Home > Advent > Advent 1 2014–“Do You Know What Salvation Looks Like?”

Advent 1 2014–“Do You Know What Salvation Looks Like?”

palm sundayFirst Sunday of Advent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 21:1-9

November 30, 2014

“Do you know what salvation looks like?”

Iesu Iuva

In the name of Jesus.


About fifteen years ago there were riots in Seattle, Washington that lasted, if I remember correctly, over a week.  You probably don’t remember them because they were so far away.  But I was living in Seattle then, and every night on the news there would be pictures of neighborhoods not too far from mine full of tear gas and police with clear plastic shields and rioters wearing bandannas and hoodies smashing shop windows.


After it was over somebody made a poster.  It had a picture of a line of cops facing off with a group of protesters.  Underneath it said in big letters: This is what democracy looks like.


Now the point of that sign was to change people’s perspective.  We usually don’t think of democracy looking like a riot.  We think of people going to vote at polling places in November as being democracy.  But whoever made the poster wanted to make the point that we don’t really know what democracy looks like.  The riots in Seattle were real democracy, according to that sign.


But this morning we’re not concerned with what democracy is or isn’t.  The question before you today is, “Do you know what salvation looks like?”  The crowds in the Gospel reading thought they did.  That’s why they were yelling, “Hosanna!” which means, “Save us now!”  They thought salvation looked like Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.


They were partly right.  Salvation does look like Jesus riding to Jerusalem on a donkey.  It also looks like Jesus being arrested in the night.  It looks like Jesus being falsely accused and spit on.  Salvation looks like Jesus being fogged and mocked.  It looks like the crowds screaming, “Crucify Him!” where they once yelled, “Save us!”  It looks like Jesus carrying His cross to Golgotha, being nailed to it, being lifted up, dying.


Today also salvation looks different than we expect it to look.  This is what salvation looks like—a preacher preaching Jesus to a congregation of people.  Salvation looks like us today.  Salvation looks like a little baby being baptized with water in the name of the Father, son, and Holy Spirit.  It looks like the absolution being pronounced over a penitent sinner who has just confessed his sins.  It looks like people kneeling at the rail receiving the bread and wine of Christ’s supper.


This is what salvation looks like.


And yet our flesh doesn’t see salvation in these things.  Our flesh most certainly does not see salvation in a man dying a shameful death on a cross.  It doesn’t see a great king there.  And our flesh doesn’t recognize a kingdom of salvation in the preaching of words, in the application of water, bread, and wine accompanied by the speaking of some words.


And when lives that have been touched by those words then go out of these doors and live lives marked by suffering, weakness, and finally death, our flesh certainly does not think that this is what salvation looks like.


Poor blinded sinners!  If our flesh is allowed to decide what is really salvation and what isn’t, then we will never see our salvation when He comes.


We are just like the crowds who greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday.  They were right to greet Jesus with Hosannas and call Him the promised King, the Christ, the Messiah.  But despite the fact that Jesus had told them—His disciples, at least—what He was going to Jerusalem to do, they didn’t understand.


Jesus was going to Jerusalem to establish His kingdom, yes.  To win a victory, yes.  To bring salvation, yes.


Jesus was coming to do all those things.  And what would salvation look like when He accomplished it?  It would look like Him hanging dead, desolate, forsaken, on the cross.


When we celebrate Holy Communion, we sing, “Hosanna—Save us!”  And more fitting words were never sung, because we need Him to save us.


When we baptize a baby, we rejoice that the little one is receiving salvation.


But we don’t realize, don’t understand, that becoming a participant in Jesus’ kingdom and salvation is becoming a participant in His serving and His suffering and His death.


So when I am baptized and have eaten Jesus body and drunk His blood, and I go out into my daily life to serve my family, my boss—and it is unrewarding, or I feel beaten down, bored, tired, or what have you, there could be a sign underneath saying, This is what salvation looks like.


When I am baptized and have heard the precious words of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus blood, and I go out from this place and continue to struggle with sin, so that I must continually come to Jesus for forgiveness, there could be a sign underneath saying This is what salvation looks like.


When I am baptized and have eaten Jesus body and drunk His blood and I go out from this place and become sick, so that my strength and ability to do for myself is taken away, or when I face death, my own or my loved one’s, there could be a sign going with me saying This is what salvation looks like.


Jesus hasn’t abandoned us when those things happen.  He is leading us into salvation, as He promised.  We participate in His death.


How we resist this!  We want a kingdom we can see and glory we can feel.  If we were left to ourselves that is what we would pursue, and we would fail to see salvation when it comes.


Good news!  Rejoice greatly, daughter of Jerusalem!  Jesus is coming to you to open your eyes to see salvation.


He goes to the cross to win not an earthly victory over earthly enemies, but a spiritual victory over the powers of sin, death, and hell.


He comes on a beast of burden, meek and gentle, because He is coming to serve you; to pay for your sins and to open your eyes to see Your salvation.


He comes in His word to serve you and to pronounce you saved and victorious in Him.  He opens your eyes through His Word so that you may see salvation not in earthly splendor and wealth and power but in Him.


He answers our cries of Hosanna each week.  He gives us not empty symbols but His true body and blood.  And having given us salvation in His flesh and blood, he leads us in the way that He walked in the flesh.  He leads us under His cross to put to death our sinful nature.


He is not forsaking us, but bringing us into the fullness of our inheritance.  He is teaching us to take hold of Him and His salvation not in what we see and feel, but in His Word, where He declares that everything is ours.


Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, Jesus said in the fifth chapter of this Gospel of Matthew.  He comes in meekness and serves us.  He wins the earth by His humble obedience.  The Father gives Him the ends of the earth as His inheritance  because He humbled Himself and took on the sin of the world, the sin of His enemies in meekness.  And what Jesus has won by His meekness He gives to us.


He gives it to us now in the Word.  On the last day He will give it to us so that we see and feel it.  But it is as really and truly ours through His Word now as it will be then.




The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Soli Deo Gloria

  1. John J Flanagan
    December 2, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Excellent points. You went right to the essence of salvation……Christ. God bless you.

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