The traditional Holy Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent – and still the preferred Holy Gospel for this Sunday in the LSB Three-Year Lectionary – is the “Triumphal Entry” of our Lord Jesus Christ into His Holy City of Jerusalem on the cusp of Holy Week. It sets the tone, not only for the Season of Advent, but really for the entire Church Year, exemplifying both how and why the Lord comes to His people. And the truth is that He comes, not only once-upon-a-time in the distant past, and not only in the future for the Final Judgment, but here and now within His Church on earth, in order to save us by and with His Word of the Gospel, by the preaching and administration of His Cross and Resurrection.
Christ Jesus is the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, the promised Son of David. Blessed is He, indeed! He is the King, not only of the Jews, but of all things in heaven and on earth. Yet, He does not come in the trappings and terrors of an earthly monarch, riding on a mighty warhorse, but “humble, mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (St. Matthew 21:5). He comes to lay down His life in sacrificial death, to shed His holy and precious Blood for the sins of the world, in order to redeem us for Himself and reconcile us to His God and Father. He comes to reign in love from the throne of His Cross, bestowing forgiveness, breathing His life-giving Holy Spirit upon us, and feeding us with the sacred Gifts of His Body and Blood.
It is meet, right, and salutary that we who are called and ordained as the servants of such a King should recognize that we are sent in His Name and stead, in the lowliness and meekness of His Holy Cross and Passion. We are called and sent with the real authority of this true Lord, but it is ever the authority of His Gospel, the righteousness of His Resurrection from the dead. Not because we have contrived some sort of personal humility or modesty, but in the genuine weakness of our mortal flesh and blood, as sinners in need of the same Gospel, as earthen vessels in whom the almighty power of God is manifested in His tender mercies, pity, and compassion.
With that in mind, I’ve always loved this Holy Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent, not only for the way that our Lord comes riding into Jerusalem, but for the way that He first of all sends a couple of His disciples to unloose the colt and bring it to Him. It presents such a perfect picture of the way that He likewise sends His pastors to unloose human beings from their bondage and bring them to Him as disciples. Each of the Holy Evangelists describes this part of the story in his own particular way, but for Matthew, Mark, and Luke it is made explicitly clear that those disciples go, unloose the colt, and bring it to Jesus at His Word, exactly according to His Word; and they are able to do so because of His authority: “The Lord has need of it!” (St. Mark 11:3).
Let us take heart and be encouraged that, what our Lord has called and sent us to do in His Name, He will do and accomplish through us, just as He has promised and commanded. And even when none of it seems to be working or making any sense, He is indeed coming to visit and redeem His people, to save them (and us!) from sin, death, the devil, and hell. The outcome is in His hands, and it is already sure and certain. “Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (St. Matthew 16:19). And in that blessed release, those who were bound are brought to Jesus, clothed and covered with the cloaks of His disciples (St. Matthew 21:7). And so does the Holy Spirit also lay Christ Jesus Himself upon their hearts and minds, bodies and souls, by the Gospel, that they should no longer be riderless beasts but governed and guided by His grace. And that which is true for those we serve is no less true for us who are sent as servants of the King.