Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | March 28, 2010

Sermon on Zechariah 9:9-10

Jesus — The King Like No Other

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

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. 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.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Read through Zechariah and suddenly you empathize with the apostles.  John writes:  Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him. Reading through Zechariah, you wonder, “How did any one figure that out?”  You might say you’ve found words more challenging than Revelation.  You say, “I can see how the disciples were confused; I’m confused.”  After reading about colorful horses, myrtle trees, measuring lines, a priest’s new cloths, branches, gold lampstands, olive trees, flying scrolls, and women in baskets, most unexplained, no wonder we’re scratching our heads.

But when Zechariah says to rejoice and shout, to pull out that bottle of champagne you’ve been saving, because the time has come – Your King comes! – no doubt the Israelites to whom it was addressed were even more confused.  Because now Zechariah is speaking a little more plainly, but no less confusingly.  “A king, really?  Zechariah, have you forgotten who we are and where we are?  Darius is king.”  Talking about kings wasn’t just a foolish, it was potentially treasonous.  Because Israel had a king – the great Persian, Darius.

Zechariah’s ministry took place in the late 500s and perhaps early 400s BC – that is, about 500 years before Jesus.  In other words, Zechariah’s ministry takes place just as Israelites are returning from exile in Babylon.  Remember, from the years 605-586, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar emptied the land of the best and brightest, and finally wiped out Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.  Fifty years later, the Babylonian empire fell, when Cyrus, the great Persian king, conquered the city.  Soon he allowed Israelites to return home under guys like Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and Ezra.  Though these Persian kings were sympathetic, they would not look kindly upon a conquered peoples setting up a separate hierarchy and potentially separating themselves from the Empire.  It’s vital to understand what Zechariah means when he speaks of kings.

Jesus helps us sort through the confusion.  He says, These are the Scriptures that testify about me. It’s not wrong to read the Old Testament and say, “Where’s Jesus?”  We can’t go wrong reading the Old Testament and getting to the cross as fast as we can.  Likewise, as Luke tells us about the first Easter, [Jesus] said to them, “…Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Thus, when Matthew and John point to Palm Sunday as fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy, we’re not afraid that they’re doing some off-the-wall interpretation.  The Scriptures testify about Jesus.   He opened their minds to understand how, when, and where.  He opened their minds, and ours, to understand that here Zechariah wasn’t talking primarily about Israel’s earthly situation, but about her spiritual situation.  Zechariah was a minor prophets with a major message – the Savior is coming!  He is the King!  He is a King like no other.

See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation. Here is your King, that perfect King.  He is just, holy, and righteous.  So many kings and rulers and politicians try to identify themselves as being the best possible choice, spotless in their past life, as well as being the one who can save you from whatever challenge comes.  But we’re savvy enough to know that they’re all the same.  We’ve seen skeletons in closets.  We’ve seen true colors.  We’ve seen broken promises.  No king, no president is righteous.  Hardly any bring salvation.  Often the saving happens in spite of the ruler.  But not this one.  He is holy and He is righteous.  No one could convict Jesus of any sin.  Pilate wanted to let Him go.  And as He rode on into Jerusalem, at least some of them got it, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! That’s not what a Herod, a Pilate, a Caesar, or an Obama brings, that’s what God brings.  Because He has salvation.  He brings salvation with Him and He Himself is saved because of His reliance upon His Father.  Though this Palm Sunday King was abandoned and forsaken to the cross, He was not abandoned to the grave, He did see the light of life.  And He divided the spoils of His conquest with you.

Your king comes…gentle and riding on a donkey. This King is gentle, meaning humble.  This King connects with His people.  Being in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.  He came to us as one of us.  He was not arrogant, like the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He did not lord over the nations like a Pilate or Caesar.  He’s not like today’s politicians – the millionaires, the doctors, the lawyers, the elite – claiming to be “Just like you,” or “One of the people.”  He is one of us, yet at the same time He is the King.  But an unusual one.  Usually you must reflect power and authority and might or you’re ripe for overthrow.  Not this King.  Listen to His campaign platform:

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. The LORD announces the end of wars and speaks of disarmament.  What if President Roosevelt had proposed this after earl Harbor?  Or President Bush after 9-11?  And even though it’s the wish of many today, would we ever do this to our military?  Don’t we agree, “If you want peace, prepare for war”?

This is not how God operates.  He needs no chariots or horses or bows.  He told Zerubbabel, Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit. Likewise Jesus.  His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was strangely weaponless.  He brought no tanks, guns, or soldiers.  He had no weapons.  His “army” carried cloaks and palm branches.  Likewise, throughout this last week, He used no weapons but the Word of God.  He rebuked Peter for using His sword.  He refused to defend Himself in Gethsemane.  He refused to keep His hands from being nailed to the cross.  These are not His weapons or His church’s weapons, because…

Your King comes…[and] He will proclaim peace to the nations. This is what the coming King does.  He speaks peace – satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, prosperity, completeness, health, safety, friendship, blessing.  To the nations, a stunning move for a king to whom the Jews look forward as their King, their Messiah.  But it makes senses.  Isaiah says that this child born unto us is the Prince of Peace and that this Root of Jesse is the banner to whom all nations will flock.  Meanwhile, so many politicians speak and promise peace, but who brings it about?  Peace comes so rarely, and for such short periods.  We so foolishly fall for politicians’ promises.  We forget the Scriptures:   Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. We get so wound up in our politics and politicians that we forget that they are mortal.  They’re not the King.  This isn’t heaven.  Christ is the King.  And the Kingdom we pray for is not of this world.  Paul writes: Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

Finally, His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. This is Zechariah’s way of saying what Paul said today:  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Though our eyes can’t see it now, though our hearts hardly believe it, He does have such a dominion.  Mark tells us that He ascended to the right hand of God.  Paul says that He rules over all things.  For us, our King.

We can pop the cork on our champagne bottles.  Even though we know where this triumphal entry leads, we also know where it ends.  Our King humbled Himself to death.  But only so that we could live, because He lived.  The next two verses of Zechariah’s prophecy used to be included in the Palm Sunday lessons.  Hear them now and rejoice:  Because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.  Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. You are a prisoner of hope.  Because this King like no other, Jesus, entered Jerusalem, righteous and having salvation, your salvation.  He declared His authority over all other authorities, an authority trumpeted by the rocks if we’re silenced.  So that the words of John’s revelation are words of a sure future for us citizens of this Kingdom:  The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. Amen.

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Responses

  1. Amen


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