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Sermon for April 9, 2017

Matthew 21:1-11 (Palm Sunday)

“Christ is Our Lord and King”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

April 9, 2017

 

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

Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 21.

1And when then came near to Jerusalem and came to Bethany to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus send two disciples 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately, you will find a donkey tied up and her colt with her. After you have untied them, lead them to me.” 3And if anyone should say to you, say, “The Lord has need of them,” and he will send them immediately. 4This happened in order that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 5“Say to the daughter of Zion: Behold, your king is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and they laid their garments upon them, and He sat on them. 8Now a large crowd spread their garments on the road and others began to cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9Now the crowd which was going before him and those who were following cried out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” 10And when He had come into Jerusalem, the city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowd said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

 

          The earliest confession of faith in Jesus Christ was simply, “Jesus is Lord.” We see the precursor in the Palm Sunday acclamation of the crowd who were shouting the words of Psalm 118: 25-26, “Hosanna . . . Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” To have a Lord is also to have a King. Jesus is that King, who like King David, His ancestor according to the flesh, rode down from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem on a donkey (2 Samuel 19-20). Jesus, however, is a certain kind of King, unique among the kings of recorded history. He is all-knowing, aware of the location of a donkey and her colt. He is showered with shouts and palm branches and garments. But He is the King who comes “gentle and mounted on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He is the King who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7 ESV).[1]

          But there was a time when we did not have a Lord or King. We were a “kingless” people. There was a time when Christ was not our King. This was when we were “captive under the devil’s power, condemned to death, stuck in sin and blindness” (Large Catechism II.27).[2] As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3 ESV).

So Dr. Luther writes in the Large Catechism, “For when we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil [Genesis 3]. So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort. . .” (II.28).[3] The devil was our taskmaster, driving us further from God. In our sinful condition, the world easily enticed us with its fleeting and perishable goods. Our own sinful flesh was all too eager to lust after those things that ultimately cannot satisfy. We made ourselves gods—that which we give our fear, love, and trust—our possessions, wants, desires, and our very selves. No one possessed true fear, love, and trust in God. No one loved their neighbors. We had no Lord or King, only the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh in control of us as slave drivers hell-bent on our eternal destruction.

You and I and all people were under this “domain of darkness,” condemned to everlasting death and hell (Col. 1:13).

Yet, God the Father had planned our rescue even before creation. He would send God the Son

from heaven to take to His divine nature a true human body and soul. He would come and snatch us from the very jaws of death and hell by becoming our Lord and King.

          How wonderfully does Luther share this Gospel with us in the Large Catechism! “Jesus Christ, God’s true Son, has become my Lord. But what does it mean to become Lord? It is this. He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and from all evil. . . . There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9]. So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1–2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace. He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3–4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.

Let this, then, be the sum of this article: the little word Lord means simply the same as redeemer. It means the One who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points that follow in this [Second Article of the Creed] serve no other purpose than to explain and express this redemption. They explain how and by whom it was accomplished. They explain how much it cost [Jesus] and what He spent and risked so that He might win us and bring us under His dominion. It explains that He became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. Further, it explains that He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe [1 Corinthians 15:3–4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18–19]. And He did all this in order to become my Lord. He did none of these things for Himself, nor did He have any need for redemption. After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12–13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, and such [Matthew 25:31–46; 13:24–30, 47–50].” (LC II.29 ff.)[4]

Jesus Christ, through His cross and resurrection, has become our Lord, our King! He is our King and Lord because Christ is the Victor over sin, death, and the devil, over the world and our sinful nature. His holy, precious blood has purchased and merited for us the complete forgiveness of our sins. Jesus’ death and resurrection has rescued us from death and the devil. Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, by means of the Gospel Word, we receive these gifts, along with the saving faith that apprehends these gifts of Christ who gives us eternal salvation. “[God the Father] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14 ESV).

And what is this Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of our Lord, Jesus Christ? “Nothing other than what we learned in the Creed,” Luther explains. “God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the devil’s power [1 John 3:8]. He sent Him to bring us to Himself and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. For this reason He has also given His Holy Spirit, who is to bring these things home to us by His holy Word and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power” (LC III.51).[5]

          As our Father in heaven, God tenderly invites us to pray with faith in our Lord and King Jesus, “Thy kingdom come.” God’s Kingdom comes without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come among us also. Luther writes, “The coming of God’s kingdom to us happens in two ways: (a) here in time through the Word and faith [Matthew 13]; and (b) in eternity forever through revelation [Luke 19:11; 1 Peter 1:4–5]. Now we pray for both these things. We pray that the kingdom may come to those who are not yet in it, and, by daily growth that it may come to us who have received it, both now and hereafter in eternal life. All this is nothing other than saying, ‘Dear Father, we pray, give us first Your Word, so that the Gospel may be preached properly throughout the world. Second, may the Gospel be received in faith and work and live in us, so that through the Word and the Holy Spirit’s power [Romans 15:18–19], Your kingdom may triumph among us. And we pray that the devil’s kingdom be put down [Luke 11:17–20], so that he may have no right or power over us [Luke 10:17–19; Colossians 1], until at last his power may be utterly destroyed. So sin, death, and hell shall be exterminated [Revelation 20:13–14]. Then we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness’ [Ephesians 4:12–13]” (LC III.53-54).[6]

          And so we shall live because Jesus Christ is our Lord and King. He is the King who died on a cross to redeem us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He is the Lord who rose again from the dead on the third day, assuring us of everlasting life in our own bodily resurrections to take place when our King comes again in glory. Even so, we pray, come, Lord Jesus. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Amen.

 

[1] Francis C. Rossow, Gospel Handles: Finding New Connections in Biblical Texts (St. Louis: Concordia, 2001), 75.

[2] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 401.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 401–402.

[4] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 401–402.

[5] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 414.

[6] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 414.


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