Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! It’s a common and familiar phrase in our religious experience. It was so for the Jewish pilgrims, as well, making their way to the Temple for the feast of Passover, in Jesus’ day. They would greet one another with this verse from Psalm 118. Only, its meaning deepens in the Gospels. Now, it’s about Jesus. He is the One who is coming in the name of the Lord. And it’s the same for us in our usage of this phrase, when we sing it in the Sanctus – in the Holy Holy Holy we sing during our Eucharistic prayers. The Sanctus begins, echoing the heavenly song from Isaiah 6, as we sing: “Holy Holy Holy Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” But our song takes a turn, then, as we transition from that heavenly song to the songs of praise and shouts of greeting around what we call the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, we sing, and you might notice that, at that point, many of us make the sign of the cross. What’s happening there is, through this song and ritual action, we’re acknowledging that the One who comes in the name of the Lord is coming, even here and even now, to us, feeding us with his own broken body and shed blood at, and in, and through the Lord’s Supper.
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord to redeem us by his dying and rising.
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord to feed us with the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation.
Blessed is the One who comes, for you, for the forgiveness of sin…
Now, it’s interesting to note, and maybe you noticed or maybe you didn’t notice, because we surrounded our entry rite today with blessing of palms and our own shouts of hosanna, but Luke’s telling of this story doesn’t include either of these things. There are no hosannas and there are no strewn branches. Instead, the crowd spreads their cloaks along the way – a far more submissive and intimate and committed act. And instead of shouting “hosanna” which literally means: “Save, Now!” the people shout: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” They are calling on Jesus to be their ruler – the one who will be like King David of old, uniting the nation, overthrowing Rome and all other enemies, and ushering in a time of unity and peace and prosperity.
“Blessed is the King!” they shout, in direct opposition to the Roman Emperor, and in direct opposition to Herod, the ½ Jewish puppet in Galilee, supported and backed by Rome. This is politically charged language, and they know it.
Only, that’s not the kind of king Jesus is coming to be. Jesus isn’t coming to conquer earthly powers, though he certainly cares about those who are oppressed by those powers and expects that his followers are going to strive for justice and peace. Jesus is coming to conquer another sort of ruler. Jesus is coming to conquer sin and death. Sin – being curved in on the self. Sin – believing that I’m in control of my own destiny. Sin – the pull of the old Adam or Eve in you, telling you that you can be like God, that you have free will, that it’s up to you to decide to whom you belong, that you are fully autonomous, that you have no need of any external intervention. Sin – that leads only to death. Jesus is coming to conquer that!
Yes, blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, but he’s not the king you thought you were getting, and he’s not delivering you from the oppression you thought you were under…
“The Lord God helps me; Therefore I have not been disgraced” the prophet declares, continuing, “Who will contend with me?” and “Who are my adversaries?” “It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” Who, indeed, can declare you guilty? God in Christ greets you at the font in your Baptism, and in every remembrance thereof, including in confession and forgiveness, and declares you: “NOT GUILTY!”
This is our King! This is our Savior! This is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! This is the One who, though he was God, (that’s what “in the form of” actually means – it’s his nature. He actually was God.) and still, he chose to empty himself, and to be found in the form of a slave and the form of a human (again, meaning, that’s what he actually was).
God really became a human slave, for our sake, obediently accepting death on a cross, so that we might, joining with him in his death and resurrection, be save and delivered from sin, and from sin’s penalty, death, and that we might share in the exaltation of this One who comes in the name of the Lord – our King, Jesus, who helps us! Who will declare us guilty?
Let us turn now and read the Passion according to Saint Luke.