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Palm Sunday, “See, Our King Comes”

Pastor Gary Wong April 5, 2020

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.

Dearly beloved friends in Christ,

It’s certainly been a busy season, hasn’t it? I’m not talking about the season of Lent; I’m talking about the election season. Even though it hasn’t been in the news lately, we will have the opportunity and privilege of choosing the next president of the United States this coming November. Already, the field of possible candidates has been narrowed down to just a handful of individuals. Regardless of the person whom you might favor, there are certain characteristics and abilities that all of us would want to see in our next president. We would want our next Commander-in-Chief to be strong on defense—one who will protect us from our enemies. We also would want the next leader of the free world to have a plan to restore the economy that is being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. We would want him to be just and to treat everyone equally and with compassion.

I don’t know that we’ve ever had a president with all of these qualities; or that we ever will. That’s because none of us is perfect. But what if there were a perfect leader? How excited would you be, knowing that there is someone who can solve our biggest problems? In today’s lesson, the prophet Zechariah tells us the good news that the perfect leader does exist. He is none other than our Savior and King, Jesus Christ. On this Palm Sunday, we, along with the entire Christian Church on earth, celebrate our King’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Let us shout with joy as we see our gentle King coming in humility. Let us rejoice that our righteous King brings peace and salvation.

Zechariah’s prophecy, written some five hundred years before Christ’s first coming, is certainly good news. It was good news to the Jews who saw its fulfillment on the day we call Palm Sunday; and it is good news for us who eagerly look forward to Jesus’ second coming on the Last Day. Even though we are separated from those believers by time, we live in different places, in different cultures and under different circumstances, we do share some things in common with them.

One of those common denominators is living with the threat of our enemies. For the Jews of Jesus’ day, the enemy was the mighty Roman Empire. Even though Palestine was living under the “Pax Romana”—the famous peace of Rome that was enforced at the point of a sword—it was an uneasy peace which the Jews deeply resented. Hatred was not too strong a word to describe how the Jews felt about their conquerors who now occupied their homeland. Basically, the Jews wanted to be rid of the Romans in the worst way. Unfortunately, they had no power to make that happen. The only thing they could do was pray to God for someone to deliver them from the hands of their oppressors.

The sense of peace that we had enjoyed for so long (and perhaps had taken for granted) has often been shattered by our enemies. The sense that our country is an impregnable fortress was forever lost when the Twin Towers came crashing down on 9/11. Ever since then, we have been waging a war on terror. We are fighting our enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, the security of our own borders has become a major concern. Knowing that we are vulnerable to attacks by an enemy whose sole aim is to wipe us off the face of the earth is not a good feeling. So, like the Jews of Jesus’ day, we also pray for someone who can bring peace to our nation.

Another thing we have in common is trying to make ends meet in uncertain economic times. A couple of months ago, our economy was roaring. Unemployment was at an all-time low; the stock market was at an all- time high. The COVID-19 virus, however, has not only turned our lives, but our economy, upside down. Unemployment claims are at historic highs. Some people are fortunate to be able to work at home, but many cannot; many restaurants and businesses have been forced to close their doors. Many people wonder how they are going to pay their bills without a paycheck.

And then there are taxes. We give so much to our government in taxes that it seems as though we are being taxed to death (and by the way, death is taxed as well!). Our forefathers started a revolution because there was taxation without representation. These days, however, many of our own elected representatives are pointing the tax gun at us and practically saying, “Give us all of your money!” If you think that ours is the first government that is guilty of levying high taxes, guess again. The Jews paid exorbitant taxes to the Romans. And to add insult to injury, many of these corrupt tax collectors were their fellow Jews who were gouging their own people!

There’s yet another common bond between the Jews of Jesus’ day and us. We complain; we grumble and we whine about our problems. We also play the blame game. We blame anyone and everyone for our problems. And yet for all of our complaining and finger pointing, the finger of blame never seems to be pointed in our own direction. It’s always someone else’s fault for getting us into whatever mess we might find ourselves.

When we fail to take personal responsibility for our own actions and choices, it’s only natural that we would also look for someone else to bail us out. That’s why the crowds went crazy when they saw Jesus enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. They remembered the prophecies about the coming Messiah—that he would be a descendant of Abraham and David; that he would be born in Bethlehem but that he would grow up in Nazareth, and the list went on and on. Jesus fit all of those details to a “T”. On top of that, many in the crowd had either witnessed or heard about Jesus’ miracles. They knew that Jesus had given sight to the blind, the deaf were able to hear, and the lame could walk. They knew that Jesus had cast out evil demons, had turned water into wine, and had even raised the dead to life. Since Jesus had the power to do all of that, they figured that it would be child’s play for him to exorcise a few tax collectors and send the Romans packing.

