Luke 19:28-40 (First Sunday in Advent—Series C)
“Peace in Heaven and Glory in the Highest”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 2, 2018
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Advent recorded in Luke 19:
28And after he said these things, he journeyed ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29And it happened that as he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, to the mount which is called Olivet, he sent off the disciples 30saying, “Go into the opposite village, in which entering you will find a colt tied there, upon which no person has ever sat, and after you have untied it, bring it. 31And if someone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ thus you will say, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” 32And after they departed, those who were sent found it just as he said to them. 33Now while they were untying the colt, its maters said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34And they said, “Because the Lord has need of it.” 35And they led it to Jesus and when they had thrown their cloaks on the colt, they put Jesus on it. 36And while he was traveling, they spread their garments underneath on the road. 37And when he drew near now to the descent of the Mount of Olives, all the multitude of the disciples, rejoicing, began to praise God with a great voice concerning all the miracles which they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed the Coming One, the King, in the name of the Lord. In heaven peace and glory in the highest.” 39And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40He answered and said, “I say to you, if these will be silent, the stones will cry out.”
Customization is all the rage. You can literally customize your cell phone to look and sound different every day of the year. No one really likes the standard stock-items. They want to be able to make things their own. My brother-in-law is in the custom flooring business. You get the types of flooring that you want for each room of your home. Each week, the craft store Michael’s has coupons for 50% off your custom framing order. You can get a frame in the color and style you want to fit that odd-shaped photo of great-grandpa in his military uniform. You can frame that non-standard size painting your daughter made for art class. Customization is the name of the game!
That brings us to the Gospel of Luke. As we begin a new church year today, we move into the year in which the Gospel of Luke is the primary Gospel text for our weekly readings. Luke was a missionary companion of St. Paul. In Colossians 4, Paul identifies Luke as “the beloved physician.” It was this Luke through whose pen God the Holy Spirit breathed the words of the Gospel of Luke and its companion volume, the Book of Acts. And Luke, through the God-breathed words of the Holy Spirit, does a little custom framing work. This is unique to Luke; something that only he has in his Gospel.
The “top half” of the frame (if we use the image of a picture frame) is found in Luke 2. “Oh,” you say, “that the Christmas story!” Indeed it is. Luke 2 is the most detailed account of the birth of Jesus. But the custom frame begins, not in the manger, but out in the fields where the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. The custom frame’s first part is the song of the angels, “Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace among men of his favor.”
The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, has taken to Himself a true human body and soul in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the miraculous power of God the Holy Spirit. God the Son has become a man in His incarnation. The Holy One of God has taken up human flesh and blood and is born of a Virgin. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:11-12). Yes, a human baby, and yet, fully God is He who lies swaddled in the manger. At His incarnation and birth, the angels praise God and sing: “Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace among men of his favor.” The birth of God-Made-Flesh who is named Jesus brings about peace on earth. He is the Messiah, the King, the Coming One in the name of the Lord!
But wait! There’s more. Our frame only has the top half. It needs the other half to be complete. Luke gives us the second half of the frame today in our Gospel text in Luke 19. Here, the people, Jesus’ disciples, sing: “Blessed the Coming One, the King, in the name of the Lord. In heaven peace and glory in the highest.” Luke 2:14 (the top of the frame) has the angels sing, “Glory in the highest.” Luke 19:38 (the bottom of the frame) has the people sing, “Glory in the highest.” As Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He comes as the Messiah, the King, who will make atonement for the sins of the people by giving up His life into death on a cross. Jesus will shed His holy, precious blood to cleanse all people from their sins. He will die their death and suffer their hell under the wrath of God the Father. On the third day, Jesus would rise from the dead, defeating death forever, thereby assuring resurrection life to all who trust in His blood-bought sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
At Jesus’ birth and at the beginning of Holy Week, Luke records that the heavens are filled with glory! The incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, the King, and the atonement that He would accomplish with His death and resurrection, bring glory to the highest heaven! The entire divine plan of redeeming people from sin, Satan, and death through the Son brings this glory in the highest. But that is not all that’s included in this customized frame. There is also peace.
Again, the top of the frame is where the angels sing, “Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace.” The bottom of the frame is where Jesus’ disciples sing, “In heaven peace and glory in the highest.” What do both Luke 2 and Luke 19 have in common? Peace! But notice, at the incarnation and birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the King, there is peace on earth. At the atonement and resurrection of Jesus, there is peace in heaven. What does this mean? It means that with the incarnation and the atonement of Jesus Christ, earth and heaven are joined together in peace. In their song, Jesus’ disciples announce that there already exists peace between God and humanity through the Lord who now comes to His temple. This is a foretaste of the peace of the atonement, an anticipation of the peace whose source is the Messiah’s death and resurrection.
St. Paul tells us this in Romans 4 and 5 that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 4:25-5:2 ESV). Peace comes to heaven and earth because of a person and it comes in the form of a person, the Coming One, the King, in the name of the Lord. Peace is personified in Jesus Christ.
The peace that Christ is and brings is much more than our feeling or experiencing tranquility. Jesus brings about an objective state of peace that goes beyond our experiences and feelings. We have peace with God despite what we might sometimes feel. All people have cut themselves off from God by their sin. We are unable to get along with others because we can’t get along with God. But Christ has mended that breach with God. God is no longer angry with us over our sins because they have all been forgiven by the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are no longer God’s enemies because of our sins. Jesus has reconciled us to God by becoming sin for us and paying for that sin with His very life. The peace that the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection of Christ give us is real, even if we don’t feel it. When we do, we rejoice in it as God’s gift to us in Jesus. When we don’t feel it, we rejoice that we are still, through Christ, at peace with God on earth and in heaven. “Glory in the highest!”
Because of the Coming One, the King, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, we are able to trust ever more firmly in the peace that His incarnation, life, atoning death, and triumphant resurrection has given to us in the forgiveness of sins. We trust in Him who has come and will come again, and who indeed comes to us with His Body and Blood as we receive the Holy Supper today. Heaven and earth have been joined in peace through Jesus Christ and He comes to His Christians today in His Supper with forgiveness, life, salvation, and the strengthening of our faith. As the King comes to us with peace, we sing as His disciples in the words of the Sanctus, “Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Peace on earth and peace in heaven. Incarnation and Atonement. Bethlehem and Jerusalem. How marvelously the Holy Spirit through the pen of St. Luke customizes this frame for us as we begin a new church year! This is, after all, what the focus of the church year is all about, Jesus the Messiah, true God who became flesh in the Incarnation, was born and lived among us so that He might go to Jerusalem and die on a cross to atone for the sins of the whole world by winning the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting with His death and resurrection. And so it is, the One for whom we sing is the Coming One, the King, who is blessed to come to us in the name of the Lord. “In heaven peace and glory in the highest!”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.