“Reserved for a King” (Mark 11:1-10)

First Sunday in Advent
November 29, 2020

“Reserved for a King” (Mark 11:1-10)

Happy New Year! No, I’m not time-traveling ahead to January 1. But it is a new year today. A new church year, that is. Because today is the First Sunday in Advent, and thus the start of a new church year. And every year on the First Sunday in Advent, we have as the Gospel reading an account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Which seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Here we are in Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, and we get a reading for the start of Holy Week, which leads into Good Friday and Easter. But that’s the point. It’s a way of saying that the whole church year is focused on our Lord Jesus Christ going to the cross to die for our salvation and rising from the dead in victory over sin and death. So, this reading today to kick off the church year directs our attention to those central events of the Christian faith.

What’s more, the reading today is a good way to start the season of Advent. The word “Advent” means “coming,” and this is the season in which we anticipate the coming of our King. We are preparing for Christ’s coming at Christmas, and beyond that, we’re preparing for his coming again at the Last Day. Advent prepares us for both, as well as for how our Lord comes to us even now in Word and Sacrament.

Today’s reading serves that Advent purpose well. For in our text from Mark 11, we join with the crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem with their joyous cry: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Truly, this is a welcome fit for a king.

But that’s not the only thing in this story fit for a king. There’s something else, too, and it may seem a little surprising. What I’m talking about here is . . . the colt! Yes, the colt that Jesus rides into town on. What struck me this year as I read through the text from Mark is that, out of the ten verses in the text, the first seven verses have to do with the colt! Why so much attention on this colt? That was the question that intrigued me. Well, the donkey’s colt on which Jesus rides–believe it or not, this too is something appropriate for this king. It’s like when the disciples go to get the colt, it’s as though it should have a sign by it that says, “Reserved for a King.”

And now I’ll explain why. So, Jesus and the disciples are heading for Jerusalem, to celebrate the upcoming Passover. But before they get there, Jesus dispatches a couple of his disciples to go ahead into the next village, and he tells them that there they will find a particular colt, a donkey’s colt, tied up, right as they get into town. Now normally there would be no way for someone to know this, but Jesus is the Son of God, after all, so he can have that kind of knowledge. Jesus is picking out his special ride for when he gets to Jerusalem and enters the city. He has a purpose for doing this.

And there is something special about this particular colt. Note what Jesus says: “You will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat.” That is significant. This is a young colt, on which no one has ridden yet. It’s like it has been reserved just for this purpose, a sacred purpose, to carry the king of Israel–indeed, the King of kings and the Lord of lords–to carry the Messiah into his holy city.

I read an article this past week in which a pastor makes an interesting comparison on that point. He writes: “When the president of the United States flies, he takes Air Force One, the aircraft specifically reserved for his use. When Air Force One lands in an airport, it means only one thing: The president has arrived. The donkey which carries Jesus into the city of Jerusalem also brings with it a similar significance. It signals to the people that their Messiah has arrived. . . . Just as Air Force One is reserved for the president, the donkey on which the king rode could not be used by anyone else.”

So, this donkey’s colt in our story is sort of like Air Force One. Not just anybody can ride on that airplane, only the President of the United States can. It’s reserved for his use. Well, here is the King of the world, Jesus Christ, and so it is appropriate that he have a ride that has been set aside for his special use. This colt has been reserved for a king.

And the people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem recognize this royal ride. They shout: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” But what is it about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt that would lead them to think that this was the Messiah? Well, in the Old Testament, when King David was about to hand over the throne to his son Solomon, he directed that Solomon ride on his own, that is, David’s, mule. That was a sign that Solomon, the son of David, was the designated successor as king. Now here comes Jesus, the ultimate Son of David, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, a sign that he is the one to usher in the everlasting kingdom of blessing that had been promised to one of David’s sons.

On top of that, there was the messianic prophecy from the Book of Zechariah: “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.” Again, Jesus riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey, is a signal that the promise of the coming Messiah now is being fulfilled. This is a ride reserved for a king!

Friends, this king riding into town is your king too! He is righteous and has salvation, and he gives his righteousness and salvation to you, freely. Yet at great cost. It is the cost of his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death that win your salvation. For this king will, strangely, take up his throne on a cross and wear a crown of thorns. There on the cross the King of the Jews will suffer and die for you, taking your sins upon him, suffering the judgment you and I deserve. Christ’s blood covers our sins and the sins of the whole world, seeing as he is the one and only Son of God come in the flesh. Nothing is more valuable than that.

So, this colt is carrying valuable cargo into town. Amazon Prime has got nothing on this foal of a donkey! This is a ride fit for a king. But a unique king with a unique mission. Jesus rides a humble beast of burden, befitting this king who will bear the burden of our sins.

Reserved for a king. That Jesus would ride in on a colt “on which no one has ever sat,” well, that’s appropriate for this one-of-a-kind king. But that’s nothing new for Jesus. After all, there was a special vessel set aside for Jesus to enter this world at Christmas, and that was the womb of the virgin Mary. And then when Jesus dies, there is a special tomb set aside for his use, the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. Except, Jesus is only going to use that tomb for a couple of days. Not going to stay there long. Jesus rises from the dead on Easter morning.

And now, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus shares his resurrection life with you. You are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, assuring your forgiveness and everlasting life. You are a new person in Christ. He has purchased and won you with his precious blood, so that now you belong to him. To what end? That you “may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”

In other words, you–yes, you–have been set aside for a sacred purpose! You, dear Christians, you are his holy people! You have been reserved for this king. In a way, you and I are like that donkey’s colt. It is a high honor to carry Christ with you. We bear his name. Our lives display Christ to the world. We belong to King Jesus. What’s better than that?

Of course, you and I are pretty humble donkeys to ride. But Jesus can still use us to display his glory and his grace. Jesus is quite able to use lowly means. Like in church today. Jesus uses a very imperfect pastor to deliver his message to you. Jesus uses humble means, bread and wine, as the vehicles to give you his body and blood. Humble means, priceless treasures. That’s how King Jesus rolls–and rules!

And as Jesus comes into our midst this morning–and every Sunday morning for this whole new church year–we welcome our king as he comes to us in Word and Sacrament. We praise him and worship him, singing those same words that the crowds in Jerusalem shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Published in: on November 28, 2020 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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