Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. This first Sunday in the season of Advent bears the Latin name Ad Te Levavi, which comes from the first words of our Introit antiphon and is translated, “to you I lift up.” Lifting up our hearts, our minds, and our voices towards the Lord is precisely what is happening in today’s Gospel text. We see the crowds lifting up their voices in praise toward Jesus in those famous words: “Hosanna to the son of David. Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).
And we, as we consider these words and the events of that first Palm Sunday, lift up our hearts and minds toward the one who came to earn salvation for his people in an unexpected way. And so, as we consider our Gospel text further, we will do so under the following theme: Jesus accomplishes the greater deliverance. We will consider:
1.) Jesus comes to accomplish a deliverance greater than the crowd desired or imagined,
2.) Jesus comes to accomplish a deliverance greater than we desire or imagine.
2. First, we consider our text and how Jesus comes to accomplish a deliverance greater than the crowd desired or imagined. Now, it is admittedly difficult to determine precisely what this crowd was thinking as they ushered our Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. To pin any thoughts or desires on this crowd involves a certain amount of speculation. However, we can speculate fairly confidently that this crowd on Palm Sunday had at least two thoughts or desires in mind. They wanted Jesus to usher in the Messianic kingdom with force and to put things right immediately. I’ll provide two citations in support of this speculation. First, the word “hosanna” is a word which is often translated “save us now.” This seems to imply some sort of immediacy to the crowds desires. Secondly, we read in Matthew 26, just as our Lord is being arrested in Gethsemane: And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the hight priest and cut off his ear (Matthew 26:51).
Clearly there is also an element of force assumed about our Lord’s mission by those with him. The crowd who was with our Lord on Palm Sunday clearly assumed that he would usher in the Messianic kingdom with force and immediacy.
3. However, that is not at all that our Lord had in mind. In Matthew 26, Jesus said to the disciple who drew his sword: em>“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52-54).
This is the problem with the desire for force and immediacy: it’s not the Lord’s plan. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. And so, our Lord entered Jerusalem in order to fulfill that which was written through the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion: Behold, your king is coming to you humble and mounted upon a donkey, even upon a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Matthew 21:5).
It is important to recognize that when our Lord entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, he was declaring himself as the rightful king. This is how the prophet Zechariah foretold the rightful king’s coming. Jesus is the rightful king, the son of David. He is the one who came to usher in the Messianic kingdom, but the manner in which he came to do this is both different and greater than the crowd desired or imagined. Our Lord did not enter Jerusalem on a war horse, prepared for battle. He came as the Scriptures foretold: humble and riding on a donkey. Our Lord came in peace, to reign by means of self-sacrifice. Jesus came to accomplish a deliverance greater than the crowd desired or imagined. The crowd desired power and force. Jesus laid power and force aside and allowed himself to be arrested, tortured, and put to death so that he might atone for the sins of all people. The crowd desired immediacy. Jesus came in patience and humility, accomplishing deliverance and salvation for God’s people in God’s timing. Though he did not come in the manner they expected, Jesus accomplished the greater deliverance.
4. We now consider how Jesus comes to us to accomplish a deliverance greater than we desire or imagine. So, what sort of deliverance do we desire from our Lord? Deliverance from sickness and disease? Deliverance from physical ailments? Deliverance from financial difficulties? Deliverance from relational struggles? These things and so many more are often what we desire from the Lord. And these are good things to desire from the Lord. We ought to pray for these things because our Lord desires to save us from them. But our Lord also desires to give us a deliverance far greater than this. He doesn’t only want to deliver us from these things, which are only the surface-level problem. He desires to grant us deliverance far greater than we desire or imagine. This is why the great prayer of Advent is to echo the final verses of Scripture in saying, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). And so, the church throughout the centuries has prayed an expanded form of this prayer on this first Sunday in Advent: “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.”
See, it is sin which is the root cause of all evil in life. Sometimes it is the sinful acts we commit which are the true problem. Other times it is the effects of sins we suffer which are the true problem. And so, we should pray for deliverance from sickness and disease, from physical ailments, from financial difficulties, and from relational struggles. But while we pray for this things, we should also pray for our Lord Jesus to come and save us from the threatening perils of sin, both the sins that we have committed and the sins that we have suffered. It is right that we desire and expect our Lord to deliver us from the effects of sin because this is what he came to earth to do. He came to earth to lay down his own life for us so that we might be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by his mighty deliverance. Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on a humble donkey reminds us of this reality.
5. However, as we desire and expect our Lord to deliver us from the effects of sin, we must do so in humility and patience. Our Lord will rescue us, but he will do so in his own way and in his own time. We must hold the delicate balance of expectation and patience. And so, as we pray, “Stir up You power, O Lord, and come…”, our Introit also teaches us to pray: “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5).
Our Lord will deliver us—and in an even greater way than we desire or imagine—but his deliverance will come in his own time and in his own way. And so, we ask him to teach us his ways, to grant us patience, and to teach us contentment as we wait for his good and perfect timing. This is the essence of the Advent season—it reminds us that we are a people who wait. And as we wait, we do so in expectation and patience. Our Lord will return and deliver us—of that we can be sure. But no one knows the time or the day of our Lord’s second advent. So, until that day, we wait in both expectation and patience as we pray: “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.