And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near — already on the way down the Mount of Olives — the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:37-40
Jesus’ coming is what we celebrate each Advent. Advent means “coming.” The Pharisees won’t acknowledge Jesus as king. Their hearts aren’t ready because they have ignored what the Scriptures said. Their hearts are hard as stones. Jesus knows this and rebukes them for it: “I tell you, if these [disciples] were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Sometimes, we too are as reluctant as stones to cry out. It’s hard to get out of a warm bed on a cold morning. We’re intimidated by the thought of talking to someone about our faith in Christ. We’re reluctant to invite people to Bible class or church. The worries of the outside world even distract us in our singing.
Our Lord has a way of bringing stones into His service. Saul was a Pharisee and persecutor of the church. Paul was changed and cried out to all who would listen to him about Christ crucified, even to the point when Paul himself was persecuted for the sake of Jesus. Sometimes, Jesus uses stones to proclaim the message to us. Isn’t that what a church building does? All of the seats point toward the altar and cross, representing God in Christ. The Lord is our audience. Crosses adorn our buildings, reminders of what was won for us, where Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews was enthroned. Paraments show royal colors (violet or blue). Banners proclaim the mighty works God has done. Stained glass windows are Christians sermons, too — in a more permanent form.
Is your heart ready for a king? Not on your own. It isn’t and it can never be. “The Lord is our righteousness.” That’s what Jeremiah preaches in the Old Testament. The Lord delivers the very righteousness He demands. He prepares your heart for His habitation.
Have you ever been silent as stones about Jesus? Here’s hope for you: Lutheran Service Book 333.1: Once He came in blessing, All our sins redressing; Came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; Bore the cross to save us; Hope and freedom gave us.
The Advent season isn’t to jump the gun on Christmas music, and these four weeks are about much more than shopping for family and friends. Jesus first came on Christmas. That’s what we prepare to celebrate each Advent. Repentance. Hope. Prayerful watching. Caring for one another. Sharing the good news about Jesus. Jesus comes to forgive you. LSB 333.2: Now He gently leads us; With Himself He feeds us Precious food from heaven, Pledge of peace here given, Manna that will nourish Souls that they may flourish.
Jesus comes today in His word and sacraments, especially his Holy supper. Is your heart ready for a king? Then have faith in Jesus’ words: “This is my Body.” “This is my Blood.” “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That makes one worthy and well prepared to commune. Jesus comes to forgive you. LSB 333.3: Soon will come that hour When with mighty power Christ will come in splendor And will judgment render, With the faithful sharing Joy beyond comparing.
Jesus comes again on the Last Day — His second coming, second Advent. Repentant, hopeful, watchful faith is how we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ First coming on Christmas, when He comes to us in His body and blood for our forgiveness, and when He comes again in judgment.
Is your heart ready for a king? Our own piety, works, goodness and preparations cannot prepare us. Jesus Himself prepares us even as we pray: (LSB 333.4) Come, then O Lord Jesus, From our sins release us. Keep our hearts believing, That we, grace receiving, Ever may confess You Till in heav’n we bless You. Jesus comes to forgive you.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Paul J. Cain is senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School/Immanuel Academy and a member of Pastors United in Christ.