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It’s very fitting that Luke records Jesus’ parable of the ten minas right before his account of Palm Sunday. You might remember that, in that parable, Jesus pictures himself as a nobleman who travels to a distant country to be made king and then return. But some of his workers don’t want him to be made king. They even send a delegation to state their objection. But the objection is overruled, and he is made king anyway. When he returns, he has his servants give an account of how they managed his possessions while he was gone. Then he says, as for those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and kill them in front of me.
What a strong warning for those among the crowds on Palm Sunday who called on Jesus to tell the children who welcomed him with songs of praise to be quiet. What a strong warning for those among the crowds on Palm Sunday who later said to Pilate, we have no king but Caesar, and who asked him to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus, who objected to Pilate’s placard on the cross that called Jesus the King of the Jews.
In one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, he says to the people, when you hear that there was no room for Jesus in the inn, you are quick to say, ‘If I had been there, I would have welcomed him.’ You say that so confidently, but how do you welcome him now? The temptation is the same for us as we think about Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We are quick to say “If I had been there, I would have welcomed Jesus. I would never have called for Barabbas or the crucifixion of Jesus. But it’s good for us to ask ourselves the question Luther asked. How do we welcome him now?
David begins by reminding us, The earth is the LORD’s and everything that fills it, the world and all who live in it, because he founded it on the seas, and he established it on the rivers.
As you hear those words, the one and only Triune God is knocking at your door. Do you acknowledge him as your king? Do you open the gates and let him in?
Unfortunately, many, not just out there in the world, but in the church, shut the door on the one and only king of the universe. They join the servants of the nobleman and say, “we don’t want him to be our king.” And it’s not just by rejecting what the Bible clearly says, that everything is the Lord’s because he made it. It’s what everyone does by nature. Ever since Adam and Eve tried to be like God everyone wants to be their own god. Everyone wants to do their own thing without consequences. That’s really where evolution comes from. Not science, but man’s original sin; man’s desire to be his own god. You see, if God is not the creator and owner of everything then we don’t have to answer to him, there is no such thing as sin and no such thing as eternal punishment or eternal glory. Sinful humans want to be their own king.
Lift up your heads, you gates. Lift up, you ancient doors, and the King of Glory will come in. Who is he, this King of Glory? The LORD of Armies—he is the King of Glory. Acknowledge that the one and only Triune God, the Lord of Armies, of the heavenly hosts of angels, the maker of the stars and galaxies, is the King. Acknowledge that he is your king. Acknowledge that he made you and all that exists, that he gave you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, everything you are and have. Recognize that he will return and that you will have to give an account for the way that you have used your body, your time, and all the possessions he allowed you to take care of for him.
Acknowledging that the one and only Triune God is the king of glory, the ruler of heaven and earth, the one who will call you to give an account for the way you manage his property raises some important questions.
Who may go up to the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, whose soul is not set on what is false, who does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God who saves him.
When Jesus returns, having been made king because he accomplished his mission, defeated death, and Satan, rose from the dead and is seated on his throne in heaven, who will stand before him? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. Does that describe you? Are you one who never trusts in worthless things or swears by something that isn’t true? Have you ever trusted in your own strength or wisdom? Have you ever trusted in your savings, or in medicine, or the promises of a politician that turned out to be a lie? Have you ever promised on oath to do something and then not done it?
Obviously, we have all sinned. None of us have clean hands and a pure heart. None of us deserve to stand in the holy place of the king of glory. None of us are any better than those on Palm Sunday who didn’t want Jesus to be welcomed as a king and who later called for his crucifixion and objected to the sign that called Jesus their king. When Jesus comes, he should call for our execution, our eternal punishment with Satan and all sinners.
But David gives us hope. He talks about receiving blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God who saves us.
David says, Lift up your heads, you gates. Lift yourselves up, you ancient doors, and the King of Glory will come in. Who is this King of Glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
What a battle we witness this week! We see Jesus struggling with his emotions as he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. Imagine him washing the feet of Judas knowing what he would do, yet not washing them any differently than the others. Imagine how he must have wanted to shake Peter when he bragged about how he would be the only one who would not forsake him. We see the struggle he faced as he prayed in the garden, praying so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood. Imagine seeing the cup of suffering for sin, not just the sins of a few, but for the sins of every person who ever has or ever will live. Imagine the struggle to keep from calling down fire and brimstone on those who were telling lies and who were making a mockery of their positions as spiritual leaders. Imagine the struggle to keep from cursing those who mocked and cursed him for no reason. We hear the struggle as he calls out from the cross, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.
We witness the battle. We hear the struggle. But then we hear the proclamation of victory. It is finished. Next Sunday we celebrate that Jesus is indeed the king of glory. He is the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. He is the one who was delivered to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification. He is the one who took on Satan and crushed his head. He is the one who defeated the last enemy, death itself. He rose from the dead. He ascended back to heaven as the conquering hero. He has been made king. All things have been placed under his feet. He is the redeemer king, the God who saves us, the one who graciously gives us the righteousness we need to stand before God. He is the one who enables us to cleanse our sin-stained hands with his blood, and who creates a pure heart within us. Welcome him as your king, your conquering hero.
Your king comes to you, meek and lowly. He comes to you in a way that is despised by the world. He comes to you as one who was crucified. He comes to you, not with fantastic signs and miracles, but with a simple proclamation. He proclaims his victory in the Word. He offers righteousness and forgiveness in words, gracious promises attached to water, and bread, and wine. As Scripture says, Today, as you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts. Lift up your heads, your redemption has come. Welcome the king of glory as your Lord, your creator and your redeemer, the God who Saves You. Welcome him by reading, hearing, and learning his word daily, and by receiving his sacrament often. Have him enter your heart in the only way he promises he will, through the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament.
Jesus is one with the Father from eternity. He is the creator and king of the universe. He chose to come down to earth and fight our battle with sin, death, and the devil for us. He won the victory. He lived a perfectly righteous life in our place. His heart was always pure, and his hands were always clean. He went to the cross as the spotless lamb of God and took on himself the punishment we deserve. His resurrection proves his victory. Like the nobleman in his parable, he has gone to heaven as God and man to be declared our Redeemer king, our king of glory. On a day no one knows he will return in the clouds of heaven and everyone will bow before him, even those who pierced him. Be watchful. Eagerly await his return. Serve him as your king now as you look forward to welcoming him when he returns in glory.