This month’s guest devotion comes from Rev. Clinton Hoff, a Career Missionary serving in Prague, Czech Republic. Pastor Hoff serves the English speaking congregation in Prague, and works to plant new churches also for native Czech speakers. Pastor Hoff reflects on the Gospel reading from this past Sunday in the one-year-lectionary.
–Rev. Clinton Hoff
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”” (Matthew 21:1–11 ESV)
The Gospel reading for the First Sunday in Advent in the one-year lectionary and for each year of the three-year lectionary highlights the same event in Jesus’ life and ministry: his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This text is worth meditating on because there is much Good News in it to comfort the believer as he waits for Christ to return. Here are the basic elements of the narrative: As Jesus neared Jerusalem—where He would soon be crucified—He told two disciples to go into Bethphage where they would find a donkey tied up; they were to take the donkey and if anyone should ask, they were to simply say, “The Lord needs them”; the disciples went ahead and found things just as Jesus said and returned with the donkey; then, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey to the praises of the crowd who proclaimed Him the promised king and son of David.
First, notice the clear aspect of divine omniscience on Jesus’ part when He foretold that the disciples would find the donkey tied up in Bethphage. This is Good News. It proves what we confess in the Creed, that while He is fully man born of the Virgin Mary He is also true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. If Jesus is not God in the flesh, His entry into Jerusalem as the promised king would have been a sham, and His death on the cross would have failed to atone for the sins of the world. Make no mistake: mankind needed a divine savior whose life was blameless and whose death was truly innocent. Only then could His death satisfy God’s wrath against all sin. And only then could our great enemy, the devil, be destroyed (the devil has no power over the divine and truly righteous, but only over sinners).
Second, notice the aspect of irony in the text. Jesus is the Son of God and the promised king of the Scriptures, but He does not enter into Jerusalem in a chariot driven by the fanciest steeds of the day with satin banners unfurled and professional trumpeters announcing His coming. This would indeed be what the world would expect of a king. Instead, Jesus rode in on a donkey, a beast of burden, with only the shouts of commoners. This is also Good News. It is Good News because it shows that sight has no value in God’s economy. The world expects the beautiful to succeed, the smart one with lots of diplomas behind his desk to succeed, the rich one with the nice car to succeed, and so on. But praise be to God, this text proves that He is unimpressed with what the world views as valuable and important and appropriate. The Good News then is that there is genuine hope for the ugly, the foolish, and the poor (and really, we are all these because of our sins).
Lastly, this text is an invitation to believe. The Good News that Jesus is the son of Mary and the omniscient Son of God, and the Good News that God is unimpressed with what the world sees as valuable is a call to believe. It is a call to walk by faith and not by sight. It is an invitation to consider the One who only days after entering Jerusalem was hanging on the cross for you and for me, and repent and believe; believe that God’s wrath against our sins was truly satisfied on the cross, and believe that because of Christ there is true hope for the one the world looks on and despises.
Let us Pray: Heavenly Father, grant us Your Holy Spirit that we might hear Your word and believe that Your Son humbly entered Jerusalem and died on the cross for us. Grant that we might walk by faith and not by sight, anticipating Christ’s return to take us home. Amen.
- Clinton Hoff serves as evangelistic missionary to the Czech Republic. He is pastor of an English language congregation that meets at St. Michael Lutheran church in the capital city of Prague. He is also currently studying Czech to be able to found new pastors and congregations in the country. He is married to Lalita and together they have eight children.
- Learn more about Pastor Hoff by visiting his online giving page.