In His third coming, He will judge all things justly. So it is that Jesus rode into Jerusalem lowly and on a donkey. He rode not for himself, but for the joy set before him. He rode not for praise, but out of duty. He rode not for an earthly kingdom but for the kingdom of heaven. He rode as the victor king coming home from the battle won.
In ancient times, victorious warriors would ride into their cities with great fanfare and praise. They would be highly exalted on thrones in a great parade in honor of their victory. Attending them were their most trusted soldiers whose job it was to whisper in the victors’ ear: “Pride goes before a fall.”
Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, therefore, reminds us of the great war between heaven and hell, between God and Satan. This battle has its origin from the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning, God’s command was clear. Adam and Eve were created in his own image and likeness. Adam and Eve were to be king and queen of the universe. They were to have dominion over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and over all creation. Indeed, Adam and Eve were to have dominion even over the angels of heaven. It was God’s will to give flesh-and-blood man the right to rule over his eternal kingdom. Out of pride, Satan refused; Satan would not bow down to mere man; Satan and his angels would not prostrate themselves before flesh and blood; Satan would not humble himself before the image of God found in infantile men. Pride goes before a fall; and Satan’s arrogance grew cancerous; his conceit became malicious and vindictive.
It is pride that gave birth to Satan’s nature as a liar and the father of lies. Conceit is the mother of falsehood; lying is begotten from arrogance, just as truth from humility. One cannot control the truth; he can only surrender to it. To speak truth, one cannot say what he wants; he speaks in agreement with God, he confesses. Thus, at the very heart of truth is humility. Yet, at the very heart of a liar is arrogance and selfish pride. Satan lies in order to gain power and control; a liar speaks on his own authority; his words proceed from the lust of his own heart; he speaks, not to confess God, not to worship him, but only to manipulate things for his own advantage. Satan’s pride makes him liar; and his lies make man his slave and servant.
All around you, the lies of the devil grow in prominence. Rather than live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, you find it easier to live on every lie that proceeds from the mouth of the devil. You find it more pleasant to live with illusions than with reality. Like little children who cover their eyes rather than confront the fearfulness of the world, you content yourselves with the vanity of this world rather than confront the reality of sin and death. You cover up the reality of sin with a show of goodness, uprightness, success, and achievement. You cover up the reality of the grave with the illusion of sleep. You forsake the reality of the kingdom of heaven with the illusion of building your own kingdoms. And so you have not confessed God but have lied to yourselves confessing with Satan. You have learned to ignore the reality of death and sin with the illusion of worldly life and righteousness. For it is easier to confess the lies of Satan than to confess the truth with the reality that you are poor miserable sinners. As Christians, however, the scales of Satan’s lies have fallen from your eyes. You are no longer satisfied with his lies and deceptions. You know well the truth of sin that dwells in you; you know the reality of death that lies in your future. And it is for this very reason that today you have cause for rejoicing. For Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Pride goes before a fall; and Satan’s fall before Jesus—God in human flesh and blood—is profound.
Satan, who would not bow before flesh-and-blood man, is conquered by the flesh and blood of Jesus. Satan’s pride is overcome by the humility of Jesus’ death. Pride goes before a fall; but He, Jesus, who humbles himself will be exalted. The Son of God takes on flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary so that men may be reconciled to their creator, so that the ancient conflict between men and angels may be resolved. It is the humility of Jesus’ victory on the cross that forsakes every illusion, every lie, and every deception of Satan. Jesus rode into Jerusalem; it is finished. For a flesh-and-blood man now sits on the throne of heaven, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus flesh-and-blood is Lord.
Pride goes before a fall; but he who humbled himself is exalted. For the blood of Jesus is your shield, and the words “given and shed for you” are your double-edged sword. For the same flesh and blood of Christ that sits on the throne of heaven, the same flesh and blood before which every knee shall bow and tongue confess, this same flesh and blood is given to you today to eat and drink; and with it, you receive authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Sin cannot hurt you because here it is forgiven; death cannot hurt you because here is given eternal life; no devil, no angel of hell can hurt you because there they are forever conquered.
Pride goes before a fall; but the humble are exalted. For Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He rode in humility to suffer judgment by men unjustly whereby he renders you just by his grace. Come, therefore, to confess in all humility and truth the death of Jesus until he comes again. Forsake the devil and all his lies. Give up the illusion of life and the vanity of this world. And with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, laud and magnify God’s most glorious name. For now he gives you himself, and with it, all things—not just today, but all days. For Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He came, he saw, he conquered. It is finished. Amen.