Behold Your King
I love a good story. Especially when they are first hand accounts of some funny moment that happens to a person. Life is funny, and if the story teller is good, I can spend a whole day listening to someone just tell funny stories. Jeff Whitingham is an excellent story teller. I haven’t heard them all yet, but he is the teller laurette if that is a position. I also love telling stories and I’m sure that for some of oyu I have run some of them into the gorund. That’s the sad part of good stories, once you know what happens, hearing it again tempts us to boredom. It’s why I can’t watch most movies more than once. Today across the world Christians recognize today as Palm Sunday. We remeber especially on this day the account of Jesus entering Jersualem on a donkey, and as we read in John- the crowd of people shouting out for Him to save them, which is what Hosanna means. And I think this is a story we’ve heard so often that we lose it’s pop. For me it is actually one of the first stories that I can remember about Jesus. We all know about the palm leaves and the donkey, and the Hosannas.
But we see just tucked into this story, that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, which makes up our text this morning. This whole section is filled with these really big promises about Jesus and who he is and what he has done for us. And what we saw in our New Testament reading is important. “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” For the disciples there was some clarity in looking at this teaching in Zechariah and the actions of Christ to see what Jesus was saying about himself.
My aim for us this morning is to look at the Zechariah prophecy through the lens of Christ’s fulfillment and by doing so hear the Gospel in Zechariah for us and how it impacts us thousands of years later. I have four divisions this morning. First I’d like to set the stage so that we can understand the context of Zechariah’s message originally and see that time has not changed all that much. And then I want to dig into the prophecy itself looking for the promise of the humble king, the reign of the promised king, and the salvation of the reigning king.
So let’s first place oursleves in the sandals of Zechariah’s audience. The Babylonians had carried of the Israelites after invading the country and destroying the city of Jerusalem. Through some Mesopotmian House of Cards diplomacy it was Cyrus of the Medo Persian Empire who overthrew the Babylonians but enacted a policy where conquered peoples were allowed to rebuild temples and return to their own form of religion. He establishes a man named Sheshbazzar as the governor and very quickly he leves the scene and his nephew Zerubabel is seen as the real authority. Now Zerubabel is an heir to David. But he’s governor and not king. They are still a conquered people. The city doesn’t have walls which means there is also a lack of security.
Add to that the social issues. These are exiled Judeans. But not everyone came back. One commentator speaks of the tension between those who loved the security of Babylon and those who longed to reconstruct Jerusalem. So now your friend and you are coming up with different plans. Homes had to be built for those whose fmailies once had other homes. Life is not going well for them socially either. Leading to this resentment building among the people. The temple construction does eventually get going, but it is a long process. Between economic and political instability add to it the religious frustration of not having a place to worship as it had always been.
Now I know that the political social and religious tension may be foriegn to us. But do try to place yourselves in such a frame of mind. But the tension of the day tempts us in so many ways to bite and gnaw at each other. It tempts us to respond in anger. To respond in anger when we feel our rights or our ways of life are being threatened. We believe everything to be a threat to us and respond in vitriol to it, lashing out and thrasing about. Or perhaps we circle the wagons and find everyone who agrees with us. We shrink our community down to only the echo chamber of agreement and say in our hearts, “if they’re not on my side politically, socially, or religiously, then I must not be aroud them. Their solution is so differnet from mine, I cannot stand them. And so we exiles turn and exile our neighbor with our sectarinism. We are tempted and even encouraged by other Christians to build up the divide. We isolate ourselves from other believers based on tertiary issues; and then all the while sit back and wonder where all the community went. Ultimately this leads us to nihilism. To throw our hands up and say, “I am alone. There isn’t a point to all of this.” And we throw our hands up in defeat and depression.
See we are not that much different from the original context after all. And it is in our shared context that Zechariah says to the people and to us “Rejoice greatly! Shout aloud!” It’s the same language found throughout the Psalms, it is not a far stretch to think that he is urging us to sing loud and proud. It is in these days of tumult and and uncertainly that he calls us to celebrate and to worship. Amidst the chaos, the sectarinism, the strife, and doubt; the prophet calls us to take up a song of hope and victory grounded in this promise: your humble king is coming (read 9b)
The first thing we should see is that this king is our king. He is not some appointed governor like Zerubbabel or Sheshbazzar who merely administrates for someone else. No, this is a king, coming to claim his kingdom. He does not merely have appointed authority but has in and of Himself divine authority to rule and reign. God is establishing his Kingdom through him. Nor is he some foreign conquorer who comes to rule for his own might and benefit. He is the true and far better king. He is everything that these temporal kings have not been. No Christ comes not for his own benefit, but for ours.
We see that he is called righteous and having salvation. He is not prone to wickedness. He is in and of himself, just. Jesus was born under the Law, accepting all of its obligations and meeting them. Tempted just as we are, but sinless. But because He comes for us, his righteoussness is not for Himself. Rather, Christ comes to male us righteous. He comes bearing the forgiveness of sins. This is why we are called to rejoice- he comes bring the forgiveness of sins and salvation of our souls. By faith we are united to Christ. This King comes and makes us one with Him. He takes on our sins and gives us His abounding treasure of salvation. No other king does this! In no other kingdom does the new king give away the riches to his subjects. But we are today declared rightouess, just as sinless before God as Christ his.
