Palm Sunday Sermon: Zechariah 9:9-12; The Coming of the King of Peace

People of God, the Triumphal Entry is another Advent of Jesus. Indeed his final Advent before death. As orthodox Christians we await the final Advent of Jesus at the end of history when he shall come to judge the living and dead. When Jesus comes it is gladness to God’s people and doom for those who despise Messiah. The Triumphal Entry is one of the few events in Jesus’ life that is mentioned in all four gospels. The Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem begins the unfolding of glorious, and at the same time, catastrophic consequences for the holy city.

The context of this magnificent welcome is the Passover. We have the indication that Jesus is coming to Jerusalem in this Passover context as the paschal lamb who will give His life to deliver His people. As you know, the response of the people is jubilant, but also filled with symbolism. In Matthew’s account we see the people spreading their garments on the ground and the branches of trees on the ground. By spreading the branches of trees on the ground they are affirming that Jesus walks on the clouds; on the highest places on top of the trees. They are affirming His power and authority over his enemies and over them. If the branches represent Yahweh walking on the clouds in His authority, the garments represent people.[1] When Jesus sits on their garments and rides over them, the people are saying that Jesus is enthroned on them.  What is happening at the Triumphal Entry is not just a mere procession with happy background music; there is a lot more taking place.

At the very center of this Advent/Holy entrance in Jerusalem is Jesus is re-enacting an unfamiliar narrative to many. And it is the Jehu narrative. When Jehu was anointed as King and destroyed the temple of Baal, we read in II Kings 9 that in haste every man took his garment and put it under Jehu on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” “When Jesus arranged His entrance this way, He was symbolically declaring His kingship. He is the Greater Jehu, who rode over his followers’ “garments into Samaria to destroy the temple of Baal (2 Kings 9:11-13; 10:18-28).”[2] Jesus comes to Jerusalem also as one who has trampled idols and demons and Satan. This is not empty symbolism. He is coming as vindicator[3] of His people. And we see this as he rides on a donkey. This famous narrative found in the gospels is a quotation from Zechariah 9, which reads:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

What do we know about Zechariah? Zechariah means “the Lord remembers.” The Lord will remember his people. Zechariah is filled with night visions. These night visions establish certain creation patterns for us. In Zechariah, we are coming to the end of the Old Covenant Age. In fact, the whole book deals with the re-building of the temple. The temple needs to be a house of prayer for all the nations and that will be a picture of what will happen in the New Covenant age when the Gentiles come into the Church. But there is a problem. The people cannot re-build the temple after exile, because the temple sight itself is defiled. There is a way to cleanse the temple sight, and that requires a high priest coming in.[4] He can come in and do appropriate offerings to cleanse. One problem: the high priest is defiled. In the book of Zechariah you have a defiled temple sight; defiled high priest. Zechariah comes in the picture; he is a prophet like Moses, and in a night vision he will see God cleanse the temple sight and the high priest. The vision says that things are cleansed, so now we can build.

It is ultimately a message of hope.  The visions, which are patterned after creation imply a new creation; a new world. And this is why Zechariah 9 is so connected to the Triumphal Entry of Jesus.

What we see in chapter 9 is a description of Yahweh triumphing from the north to the south. “Whereas earlier the prophets had foreseen enemies invading from the north, now it is the Lord who conquers every city and people as He makes His way south to set up camp in Jerusalem. The imagery in Zechariah 9 depicts the humiliation of each opposing power by the superior might of the Lord, as He takes control of the land.[5] If there was ever a sentence that a nation should never desire to hear it is the first verse of Zechariah 9: “The burden of the word of Yahweh is against…” We want the Word of Yahweh to be for us, not against us. Yahweh is coming south to strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire.[6] And after all this destruction, on his triumphant march, He reaches Jerusalem in verse eight:

Then I will encamp at my house as a guard,
so that none shall march to and fro;
no oppressor shall again march over them,
for now I see with my own eyes.

Yahweh will protect his Temple and His land. The foreign armies will no longer tramp their way through Judah’s territories because Yahweh will be her guard.

As the king marches to Jerusalem, how are the people going to receive this great victor?