That’s the kind of Messiah that many people were hoping for and were expecting to see. The problem is that their idea of the Messiah did not jibe with what the prophets had foretold about the Savior. They didn’t understand what kind of king Jesus was; they didn’t understand the nature of his kingdom. They didn’t understand the nature of his mission nor how he was going to accomplish it. Many people, then and now, were like Pontius Pilate who needed to be told by Jesus, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world … [But] my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest” (John 18:36).

Yes, Jesus came into this world to do battle against our enemies. But Jesus’ fight was not against legions of Roman soldiers or bomb-carrying terrorists. Jesus came to this earth to fight against our greatest enemies: sin, death, and the devil. The war Jesus came to fight (and win) was a spiritual, rather than an earthly one. And yes—Jesus came to bring peace. But friends, let’s make one thing absolutely clear: even though Jesus came to fight against the devil and all his evil ways, the peace Jesus came to establish is peace between God and man (not warring nations, neighbors or relatives). The Bible teaches that all of us were born enemies of God. By nature, we fight God at every turn. We do the things God doesn’t want us to do and don’t do the things he wants us to do. How smart is that—to fight against our almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who has power over life and death? Not only is fighting against God foolish, it is deadly. The prophet Ezekiel warns us of the inevitable outcome of anyone who opposes God: “the soul who sins is the one who will die” (Eze. 18:4).

Because all of us have sinned, all of us deserve to die and spend eternity in hell. Who, then, can rescue us from this body of death? It is none other than God’s own Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus came to fight a spiritual war, it stands to reason that Jesus would not fight his battles with conventional weapons. Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem mounted on a war horse. Our Savior was not armed with a sword, spear, or battle bow. Rather, Jesus’ entire life on earth was marked by humility and gentleness. Jesus won the battle against sin by not sinning. He conquered death with his own innocent death on the cross. Though Jesus had done no violence, our Savior suffered the most violent, cruel death imaginable. The sight of Jesus’ bloody body on a cross—a crown of thorns on his head, his hands and feet pierced by nails—certainly did not fit the image of a conquering hero. Yet, Jesus’ shout of “It is finished” signaled his complete victory—a victory he would proclaim to the devil when Jesus descended into hell; a victory he would proclaim to the world on Easter Sunday when our Savior rose triumphantly from the grave.

What, then, are the implications of Christ’s victory for you and me? First of all, the war is over. Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil is also our victory through faith in him. It means that we are at peace with God. Jesus’ victory gives us the courage to fight our personal battles against the devil and the temptations to sin. Because of his love for us, our Savior has not left us defenseless. Rather, he has given us the armor of God—the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit—with which to defend ourselves. God’s Word also reminds us that we are not alone as we fight the good fight of faith. Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). King David tells us, “The LORD is [our] strength and [our] shield” (Ps. 28:7). Even though we cannot see him, we are comforted knowing that Jesus is watching over us and is protecting us from all harm. We take our problems—our concerns about our health, our jobs, the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the coronavirus—to our Almighty God, confident that he hears and answers our prayers for Jesus’ sake. Jesus, who overcame death, will surely overcome COVID-19! Finally, Jesus’ victory assures us that when our earthly battles are over, Jesus will lead us through the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem where we will live forever in perfect joy and peace.

Dear friends, God’s people shouted for joy when they saw their Savior riding into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. Jesus has promised that he will come again in glory on the Last Day. Therefore, let us look forward to that great and glorious day when we will praise God and shout with joy, “See! Our King comes!” Amen.

May the peace of God that transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

“All Glory, Laud, and Honor”

(CW 121)

Text: Theodulph of Orleans, c. 762-821; tr. John M. Neale, 1818-66, alt.

Tune: Melchior Teschner, 1584-1635, alt.

All glory, laud, and honor To you, Redeemer King.

To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring.

You are the King of Israel And David’s royal Son

Now in the Lord’s name coming, Our King and blessed one.

All glory, laud, and honor To you, Redeemer King.

To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring.

The company of angels Is praising you on high.

And we with all creation In chorus make reply.

All glory, laud, and honor To you, Redeemer King.

To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring.

The people of the Hebrews With palms before you went;

Our praise and prayer and anthems Before you we present.

All glory, laud, and honor To you, Redeemer King.

To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring.

To you before your passion They sang their hymns of praise;

To you now high exalted, Our melody we raise.

All glory, laud, and honor To you, Redeemer King.

To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring.

As you received their praises, Accept the prayers we bring;

O Source of ev’ry blessing, Our good and gracious King.

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