O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Waiting Colt
"The Waiting Colt"
November 28, 2010
Fellow baptized children of God, all those eagerly waiting for the return of the King. Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord King Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Amen. Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The beginning of the Church year, and the beginning of a new season. Advent means 'coming' and reflects a certain mood that has been felt by believers throughout all of history. A deep feeling of anticipation, preparation and expectation. This beginning is 'coming'. It has been anticipated by those waiting for the Christ-child, and it is anticipated by us waiting for His glorious return. Advent is a season of waiting for Jesus. A season to prepare for the coming of our King.
So you're probably thinking, yeah, this is Advent, so why did we just hear a Gospel reading from Palm Sunday? I think the pastor messed up! He read the wrong reading. But, consider what is really happening in our Gospel reading. Jesus is being received by His people as their king. Though today our focus is not His physical entry into Jerusalem , the story does teach us about the coming of our King, and the spiritual truths we can expect upon his physical return. Jesus is coming back, and our response will be much like Palm Sunday.
Now, as you can see, most of our text is about this young colt. What does this colt have to do with the coming of the King? Back in Biblical times, when a king was coming into his kingdom, he would always ride, most likely on an enormous, stately mount, like a warhorse. But Jesus gives quite specific instructions to His disciples, about the mount He will ride into His kingdom. As He enters His kingdom, Jesus will ride a young, lowly colt. And so there is no confusion as to why Jesus chose a colt - know this - this lowly colt represents the contrite heart of man. In order that you may be there with Him, Jesus chooses to ride you into His kingdom. You're heart is this specially chosen, yet lowly colt that the King rides. So, in this new advent season, let us consider how Jesus uses His colt to prepare our hearts for His triumphant return.
Now, in order to understand how Jesus is preparing our hearts, we must examine the colt at each stage of our text. When we are first introduced to the colt, it has three key characteristics. First, it has never been ridden. Second, it is tied up. And third, it is a lowly beast of burden.
So, what does it mean that the colt has never been ridden? Well, since the colt represents the inner man, that is our heart, the unridden characteristic shows we cannot be forced to do good things and somehow quit doing evil things out of our own free will. The colt has never been ridden. Our heart has never been subject to the good - ridden by a righteous rider. However, the outer man, that is our outward, bodily appearance and conversation, this can be forced to do the good and quit the bad by law, pain, punishment and shame, or perhaps it is motivated by favor, money, honor and reward. There is a big difference between the outward man and the inward man. This is why Scripture says all men are liars, and that no man does good of his own free will. For if there were no heaven or hell, no disgrace or honor, none would do good. If it were as great an honor and prize to commit adultery, as to honor marriage, you would see adultery committed with much greater pleasure than marriage is now held sacred. In fact, we've witnessed adultery and divorce increase just as law governing it decreases. In the same way, all other sins, such as stealing, murder, and rape, would also be done with greater pleasure than their virtuous alternative if there were no consequences. For this reason we know that all good conduct without grace is only smoke and mirrors, an act of the outer man. The heart and freewill of the inner man has never been ridden. But this is not a new teaching, for God said in Genesis, "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood." So the fact that the colt is unridden, shows us that our heart in incapable of doing good on its own.
The second key characteristic of the colt is that it is tied up. It is bound by fear. Trapped by a joyless, heavy conscience. Enslaved by a rotten free will. This beast of burden is weighed down, oppressed by its masters - sin, death and the devil. It has been tied up by these masters, and cannot get free. It must do what these masters demand. In this bound condition, our hearts are seized with fear. Terrified of death, the judgment of our lives, and the horrible truth that eternal punishment awaits us. Though unridden, our hearts carry great amounts of shame. Our burden is greater than the weight of any rider. We belong outside, tied up in the streets, burdened by great shame.
The third key characteristic of the colt is that it is only a lowly beast of burden. Who would ever want such an unworthy animal, let alone want to ride one into their kingdom? Donkeys are known for being dirty - perhaps this is why we have another, dirtier name for them. How could this unridden, tied up, dirty donkey be a suitable subject for a king like Christ? How could the greatest king of all time possibly use this colt as a mount? Our hearts are not worthy. They are not large, noble warhorses. Not champions of good, but champions of wickedness - Dirty, untamed and full of shame. O Lord God, have mercy on us!!!
But thanks be to God, that Jesus does not leave the colt in its hopeless condition. He does not leave our hearts alone. Instead, He sends His disciples to untie the colt, and bring it to Him, that He may ride it into His kingdom. And it is extremely interesting how this happens.
It is only when Jesus comes to Bethphage that He first says, "Go!" to His disciples. That they being sent by Christ, may retrieve the colt. Now this is significant, because Bethphage is a Hebrew word that means 'mouth-house'. Jesus is sending His disciples to proclaim the Gospel, the very grace of God, to the hearts of all people. To go forth from 'mouth-house' and retrieve the colt for Him. And if anyone questions them, a simple Word from the Lord is all that is necessary. (pause) It is the public preaching of the grace of God that is able to change hearts and make them willing. Willing to be ridden. Willing to do good. Jesus has given you the office of preaching to prepare your heart for His coming.
Of course, Jesus gave three specific instructions to His disciples about how to preach to the colt. First He said, "Untie it." In other words, speak my grace to those who are held captive by the law, and free them from their fear. Untie them from their masters - sin, death and the devil. Tell the humble hearted that I have conquered death, that I have suffered the punishment for their sin and I have endured the shame in their place. Give them a joyful reason to do good. For I have made them friends with the law, that it may pleasure them to fulfill it. Jesus prepares you for His coming by freeing you from the things that bind you - your fear and shame - sin, death and the devil - He frees you so that you may serve Him.
Jesus gave His disciples a second instruction for how to prepare the colt. He said, "Bring it." In other words, this free, humble colt is meant to be with me, the King. I have chosen it as my mount, which I will ride into heaven, the eternal Jerusalem. I have chosen this humble heart to be my throne, and my mount for (my burden is easy and my yoke is light…) Jesus prepares you for His coming by choosing your heart for service in His kingdom.
Finally, Jesus also prepares you for His coming by assuring you that it will be an amazing celebration. (Heaven rejoices over one sinner that repents…) People will be waving palm branches and every kind of flower that grows in the new creation, perhaps if we're lucky even hibiscus. Jesus and His colt will be surrounded by people shouting "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Does this sound familiar? Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Where do we hear that? I invite you to look with me on pg. 161 of your service book. Take a look at the Sanctus, which we sing during the service of the Sacrament. Let's read it together… Our King is coming! He is here! We celebrate the physical coming of our King every time we have the Lord's Supper. We celebrate His coming through His body and blood, in order that we may be prepared at His final return.
Christ has given His Church the office of preaching to prepare hearts for His return as King. He has sent His pastors to untie colts and bring them to Him. He has chosen your unworthy heart as His mount and throne, and He will ride you into His eternal kingdom. In the meantime, He comes to you in the Lord's Supper in order to prepare your heart for His arrival.
So, with such a certain joy in our hearts, let us spread the garments of good deeds before Him to honour His coming. Let us raise the good news everywhere, "blessed is the coming kingdom of Christ!" - "Jesus is coming to ride us home to heaven!" "Hosanna! - Save us! Save us now!" - "Jesus is coming back!" In His name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr