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Your King comes to you, lowly and seated on a donkey

Matthew 21:1-9

Pastor David Ernst

First Sunday of Advent
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Nov 29, 2020 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today we begin the Advent season. This is the first of four Sundays before the celebration of Christmas begins on December 24 on Christmas Eve. The Child of Jesus is not in our manger because he has not arrived yet. This is the custom here in Venezuela.

Another custom of this season in many parts of the world is the representation of the Virgin Mary on a donkey on the way to Bethlehem. The Evangelists Matthew and Luke do not mention a donkey on Joseph and Mary's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Perhaps many people do not want to think about the difficulty of a woman about to give birth traveling on foot.

The shortest route to Bethlehem was directly south through Samaria, a distance of 112 kilometers, but its mountainous terrain would have been particularly arduous for Mary who was in the last stages of pregnancy. Other factors to avoid that route were the hostile Samaritans in the region, who may have posed a threat to the two travelers, and the knowledge that it would be difficult for them to find accommodation.

It is believed that Mary and Joseph chose a safer and more comfortable route that took them southeast through the Jezreel Valley and further east to the Jordan Valley. Continuing south to Jericho, they probably advanced through the Judean desert to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. At the end of their difficult walk, the couple would have walked more than 145 kilometers; much of that distance through rough terrain.

It is likely the walk lasted 4 to 7 days. It is better to think of Maria riding a donkey. But this is not the only reason to imagine the journey in this way. If Mary rode on a donkey, the Child in her womb rode on a donkey, and entered Jerusalem for his birth as his death. Well, that's the symbolism in Christian art.

For this same parallel, our text for today is the account of Matthew on Palm Sunday.

“And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives; Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them: Go to the village in front of you, and then you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie her, and bring them to me. And if anyone says something to you, say: The Lord needs them. ; and then it will send them. "

Jesus arrived in Bethphage, a small village on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, on the main road to Jerusalem. When Jesus approached this point, His coming could be observed from Jerusalem.

The Lord knew that the animals were in the designated place. Perhaps their owners knew Jesus before. It doesn't matter, everything was done in this way so that the words of the prophet Zechariah 9: 9 could be fulfilled. The donkey was not a beast of war like the horse. A king sitting on a donkey signifies a mission of peace.

The animals, as they were brought to the Lord, were not saddled. They quickly remove their cloaks, and spread them over the rack, to make a seat for their Master.

“And the multitude, which was very large, spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went ahead and those that followed shouted, saying: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the high!"

Also the crowd on the road took their clothes and spread them out on the road, as if to receive a mighty king, example, in 2 Kings 9: 12-13. The branches of the trees were used to adorn the processions, especially the religious ones.

At the top of the Mount of Olives, the ranks of the singers swelled with great crowds of newcomers, and as the latter turned and marched forward, the others followed the Lord. And in antiphonal shouts, the joyful acclamation of the people proclaimed him openly as the Son of David, as the true Messiah, they wish him blessing and salvation from on high. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the high!" are the words of the doxology of the Feast of Tabernacles, with Passover and Pentecost, the third of the most important feasts for the Jews.

Then Jesus entered Jerusalem as the promised Messiah. However, Jesus' victory would be on the cross, not in the cheering of the crowds. On Good Friday the cries of "Hosanna!" they became "Crucify him!" Only on the cross did Jesus end his state of humiliation, a state that began with his conception by the Holy Spirit and his birth by the Virgin Mary. Christmas is the feast of the Incarnation, the mystery of the Word made flesh. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, put aside his divine powers and came down from heaven to be the son of Mary.

The key words in our text are the following: "Say to the daughter of Zion: Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly and seated on a donkey." At His first coming, the Lord did not come in His power and glory, but in humility and peace. Like the baby in Bethlehem for reconciliation between God and men.

Now, well, today many people are already celebrating Christmas, but with a lot of ignorance and indifference. They know that something important happened 2,000 years ago, but they don't understand how important. They just understand there is a season of many lights, many gifts, music, food and drink. Of course, things are little different this year as many Venezuelans cannot afford the price of a Christmas meal, or lights or merrymaking. So they may be looking for a messiah, or savior, but as a superhero, with the power to solve their problems. They do not understand the victory of the cross, the death before the resurrection. Therefore, after the season of lights, gifts and excitement, they will return to their lives of problems, conflicts and want. As disciples of Jesus, we should not be like the people of Jerusalem prone to fickleness, because we have a certain hope.

Rather than indifference to suffering or despair, as Saint Paul says in the epistle (Romans 13: 11-14), “Let us walk honestly, as in the daytime; not in debauchery and drunkenness; not in lust and lust, nor in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not provide to satisfy the lusts of the flesh. "

It is time, the critical moment, for believers to wake up from the dream. The apostle refers to spiritual sleep, which does not differ in any essential feature from spiritual death. Waking up from sleep, being wide awake in spiritual matters is the special duty that falls upon Christians, to renounce all sinful walk and conduct, direct the whole mind and heart to the fulfillment of the holy will of God. This condition was reached in the believers when they were converted, when they passed from darkness to light in baptism. But the work of regeneration that began at that time must continue throughout life; there must be unceasing progress in sanctification. That is the business of the Christian, as far as his own spiritual life is concerned, to be always alert and vigilant lest he fall and be caught up in his previous sins and desires. In this sense, the entire life of a Christian is one continuous conversion; in this sense, too, this warning is always timely, because the new man in the heart must go out and get up daily.

In this we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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