Ad Te Levavi: Advent 1 Sermon Preached by Guest Preacher Rev. Dr. Dean Rothchild
Advent 1 God Has Prepared Praise
November 27, 2016
21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
12 And Jesus entered the temple[b] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies God has prepared praise. The children cried in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" because God prepared these shouts of praise for them before the foundation of the world. In fact God prepared the praise of those laying down coats and palm branches and crying hosannas as Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem.
Even this morning God has prepared praise. Consider little Mandie. She can't even talk. She's an infant. Yet today her Lord comes to her and makes her his own child. You see, human beings are incapable of choosing God. We are born sinners. "In sin did my mother conceive me!" King David laments (Psalm 51:5) and St. Paul writes, " The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him." (1 Corinthians 2:14) This is why Jesus says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you." (John 15:16) Every human being is born in sin, captive to the desires of the flesh and incapable of choosing God. It is as the hymnist wrote in our second Communion hymn, "I lay in fetters, groaning; You came to set me free. I stood, my shame bemoaning; You came to honor me. A glorious crown You give me, A treasure safe on high That will not fail or leave me As earthly riches fly." Little Mandie who was born fettered to sin has today been honored by God. She has received a crown that outlasts all the fleeting treasures of this life. In Baptism God put his name on that little girl, who yet cannot speak her own name.
Mandie, like every human being ever to be born, save Jesus Christ of miraculous birth, was incapable of choosing God, incapable of loving him, incapable of praising him. But God chose Mandie and prepared praise from her lips even before he made the world. St. Paul writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him." (Ephesians 1:3-4)
God chose Mandie independent of anything she has or will do, just as he chose those children in the temple to praise Christ with shouts of hosanna. Yet, God doesn't make Christians by a flip of a switch. He uses means, instruments to accomplish this task. The instrument God uses to make Christians is his Word. God's Word creates faith in the unbeliever and it is faith that produces praise to God from the lips of believers.
God prepared praise from those children in the temple shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David". Yet the children learned to praise Christ by hearing the Word of God. Their parents taught them about the Messiah at home. They heard Jesus preach. Even their shouts of praise, "Hosanna" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" the children and crowds recited from Psalm 118. They heard the word of God and through that word God created faith in their hearts and prepared praise on their lips.
So Mandie this morning hears a word of God. "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." And God creates faith in her heart. And as she continues to hear God's word she too will learn to sing "Hosanna." Hosanna means, "Save us!" Christians know who saves them. So as the crowds in Jerusalem and the children in the Temple recognized their Savior when they saw him, so Mandie will recognize the voice of Jesus when she hears the Gospel, and she too will pray to God for salvation.
To receive Jesus is a difficult thing for many. Baptism is especially questioned. "How can water do such great things? Surely this is not how someone is made a Christian! It's so simple and plane. And the Baptized doesn't even do anything except get her hair wet!"
It does seem common. Water with a few words. But this is the means by which God has chosen to prepare praise from Mandie's lips. Our Lord Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) It seems common too that Christ would ride into Jerusalem humble and lowly on a donkey. He doesn't enter on a war horse or in a chariot. Yet on that virgin foal led by its mother rides the King, who brings salvation, just as the Prophet Zechariah foretold, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey." (Zech. 9:9) This is how God works, he joins himself to that which is common to save us who are common. We do not ascend to God. We don't find him. He descends to us. He finds us. He chooses us, we do not choose him.
So as the people of faith in Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as he humbly came to them upon a donkey, so Mandie welcomes her Savior through Baptism. And we all welcome our God by hearing his word, reciting the praises prepared for us, and even receiving Christ's true body and blood under the humble form of bread and wine. We receive Christ as he chooses to come to us. Just as he chose to come on a donkey, so he chooses to come now through water and his word, in bread and wine, even from the mouth of a sinful man. And we receive him with praise on our lips.
Mandie's praise for her Savior is planned. Your praise for Jesus was planned too. This makes sense, because it was all planned. The entire episode. It was rigged by God. The donkey and colt; the crowds welcoming Jesus with cheers; the children in the temple crying, "hosanna!"; it's all planned by God. Even more, Christ's miraculous birth from the Virgin Mary, his healing of the blind and the lame, his suffering and death, all this was planned by God and foretold by his prophets. Christ's triumphant resurrection from the tomb, his ascension into heaven, his return in glory, all of this was planned. And it was planned for the purpose of saving Mandie, of saving you, and me. So although the praise from the lips of the babies was planned before God said, "Let there be light," the praise itself is in response to Christ's work to save you.
God prepared a Sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the whole world (John 1:29), the very Godman, Jesus Christ. As crowds cheered the arrival of a poor man sitting on a donkey, God's plan for your salvation was coming to realization. The crowds shouted, "Save us" and Christ went to lay down his life for theirs and save them with his holy precious blood. Everything went exactly as planned. Jesus bore all your sins and the sins of the whole world.
And when we talk about Jesus taking away sins, we should realize, he knew what those sins were. God knew what wicked thoughts you would have. He knew every sin you'd commit before you committed them. He knew the atrocities people would bring upon others. And he still sent Jesus to die for them all. He saw your sin, the evil you chose to do, and he put it on Jesus to suffer for it. It's not like God planned to save you, but sees how rotten you are and says, "Oh, well then, nevermind." No before the earth's foundation God saw what you would do against him in thought, word, and deed and he still planned Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, his suffering and death, all of it to save you.
And so we praise God today, for saving us from our well deserved punishment. We praise him for planning our salvation long ago and for going through with this difficult plan. And just as God planned the praise Jesus received when he entered Jerusalem and the temple, so God prepares praise from our lips today; praise that was cultivated by hearing this wonderful Gospel that God planned our salvation through Jesus Christ. So we sing "Hosanna" even today as we prepare our hearts to receive Christ in his holy Sacrament. And God has prepared even greater praise for us to sing when Christ comes not humbly as he did upon that donkey, or this morning in the water of Baptism or with the bread and wine, but when Christ comes in his fully revealed glory, we will praise our coming Redeemer with songs composed before the creation of the world.
May we not cease to repent of our sins, to hear the Gospel of Jesus, and to sing his praises, until we sing them anew in eternity. Amen.
Rev. James Preus
Rev. Preus is the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ottumwa, IA. These are audio and text of the sermons he preaches at Trinity according to the Historical Lectionary.