See, Your King Comes to You!
A sermon based on Zechariah 9:9-10
Sunday, April 17, 2011 – Palm Sunday A
Rejoice! When's the last time you used that word outside of church? It's not really a word we use every day, is it? But the concept is something we're familiar with. Our baby was born healthy and well! And we rejoice! Grandma made it into town, so mom and dad get a night out. And we rejoice! I got the job! I got the promotion! And we rejoice!
But at times it might not be so easy to rejoice. I lost the job. The marriage is in ruins. The baby didn't make it. And we might give Zechariah a questioning look when he tells us to rejoice. Rejoice, huh? Zechariah, you obviously know nothing about the way life usually works. So many things rob us of our joy and make it hard to rejoice.
But this morning as we look at one more Old Testament prophecy describing the coming Messiah this Lenten season, we're reminded that no matter how bad things may seem, no matter how bad things may be, we can still rejoice. We can rejoice in our King, Jesus, who comes to win our salvation. And once we rejoice in what he's done for us, we can shout and proclaim his peace to the ends of the earth. Listen again to Zechariah's Palm Sunday prophecy recorded for us in Zechariah 9:9-10…
9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
I. Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Zechariah has been called "The Holy Week Prophet." He prophesied that Jesus would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. He prophesied that when the Shepherd would be struck, the sheep would all scatter. And here, he prophesied how Jesus would ride into Jerusalem to being his conquering mission…
And oh, how God's people needed a Messiah to come to the rescue!
Few things deflate your spirit quicker than looking in your rearview mirror to see a cop or trooper flashing red and blue to signal you to pull over, especially when you know you're guilty of breaking a law. But nothing deflates your spirit quicker than looking in the rearview mirror of God's holy Law only to see the coming wrath of God.
God's people were back home in their promised land just like we heard Ezekiel prophesy would happen last week. But their city was in ruins. The temple was demolished. Their lives were in shambles. And when they looked over their shoulders, they knew that it was all because of their rebellion against God.
So how could they possibly rejoice?!
Because their King was coming. Of course, under the governor Zerubbabel they had no king. But this was a prophecy of the coming Messiah—the one who would rule over all nations! The one who would bring salvation from their sin—the very sin that brought them to ruins!
And this is made clear to us who see the fulfillment of verse 9 on Palm Sunday. In Jesus' day God's people looked at their situation, subject to Rome and Roman rules, paying taxes way higher than they could afford, suffering misery and frustration, and they looked to God's promises for hope. And they found the hope they were looking for in Jesus.
Here was one they thought would right the wrongs, rid them of the Romans, bring in perfect peace on earth and help them to rule the nations. But that's not the salvation Jesus would bring. Riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey demonstrated that. Oh, he was the Messiah, to be sure. That's why he came "and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
But he wasn't the type of Messiah they were looking for. He wouldn't ride in chariots. He wouldn't ride on war-horses. He would ride on a donkey—an animal of peace. He would take away the chariots and war-horses and destroy the weapons because his peace was not a physical, political, earthly peace. That's not the kind of salvation he would bring.
But, "See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation…" The King was not only righteous himself, but came bringing salvation, by giving his righteousness to his people. As the inspired apostle wrote in Romans 3: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." He came to bring them salvation from hell and peace with God. And so, even in the midst of the ruined city of Jerusalem, or even while subject to Roman rule, they could rejoice!
And so can we!
Friends, when you look back into the rear view mirror of life and see the consequences of your actions following you, when you see the wrath of God like the flashing red and blue lights chasing you, what kind of King do you look for? One who will save you from your problems or pain? One who will save you from trouble or hardship? Well, thank God you that you don't have that kind of King. You have one that wins the battle for you in a surprising way. He still doesn't mount war horses or chariots. He doesn't make you win the lotto every time. He doesn't end all opposition for you. And he doesn't take away your every pain.
But in a great battle, he made a sacrifice that looked like it spelled his defeat. Gentle and humble, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey that he might ride to his death. Palm Sunday was Jesus death march. But he did it for you so he could take away your sin. On the cross, as he filled your shoes when the wrath of God poured out against every sin, he rescued you! He rescued you from hell!
And so, now, no matter what satan and your fellow sinners throw your way, no matter what mistakes you've made, no matter what problems you face, you can still rejoice! Because your sins are forgiven! Heaven is yours! "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! …See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation!"
II. Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
Now Zechariah didn't just focus the people's attention on what the coming King would do for them, but he pointed out that his salvation would be for everyone! And he encouraged God's people to keep working to build up God's temple so they could be instrumental in letting the world know it.
Here he told them, "Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! …He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."
You may or may not have had reason to rejoice lately, but when was the last time you were so excited about something that you shouted out loud? The picture Zechariah paints here is like that of one winning the lottery. If someone handed you a lottery ticket this afternoon and tomorrow you discovered that you were the winner of half a million dollars, would you rejoice quietly? Of course not! You'd shout about it, at least after you'd cashed it in!
Or maybe this one's more realistic: Imagine sitting in the stadium watching the Super Bowl surrounded by thousands of fans cheering for your team to win. (Okay, for some of you—Lions fans—it's maybe less realistic than winning the lottery, but just try to imagine it, okay?) Finally, after a grueling game, your team scores the tie-breaking touchdown with seconds left on the clock. They win the Superbowl! Would you rejoice quietly?
No, of course not! You'd jump up and shout! You'd holler to everyone around you! You'd maybe even call up your friends, whether they were cheering for your team or the opposing team, and start screaming into the phone. Your excitement would be too much to contain!
Zechariah told God's people that they didn't need to rejoice quietly, but they could shout! Tell the ends of the earth what God had promised! Their King would come! He would bring them salvation! He would take away their sin! He would bring them peace! And this wasn't just for a few, but for everyone! "To the nations!" "From sea to sea!" "To the ends of the earth!"
Dear friends, far more exciting than any Super Bowl, worth more than any lottery could ever offer, you have something better: You have a King who's brought you salvation with his righteousness! Your sins are forgiven! Heaven is yours! So no matter what this life has to offer, you have paradise to look forward to! And he brought it not just for you, but "To the nations!" "From sea to sea!" "To the ends of the earth!" Don't keep quiet about it, but shout! How could you possibly keep quiet about it?! It's the most exciting thing the world has ever seen!
And if you're an introvert, that's okay. You can shout about your King in other ways! By your offerings that support the mission of Grace and of our synod, you help others shout about the King! By forwarding an email of a sermon or a link to our Easter series page, you shout about what Jesus means to you! By taking a few business cards inviting someone to hear about the Easter message that we don't need to be afraid of anything and simply leaving a card at the table in the restaurant or at the gas pump, you're helping to shout about what our King means to us!
So, "Rejoice greatly," dear friends, because "your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation!" Then, "Shout," dear friends! "…Proclaim peace to the nations…" And do your part, small as it may seem, to extend his Kingdom "from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth," in Jesus' name, and by the peace that he's brought you. Amen.