16 April 2011

Your King Is Coming

Fear not, daughter of Zion, your King is coming to save you now, to bring you out of darkness into light, out of death into life; to bring you to the Father in peace, in and with Himself, in this Feast.

He comes to you here on earth, in flesh and blood like yours, in gentle humility; not to punish you, not to crush and destroy, but to rescue. He embraces you with love, in all your hurt and sadness, in your misery and pain, in your grief and shame. He gathers you to Himself in safety, to comfort and protect you, even as He takes your sin and all your burdens upon Himself, to bear them and carry them in His Body to the Cross.

It is to the Cross that He has come, in humble obedience to His Father, and in merciful and loving service for you, that by the shedding of His Blood and the suffering of His death, He would atone for all your sins (and the sins of the world) and reconcile you (and all the world) to God.

Now He comes to you from the Cross, and with the Cross, not to “sacrifice” you, but to bestow the fruits and blessings of His Cross and Sacrifice upon you. It is true that He does crucify you and put you to death, in order to break the bondage of sin and death, to set you free from that slavery, and to shatter the hardness of your heart and the idols that have reigned therein. But even then, He is already calling you and drawing you to Himself, into His victory and His righteousness.

Because He has already borne your sins and suffered their punishments, the discipline of His Cross does not destroy you, but it conforms you to His Image and connects you to Him, not only to His death, but also to His Resurrection and His Life. As God the Father has glorified Him by His Cross, and vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead, and exalted Him in His Ascension, so do all of these things of Christ Jesus become yours through His Cross.

That is precisely what He has done for you in Holy Baptism, whereby you have been crucified, dead and buried with the Lord Jesus Christ — and also raised with Him in His Resurrection, just as surely as He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead.

That dying and rising of the Cross and Resurrection, and of your Holy Baptism into Christ Jesus, is your repentance, your redemption from eternal death unto life everlasting, your reconciliation with God, and your righteousness before Him.

It is that righteousness of faith and life in Christ, by His Cross, to which you are here called as He comes to you in grace, mercy and peace, in gentle humility and tender love for you.

It is actually given to you by this preaching of Christ, and Him Crucified, with the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name. And it is given to you, into your body, in the remembrance of Him, in the sacrificial meal of His Body and His Blood.

The Lord’s Supper is the way that Jesus deliberately entered upon His Passion unto death, and it provided His own interpretation and explanation of His Cross and suffering before they occurred. Now His Body is also given to you in the Sacrament, as it was given for you on the Cross, and His Blood is poured out for you in the Holy Communion, as it was shed for you in His Passion, for the forgiveness of all your sins — and for reconciliation and union with God in Him. What the Lord has accomplished for you by His sacrifice upon the Cross, He now shares with you in His Supper.

For He is the true Passover Lamb of God — chosen by His God and Father on this day, “Palm Sunday,” as the unblemished male lambs and goats were being selected on this day for the Jewish Passover that would coincide with His Passion later in the week. His Blood is thus shed to mark and seal the household and family of His Church, and to mark and seal your body, so that death takes Him and passes over you. His Body feeds you, and strengthens you in body and soul, and gives you life, as He by His passage through death into life brings you out of Egypt into freedom; out from under Pharaoh’s bitter yoke into the grace and glory of His own God and Father.

The Blood that He shed for you upon the Cross, which He now pours out for you at this Altar, is also the Blood of the New Covenant (or Testament), which has fulfilled and superceded the Old Covenant that God established with His people through Moses at Mt. Sinai. What all the blood of bulls and goats could never do, He has done with His own blood, once for all: He has made propitiation and atoned for the sins of the world. And that same holy and precious blood, which He has offered to the Father on your behalf, He now also gives you to drink, here at His Word, so that you are thereby sealed to God and receive all His benefits through Jesus Christ, your Lord.

It is to give you these good gifts — to mediate these good gifts to you — that He now comes to you in His Church on earth, and He calls you here to Himself, to meet Him here in His Word and at His Altar. He calls you to come in and with your body, but also in and with your heart and mind, and so also with all your thoughts, words and actions.

Humble yourself before Him, not as though He were a tyrant or a harsh taskmaster, but as He has humbled Himself for you. Pray, praise and give thanks in His Name; not as though you must appease Him or stroke His ego, but precisely because He is your gracious Savior, your Redeemer and your Helper, who loves you.

So love Him — and, loving Him, love your neighbor, also. If not with palms of homage in your hands, then with good works of love, with reverence before Him and with courtesy toward others.

Do not be afraid to humble yourself before God and in the presence of your neighbors. Do not be afraid to live righteously, that is, to live and walk by faith according to the Word of the Lord, and in such faith to love the people God has placed in your life, even those who hate you and hurt you. Whether for life or death, or whatever the Lord your God has called you to receive, to bear and do and suffer, do not be afraid, but have in you the mind and the Spirit of Christ Jesus.

If you are falsely accused, the Lord your God will vindicate you. If you are persecuted and even put to death, your dear God and Father will yet deliver you from every evil and bring you out of death into life. If you are weary and worn out, stretched to the point of exhaustion, He will raise you up, refresh you, and give you rest. If you are hard-pressed on all sides and burdened by more than seems at all possible to bear, He will help and sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.

If you perish, you perish, and yet, behold, even then you shall live.

You know that God, the Lord, will help and save you, and that He will raise you up again even from death and the grave, because He has already done so for you in the Person of Christ Jesus, your Savior. No less so does raise you from death to life through the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins, as also through your Baptism into the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.

And what, after all, is the mind of Christ concerning you? He is not angry or disappointed with you. He is not bitter, resentful or harsh. He is not ashamed of you, nor weary of you. Rather, the mind of Christ toward you is peace and love, joy and gladness. He delights in you. His thoughts of you are positive and pleasant. His attitude toward you is gracious and kind.

And the Spirit of this same Lord Jesus Christ — the Holy Spirit, whom He pours out upon you generously; the Spirit with whom He anoints you, and whom He breathes into your body through your ears with His Word of the Gospel — His Spirit is the living and Life-giving Spirit of Yahweh.

Therefore, you shall not die, but live, and enter with Christ into the land of the living forever.

The Holy Jerusalem He enters ahead of you is not only the earthly city of His Cross and Passion, once for all, but also the Holy City of His Church on earth, here and now, and the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, where He has already prepared a place for you in Himself; where, indeed, your life is already safely hidden with Christ in the bosom of His God and Father.

As He comes to you here and now — as He truly does by His Word, by His Ministry of the Gospel — and as He feeds you here with the Meat and Drink indeed of His Passover Feast, that is, with the very Body of God’s Lamb and with His Blood of the New Covenant — so does He gather you to Himself, and gather you up into Himself, and bring you in and with Himself into the Most Holy Place: to the very throne of God in heaven.

There seated at the Right Hand of His Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for you as your Royal High Priest, He reigns over you in love. No foreign power, no mortal foe, shall be permitted to harm or disturb you here. For such a gracious King you have, a better Shepherd of the sheep than even His father David! By His own death, He has gotten life for you, and in His Resurrection from the dead is the sure and certain promise of your own eternal inheritance.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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