But notice how Zechariah describes him- humble and mounted on a donkey. The word humble here is ok, the word here is weak, poor. This is the way that Christ has come- with weakness and humility he takes on our natture and becomes forever like us. He comes as carpenters son, poor. Leaving the glory of His Father, he does not come as Caesar’s son, with all the oppulence and might of Rome. He does not trade his heavenly glory for earthly glory. No no, he comes to as common and lowly- to the point that early one of the apostles said “Can anything good come from Nazareth?
How humble is this king? He so humble that he comes riding on a donkey. Zechariah tells us, and Christ comes litterally on a donkey. If you’ve heard a Palm Sunday sermon at all this is the part where I tell you that kings conquer on horseback. That those who recieve a triumphal entry ride in either on horse or on chariot, fully displaying thier military might. King Jesus does not come this way. One commentator notes that these donkeys are not the american form of donkeys that we would think but are even much smaller, so that a full grown man would likely have to tuck his knees and kneel so that his feet don’t drag. No Jesus comes to conquer sin and death not by the force of might and glory, but by dying. He trades his hevenly glory for the glory of a cross.
But the temptation for the hearer of Zechariah’s message, those crying out Hosanna, and for us this morning is the same. It is the temptation to say, “but I don’t want this king” We are so persuaded by sin to push Him aside and trade a theology of the cross for a theology of glory. He does not come as we think he ought. There are so many would be kings of our conscience or satraps of our soul calling out for our affections, offering up the trapings of temporary glory. They tell us to go seek wealth, or pleasure, or success and they tell us that by giving them our loyalty we will get there. They tell us that only when we give them our alleigence will the feelings of hopelessness end and our tribe beat the etheral threat out there. And so when we are presented with Jesus as He really is, humble and riding a peaceful donkey, we are not impressed with him. We do not want this gentle and mild Jesus as He is.
But weakness is the way. Humility is the way that salvation come. Christ has come in humility and God says that the chariot and and the war horse will be cut off. But notice who he’s speaking of here. Not from Babylon or the Persians. But rather Ephraim and Jerusalem. Christ reigns speaking peace to the nations. He is not threatened by temporal threats, be they a government that seeks to harm Him or the most recent philosophy that we come up with.
His Kingdom is everlasting. he reigns secure. And because He does, we do too. We confessed together this morning that Christ reigns in part by defending us. Because Christ reigns over us, we can rest. Becaue He is not thretened, then neither are we. So then we do not have to latch on to the anger and tribalism as the weapons of a defensive war against so called enemies. We do not need to throw our hands up in despair. But rather we out to rejoice that Christ has come and will defeat our enemies. Paul tells For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. All of them are subjected. We forget that Christ defeats His enemies by His single word. All his enemies bow down and submit to Him in the end. Because the humble king reigns we rejoice because He keeps His people secure.
But notice also, the scope of his rule. We see that “he will speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth” I think we can see this from two angles. Surely there is still a future hope in the reign of the humble king. His rule will be to the ends of the earth. There is coming a day when we can say to every tear of grief or sorrow, “It is light and momentary”. We can look at the chaos and insecurity around us and know that it too will be made right. We will find that the tribes put down their banners and come together. Everything sad will become untrue. Christ reigns until the death of death. And this peace will not be a false peace, or just a long standing one. It is not just peace in our time, but peace eternal. Where even the groaning creation is brought into perfect peace and harmony.
But this is not all. No in our present reality, we see that Christ has not just come for those that are of Jewish descent. There is a real promise here, that we are already experencing. Christ has come and brought peace to the Gentiles too. This is the good news of the Gospel for you this morning, and hear it clearly- that King Jesus has brought us into gracious submission as well. We sinners who had no hope and no true country are forgiven and made citizens of this kingdom. By faith Christ sets us free from our sin and reigns over us.
How does this humble king do this? By dying. By being sinless and yet being put to death. Paul tells us in Colossians 1
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven,
Christ rules and conquers all of his and our enemies by His blood. This King rode into Jerusalem yes humble, but still mighty. Yes to die, and yet to do so victoriously. This is the present reality that we now live in. Christ has come, and died in our place so that by faith your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.
So then we see finally that we are given the salvation of the reigning king. (v.11-12)
Christ has come to save us, because He keeps his covenant promises. Reading this we can spend a lot of time trying to nitpick which covneant is this, when the text doesn’t give us that, and I don’t plan to speculate and isolate. Rather we can look through the Scriptures and see examples of this all over. God promises in Genesis 3 tha tChrist will crush the head of the serpent. He promsies in Genesis 15 to Abraham that God will give Him an heir and a land and swears by Himself that He will bring it to pass. We can even think of David, wehre God promises him that he will have an heir that reigns forever. You see the Bible is really just one big narrative. We’re telling one big story. But the point here being, God has promised us that we are made right by faith. That he really will rescue us and save us.
Not because we’ve earned it. Surely not. We’re the prisoners. We’re the one’s in the waterless pit. We’re the one’s stuck in the place of misery and hopelessness. Yet Christ comes to us and keeps his promises. He becomes our stronghold and our double treasure. He sets us free from sin.
This is the message of Palm Sunday- Christ has come humbly on a donkey into Jerusalem. He was praised and welcomed. He was betrayed and tried. He was beaten and crucified. He was killed and buried. And He has ressurected and has ascended. He sits at His Fathers right hand reigning over us. He has brought salvation to us from our sin and from the misery of our condition, and we can cry out to Him- save us! Have mercy on us Son of David. And when w edo- we find our the salvation of our Humble King