Lent 6a - Palm Sunday

Preached: March 16, 2008

What a King Comes for Us!
Zechariah 9:9, 10

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts and moves our lives is Zechariah 9:9,10

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you. He is righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. “I will break the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; the battle-bow will be broken.” He will proclaim peace to the nations. His reign will be from sea to sea and from the River to then end of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9, 10)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints who worship our King:

Over 230 years ago, thirteen colonies declared their independence, dissolving their allegiance to the British Crown. No more king. Yet Americans are still fascinated by British royalty. In 1981 the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana filled our TV screens. What pomp and circumstance captured the hearts of the three-quarters of a billion people world-wide! And American fascination continues. Just look at the tabloids in the supermarket, or consider that a few weeks ago ABC had a documentary, “The Royal Family: Behind the Palace Walls.” There is something about the royal tradition, ceremony, and majesty that captures our wonderment.

But you, dear friend, have a King greater than an British monarch or earthly emperor. What a King we have! His glory and majesty is far beyond anything imaginable, but he comes to you in lowliness. His work brings a peace and wellbeing far greater than anything else, yet so many ignore it. However, let us marvel and rejoice over our King. What a King comes for us! That's the theme we focus on. Marvel at his lowly majesty. Rejoice in his righteous peace.

A. Marvel at his lowly majesty

1) What holds before our eyes Jesus' lowly majesty?

You know who this King is. He is Jesus, God Almighty, the eternal Son, the Lord of hosts. You confessed that earlier, singing, “All glory, laud, and honor to you, Redeemer, King” But look at how he comes! Not in pomp and majesty, but in lowliness and humility. “See, your king comes to you . . . gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV).

Jesus fulfilled this prophecy on Palm Sunday. He did not ride into Jerusalem on a war horse. He did not come guarded by well-armed soldiers or legions of angels. He came riding on a donkey. Yet also see his hidden majesty. He comes riding, not walking as he usually did in his poverty. He rides a young colt that had not been ridden before as the Evangelist Mark tells us. I, for one, would not want to sit on an unbroken, young donkey, full of spirit and kick. But as God of all creation, Jesus has no trouble with this beast. Marvel at his lowly majesty, illustrated by the Palm Sunday donkey.

And we have another symbol, very common in our churches, that holds before our eyes his lowly majesty. In fact, it's the most common symbol found among Christians. The cross. Marvel at his lowly majesty in the cross.

The cross was an instrument of punishment and torture. Criminals who were to be made examples were executed on a cross. Stripped and hung for public humiliation. Nails driven into hands and feet. Erected upright the body pulls down suffocating itself; the feet push up to breathe, but the pain, the pain.

But Jesus lowers himself far more than the physical and emotional pain. On that cross, our King lowers himself to the very bottom of hell. Cut off from the Father's love and goodness, he cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 NIV). He lowered himself to carry our burden, our sin and guilt. On the cross, he carried your crime and punishment even through hell itself, abandoned by his Father. “He humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV).

But do we hid the cross as a symbol of shame? No! We display it proudly. For on that cross Jesus paid the price for our sin and won the victory that brings us forgiveness. We boast in the cross. For on the cross our King purchased us to be his own and ransomed us to live under him in his kingdom. Only because of the cross and what he did for you there can you call him your King. What a marvel! Jesus, the mighty God, died for sins of his creatures, for our sins. What lowly majesty!

2) How does your King come to you in lowly majesty still today?

Still today our King comes to us in lowly majesty. He does not come in what shines with earthly glory and power. He comes in what this world despises. He comes not on a donkey, but through the word of his Gospel in Scripture and in the sacraments.

For example, consider the Lord's Supper. Who would expect Jesus' body and blood to come to us in something so commonplace as bread and wine? But through these your King certainly does come to you. Who would expect Jesus to connect his saving promise of forgiveness with this eating and drinking. But that is what he does with his words, “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Despite the lowliness of this all, whoever eats Jesus' body and drinks his blood believing these words certainly has that most majestic gift of all from our King, the forgiveness of sins. What a marvel!

And so in the Common Service, before our King comes to us in the Lord's Super with his body and blood, we join the Palm Sunday crowd, singing: “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” Next time you sing those words, for example this Thursday, marvel at the lowly majesty in which your King comes to you. What a King he is!

B. Rejoice in his righteous peace

1) What did our King come to do for us?

And that word Hosanna teaches us what our King came to do for us. Why did he come in lowly majesty? He came to save, to save us by bringing righteous peace. Hosanna means, “Save!” Our King has answered that plea. So rejoice. Shout out. Dance in exultation. Rejoice in his righteous peace.

That's what the prophet calls on us to do. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV). Zion was a hill at Jerusalem associated with the Ark of the Covenant. The daughters of Zion and Jerusalem are God's people. They are you, dear friends. So, rejoice! Shout!

We like to shout out when our sports team wins. But the reason the prophet calls on us to shout is better than going to state or winning the Super Bowl or sweeping the World Series. Why rejoice and shout? “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation” Hosanna!

From the cold, dark winter of our sins, he has saved you. He is the Sun who warms us with the rays of his Gospel, his Good News. This Good News proclaims him righteous. He has done everything right. Although condemned, he had broken no law. Although forsaken by God, he is sinless and holy.

But the Good News has more to say. Your righteous King gives you his righteousness. Yes, he freely credits it to your record. That's how he saves. That's why we shout “Hosanna!” and rejoice. Just as he carried our guilt and became sin for us when he died on that cross, so also in exchange he gives you his innocence and righteousness. So guilty sinners though you and I are, through faith in our righteous King we stand as holy and righteous before God. What Good News that is! What reason to rejoice and shout, “Hosanna!”

2) What blessings does his saving righteousness bring to us?

But there's more. Because you have the right standing before God through faith in Jesus' righteousness, you have peace. The Lord pictures this peace by describing the end of the weapons for war. “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken” (Zechariah 9:10). This cannot be referring to earthly peace and an end to earthly wars. For Jesus himself made it clear that war and rumor of war would continue until the Last Day when he returns in glory. But just like Jesus parables used earthly pictures to teach spiritual truth, so also the language of the prophet uses earthly pictures for spiritual truth.

What is the spiritual truth here? That our warfare against God has been ended. Our King has ended it by changing us from his enemies into his children, reborn into his family through the water and word of Baptism. What a King he is! Now you have peace with God. You have peace through the forgiveness of sins. So when your conscience trouble your soul or guilt menaces you, listen to what your King says, “I am your righteousness. Your sins are taken away. My innocences covers your guilt. Don't be afraid. Don't be troubled. You have peace with God through my righteousness.”

And believe that these words are for you. Note how the prophet makes it clear that this message is for all. “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” (Zechariah 9:10 NIV). Note how the message is for all nations from sea to sea. The River referred to is the Euphrates. For God's people in the Old Testament, the Euphrates marked the end of the promised land. But now, the Good News doesn't stop at the River, but from there goes to the ends of the earth -- to America, to Hancock, to you.

Rejoice as you live each day without terror, serving your King. For your faith is confident that you have peace with God through the righteousness of your King. And rejoice as you anticipate the perfect peace, happiness, and fulfillment that you and all who believe will enjoy in heaven. Rejoice now and forever. What a King has come for you!

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313