Sunday, December 2, 2007

Get Out of the Way

First Sunday in Advent
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Matthew 21:1-11

You don’t need to wait a month to start the new year, it has come today. Granted, it’s a different kind of year, that of the Church Year. Today’s Gospel reading directs us how to begin it properly.

Very simply, it is that we need to get out of the way. What we learn today on the first day of the Church Year is that it is all about Christ. Not only at the beginning of the year, but throughout our lives and through all eternity. Because it’s all about Christ, we need to get out of the way.

This is shown to us by the Gospel reading that has been designated for the beginning of the Church Year. It’s the account of Palm Sunday. We’re normally used to hearing this Gospel reading at the beginning of the most solemn week of the Church Year, Holy Week. So what’s it doing here at the beginning of the Church Year?

Just this: When we see what Jesus is doing here in riding into Jerusalem we see what it is all about. We see what Christ is all about. He is all about the cross. That’s why He came. He came to go to the cross, and so that’s how we begin. And that is what will be our focus throughout the Church Year and on throughout our lives. It is only through the cross that we have eternal life in Christ.

On the one hand Jesus is specific—He calls on two disciples to go get the donkeys. On the other hand, we’re not told which disciples they were. Why? Because that’s not important. We need to get out of the way.

When the guy asks them why they’re taking the donkey, he lets them go because “the Lord needs it”. That’s enough, the guy has to get out of the way. He’s not the important person here, Jesus is.

Even the donkeys are to get out of the way. Whatever they were doing, whatever they were going to be used for is not important. Jesus needs them and so He’ll use them.

Even a guy who wasn’t there on Palm Sunday is quoted, Zechariah. God inspired him centuries before to prophesy of this event. Zechariah didn’t have a clear picture of how this would come about. He didn’t know the name of the Messiah, that it would be Jesus. But he prophesied it anyway. He knew he simply needed to get out of the way—it was all about the Messiah; which we see here on Palm Sunday is Jesus.

The disciples go get the donkeys for Jesus. They did exactly what He had directed them to do. It wasn’t about them. It was all about Him. They needed to get out of the way.

So they brought the donkeys to Him. And they got out of the way. They put their cloaks on the donkeys. Many put theirs and also branches on the road before Him. Because it wasn’t about them, but Him. And so they acclaimed Him. They shouted their praises to Him.

The only thing about it was that they were the ones doing everything. All Jesus was doing was sitting on a donkey and riding into Jerusalem. Not very stately. Not exactly awe-inspiring or kingly. Rather, what Zechariah had prophesied was coming about: Jesus was beginning His path to the cross humbly. What do you think everyone would have thought if they knew why Jesus was entering into Jerusalem? What do you think they would have done?

They didn’t seem to notice that He was riding in humbly. He made Himself of no reputation. He is the one who said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Christ becomes lowly Himself so that no burdened sinner is driven away.

Still, who was doing all the work? Was it really all of them? Jesus had it all planned out. Everyone else simply needed to get out of the way. He alone knew why He was there. He alone knew that it was all about Himself—but for quite a different reason than they had all expected: it was to go to the cross.

What a contrast to the picture of the Old Testament reading: “All the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’”

This is a joyous trek, to the Mountain of the Lord! To be in the presence of the glory of God! With Jesus’ trek into Jerusalem He’s going to be brutally treated and suffer death. But it’s only through this tragedy that we may see what it means when the people of God setting their sights on God’s glorious presence seek to be taught by Him and walk in His paths.

It’s only by getting out of the way. We have to let God be God. If we want to begin the Church Year on a note other than the cross then we may as well go home, because we will not make it to the Mountain of the Lord and into His presence. We must get out of the way and hear what He has done for us. That He chose to go the way of the cross. That He chose to come in humility so that we may receive glory.

It’s through the lens of the cross, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, that Paul says in the Epistle: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law... the commandments are summed up in this Word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.”

Another way he might have said this is: “Get out of the way.” Let Christ rule in you. Because He does not rule in power but in love. He comes gently and humbly. He comes that we may begin to see that there really is a serious need we have. We prayed it in the Collect: “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.”

It’s loss beyond compare if we can’t get out of the way and see that our sins truly threaten to imperil us to eternal torment in hell. It’s glory beyond compare when we begin to see our sins in the same way Christ does: as brought to their end in His suffering and death on the cross.

Get out of the way. Let Christ be Christ. He is the Lord of all, and yet was content to be hailed simply as the prophet from the backwater town of Nazareth in Galilee. He’s never too proud to simply come to us right where we are, in our need. Don’t get in the way. Confess your sins. Think not on yourself and what you want, but on Him and His grace. On His body and blood which He gives to you to eat and drink. On His death and life which He joins you to in your Baptism. On His simple Word: “Come into the eternal Kingdom My Father has prepared for you.”

He wants you with Him. That happens when you get out of the way and look to Him and His cross. Your risen Lord is humble and powerful to save. He has done so. Amen.


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