Sermon for November 30, 2014

Sermon for First Sunday in Advent

November 30, 2014, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Mark 11:1-10

Sermon Theme:  “The ‘Door’ Enters Through the ‘Gate’”

(Sources:  Online PulpitBytes; Online Wikipedia; original ideas; Believer’s Bible Commentary; Believer’s Bible Commentary; Harper’s Bible Dictionary; Nelson’s Three-in-One)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

The theologians who prepare the three-year lectionary for us don’t seem to know what to do with the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Back in the days of the one-year lectionary, a gospel reading of the Triumphal Entry was read twice a year, — on the First Sunday in Advent and again on Palm Sunday.  Today, Psalm Sunday has been replaced by Passion Sunday, with the Passion Readings, and the alternate text for Advent One, concerning the Last Day when Christ comes back to judge us, is used by just about every church except the LCMS.

I’m glad our LCMS lectionary included this text about Jesus’ triumphal entry through the Jerusalem double gate for this special day when we dedicate the new entry doors into our church. 

A portal can be either a gate or a door, and in ancient times there was usually no distinction between a gate and a door.  That’s the reason some English translations talk about the “gate” to the sheepfold, and other translations call it a “door.”  On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem through its eastern gate.  Tradition says He entered through the Golden Gate on the eastern walls of the city, — also known as the “Gate of Mercy,” “The Beautiful Gate,” and, in Arabic, the “Gate of Eternal Life.”  All of these terms are highly symbolic.

Usually, when we preach about our Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, we don’t mention the fact He entered through the Eastern gate, which, in art, is often depicted with double arches containing double doors.  The symbolism here is so powerful, especially on the Sunday we dedicate our beautiful new church doors.

There are two Scriptures which make this symbolism even more relevant.  The first one is, Revelation 3:8, and the second one, John 10:9.

Revelation 3:8 says, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”  And in John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”

Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey through the Beautiful Gate, the Gate of Eternal Life, amid Hosannas and palm branches, on the way to the Cross.  Soon after His entry into the City, He is tried and convicted, beaten and given a cross to carry to His crucifixion.  But, you see, it is His crucifixion and resurrection that become the door to eternal life for all of us.  When He enters the door to Jerusalem, He is entering the door for our salvation, and so He becomes that door.  No doubt that’s why He says to us, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”  This is very important, because there is no other door to heaven.

According to our text, Jesus, on His way to Jerusalem, had paused on the east slope of the Mount of Olives, near Bethphage and Bethany before making His final entrance into Jerusalem.  It was time for Him to fulfill the Old Testament prophesy of Zechariah and present Himself to the Jews as the Messiah-King.  He was the only one who knew what His mission was, even though He had tried to communicate it to His disciples.

Many of the people saw Him only as an earthly King, but some at least had an inkling that He was the promised Messiah, because they shouted “Hosanna,” which originally meant, “Save us, we pray” (in later years, it came to be an expression of praise).  For many who shouted “Hosanna,” it just meant, “Save us from Roman subjugation.”  Very few, if any, grasped the fact that He came to save them from their sins and eternal damnation.  The Jewish religious leaders, who soon became his enemies, did not explain to the people what the Messiah was going to be like, even though Isaiah and other prophets had described the messianic nature and mission in their prophesies.

Of course the irony of this so-called “victory march” into Jerusalem is that many of the same people who shouted “Hosanna,” (save us, we pray) on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucify him” on Good Friday.  What the people thought of Him when He entered the Golden Gate into the city, and when He exited the city gate carrying His cross were two very different attitudes.  Hebrews 13:12 says that the place of Jesus’ crucifixion was outside the gate to the city, but we don’t know the exact spot.

So Jesus entered Jerusalem through the double doors of the Golden Gate, and we wonder if He went out the same gate to be crucified (though there were eight city gates in all).  Again the gate/door symbolism is so powerful, yet it’s rarely mentioned in Bible commentaries I have read.

During the entry into Jerusalem, the people were shouting, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” a verse that comes for Psalm 118, verse 26, which suggests they recognized His Messiahship, but they didn’t know the nature of it.  It also seems significant to me that, in this same Psalm, 118, verse 20, the psalmist says, “This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.”  And it is also in Psalm 118, in verse 22, where we read, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”

Further irony is seen in the fact that it is all there, in prophesy, in Psalm 118, the psalm the people obviously knew by heart.  They don’t realize when their “hosannas” turn into shouts to “crucify Him” a few days later, they are rejecting the capstone.

Our door symbolism can be summed up with four passages from Scripture:

In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved.”

In John 10:7, Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep.”

In the Parable of the Ten Virgins from Matthew 25:10, — and my sermon was about this on November 9, — Jesus says, “While they [the foolish virgins] went to buy [oil], the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage; and the door was shut.”

The door symbolism would not be complete without Acts 14:27, which tells how God had opened the door of faith to the gentiles.  It is clear then that God loves everybody and wants everyone to be saved.

What do these passages, along with our sermon text, say to us on the Sunday we’ve chosen to dedicate the new doors serving as an entry way into our church?  Jesus is the door to salvation.  Jesus is the gate for the sheep.  For the foolish, the door will be closed.  The Golden Gate on the walls of Jerusalem is the way to our Lord’s condemnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.  The door of faith is open to all people, Jew and gentile alike.

The beautiful new entrance doors to our church can be seen from the street and they invite the passerby to come within the walls of our sanctuary, to worship in God’s House.  They stand there for God’s glory and in memory of one of our departed brothers, Bill Hein, whom God used to serve faithfully in this House for many years, answering the Lord’s call to be a Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, Elder, and in many other roles, from usher to roof repairman.

These doors will serve as a symbol of our future as a church.  You know, the ancient church had a position the modern church no longer has – Porter – “the keeper of the portal”; in other words, “doorkeeper.”  In the modern church, we are all “porters,” that is we are all “doorkeepers,” making both the churched and the unchurched feel welcome within our doors, as a part of our church family.

As long as the Holy Spirit dwells within the hearts of members of our church, many people seeking God and His Word will continue to flow through our beautiful new doors.  As long as we remain a hospital for sinners rather than an exclusive country club, many people needing spiritual healing will continue to flow through our beautiful new doors.  As long as we remain faithful porters for God’s House, and through Christian love bring people in rather than by our coldness and indifference turn them away, many people needing God’s love and mercy will flow through our beautiful new doors.

May God in His omnipotence see to it that these doors are never shut!  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.