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Here is the famous quotation found in Matthew and John’s gospel. Your king is coming. He will enter the city triumphant. He has destroyed His enemies and laughed at them (to use the language of Psalm 2). Since he laughs at the wicked, so “his arrival,” in the words of a commentator is “to be accompanied with wild joy.”[7] The King is a picture of deliverance. He comes with salvation and righteousness. When the prophets use this language of “righteousness” it refers to the activity of the King governing, administering justice, encouraging right.[8]

Modern Americans will not associate a donkey with royal transportation, but they were royal transportation in ancient Israel; Solomon was taken to his coronation on a mule that had belonged to David (1 Kings 1:33-44), and David’s sons all rode mules (2 Samuel 13:29). Donkeys were kingly transportation. But Jesus doesn’t come bearing a sword. The time of judgment is not now; now is the time of suffering. Now is the time to act as King. Kings give their lives for their people, and Jesus is coming to Jerusalem to give His life. He comes in peace now, but His patience will not last forever. He will judge His enemies and exalt His friends.

In Zechariah, Yahweh comes as protector. In the Gospels, Jesus comes as Protector. Jesus is coming to make sure His temple is being used for the right purpose. He is coming to inspect; to make sure the walls of his temple are not filled with leprosy.

In Zechariah, Yahweh is disarming the nations. He is promising peace between north and south; a clear foreshadow that peace will be declared to all nations, “and ensured by the presence of a king ruling over a world-wide empire.”[9] In the gospels, Jesus is coming to bring peace and to unite Jew and Gentile. As the gospel goes forth into the world the natural result of this is the ceasing of warfare. We are to pray as the psalmist and the prophets prayed: that war would cease. It may seem unlikely that we as a Church would ever live in a period where wars would be no more. But the prophets spoke of a time in the age to come—in the New Covenant Age—where the war horses, symbols of warfare, would no longer serve their purpose. As Messiah enters Jerusalem he is entering as King of peace. Forty years later he will enter Jerusalem as Judge when the Temple is destroyed in AD 70 due to the religious idolatry of the Israelites.

As Church, as members of a new temple, we wish to see Christ come again and again each Lord’s Day as King of peace, not a Judge. We wish to see him pour out his goodness upon us in gifts and blessings and renewal.

This kinship that Zechariah envisioned would be a cosmic kingship with sacramental and covenantal implications for us. Sacramental– in that the blood of the covenant, as he speaks in verse 11, speak directly to that Last Supper—Maundy Thursday. And Covenantal– in that the blood of the covenant takes its full meaning when Jesus gives his life for his people on Good Friday. The Triumphal Entry, as it is connected with Zechariah 9—ties all these events together: entrance, judgment, kingship, peace, bread and wine, and cross.

How Now Shall We Then Live?

Unmistakably, we see in Zechariah a call to cheerful response to the Coming of Jesus. The Triumphal Entry, though a unique moment in history, also repeats itself in a more glorious fashion each Lord’s Day as we gather. Jesus comes, not as judge, but as our King. When we in this country speak of our rights, as Christians, we should speak of our fundamental right and duty to offer praises to our God; to rejoice in the King of peace.

Furthermore, we can also be confident that our God rides in the clouds. He is not sitting passively while his church struggles on earth; he is slowly destroying earthly empires. He is slowly revealing his power to the nations. And how does he do this? Uniquely through the labors and worship of his people; through the cries of “Hosanna.”

Children: what Palm Sunday teaches is that Christ is never far from you. You are as much a part of this worship as your father and your mother. Jesus wants to hear you sing; He wants to hear you shout His praises. This is how you learn to follow Him.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus came into Jerusalem knowing what awaited Him. He entered into His final days knowing that He must be a Suffering Servant; a Paschal Lamb slaughtered for the sins of His people. On this day, Christ walks on clouds as the exalted ruler, so He might be hung on a cross as the crucified King. Hosannah in the highest!  In the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] Observations from my sermon on the Triumphal Entry two years ago.

[2] Peter Leithart.

[3] Much of this stems from James Jordan’s Palm Sunday sermon at Providence Church in 2010.

[4] Several of these considerations stem from James Jordan’s study on Zechariah at Providence Church in 2011.

[5] Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 157.

[6] See 9:4.

[7] Baldwin.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Baldwin, 166.

Advertisements

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Palm Sunday, Zechariah. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Palm Sunday Sermon: Zechariah 9:9-12; The Coming of the King of Peace

  1. Pingback: Entrance king | Kerilaborntera

  2. Pingback: God: the fundamental capacity to perceive and identify « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s