When Zechariah spoke these words, God’s people were on the edge of despair. After a long captivity, God’s people were allowed to return home, to Jerusalem. It was bad enough that many had chosen to stay in Babylon and not return to Jerusalem but you can imagine what God’s people found when they arrived in Jerusalem. The city was in ruins. Homes crumbling. The temple gone. They lacked the basic necessities of life. This once proud nation and envy of the world had been humbled and reduced to rubble.
Even so, the relatively few who returned were filled with subdued enthusiasm for rebuilding their city, the temple and their lives. But reality set in. The work was slow and overwhelming. Opposition to their rebuilding from neighboring countries hindered their efforts. Selfishness and self-preservation kicked in and the people soon became more occupied in only trying to take care of themselves and rebuild their homes then getting the temple restored and serving their neighbor.
Despair is not an uncommon word for us right now is it? This was not at all how I was planning on celebrating Palm Sunday. The WISCO steel drum band was to join us for worship. Our children were to be singing waving palm branches. None of us could have imagined this. To be fair we are not in quite the desperate situation God’s people were facing when these words were first spoken but there is an uneasy feeling in the air. How serious is this virus? Will I get it? When can I go back to work? When will I feel comfortable leaving the house? When will this be over? What will life look like when the virus is gone? Will I be able to get through this financially and physically? God’s people today are facing some desperate and unsettling times of their own. Therefore, while this was not the way any of us planned to celebrate Palm Sunday, this Palm Sunday may be a most meaningful one indeed because just like our forefathers of old who were in desperate times, we too are facing challenges unlike we have seen in our lifetime. These words speaking about shouts of joy, ushering in a King can come at no better time than right now. Today saints of God Rejoice Greatly: The King comes to end despair.
The King is coming to us righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey actually on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Rejoice greatly saints. The King coming to us is righteous. None of God’s people in Zechariah’s day knew what it was like to have a righteous king. They were used to their kings abandoning God’s law; promoting pagan worship; taking advantage of the poor and needy; lying to further their own political gain; self-serving. Unfortunately, many of our leaders show the same characteristics. This king however would be right with God because this King would do absolutely everything God demanded. All his decisions, thoughts, will and actions would be in line with God. This king is God. God himself is on his way to save you.
Well it is about time. We have suffered long enough. I can’t wait until God saves me from this virus, financial ruin and boredom. Now wait a minute. What kind of salvation do you think this king is bringing? If you believe this King is coming with salvation to let the good times start rolling once again, your rejoicing is going to fall silent.
When this King prophesied by Zechariah finally did arrive in Jerusalem, there was this hope all the political strife and living in fear and hard times would just all go away. But it didn’t. When it didn’t, all this enthusiasm and rejoicing for this King started to fade because the salvation this King was bringing didn’t meet their expectations.
What are your expectations for the salvation this king is bringing? Are you expecting your life to get back to the way it was at some point? Do you expect that none of your family and friends, coworkers will get the virus and die? Do you expect money to flood your way even if there is no work to be had? What happens if it doesn’t? Will that be reason enough to stop attending worship once and for all? Will it bring to an end anymore rejoicing greatly from your lips because this King turned out to be one big flop and not at all what you expected?
I can promise you this. This king that is coming will not at all meet your expectations. That should be made obvious by how he is coming: Gentle, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Jesus was not arriving in Jerusalem to lead a rebellion against the oppressive Roman government. He wasn’t arriving to fill the streets of Jerusalem with silver and gold as in the days of King Solomon creating an economic boom. He was arriving gentle and humble refusing to call legions upon legions of angels into service to wipe out any and all oppressors. He was arriving gentle and humble unwilling to prevent his arrest. He was arriving into Jerusalem not as a conquering hero but a humble servant on a donkey.
With all that has happened in the past couple of weeks, how does Jesus look to you now? As a conquering hero or an irrelevant, powerless, unconcerned figure? Jesus is not bringing salvation against financial ruin and sickness. He is bringing a far more valuable salvation. Salvation against the wrath of our God. Through his righteousness, he is bringing salvation to you. Talk about a stimulus package! God himself is giving you his righteousness not to make it through one more day but for all eternity with him in heaven.
Saints of God, now more than ever, understand the one who has come to save us. Our Savior comes to us gentle and humble riding on a donkey. His appearance is no different than any one of us. He suffers the same
things we suffer. He dies the death we die. In the sphere of all this gentleness and humbleness he brought salvation and an end to despair.
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. Your Savior has no need for worldly weapons, quarantines, vaccines or stimulus packages to end despair and suffering. He ends your despair by gently and humbly proclaiming words of peace. This week while your Savior is in Jerusalem you will hear these words of peace to the nations, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Yes it is as you say I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God. My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It is finished. “ These words of peace he spoke to end your despair because these words speak of his death-not yours. His death brings salvation to you. His death saves us from ruin because his death pays our debt of sin we owe our God. Through these words of peace, your Savior is conveying to you everything is alright. Your salvation is found in my death.
No matter what disaster may come, there is no reason to despair, you have salvation from death in the one who came to Jerusalem gentle and riding on a donkey. You have been given these words of peace proclaimed to the nations that there is peace between you and your God through the salvation this one who was riding on a donkey came to bring. Rejoice greatly! Your king comes to you with peace and forgiveness from death itself forever. Come what may. It really doesn’t matter. We have a Savior riding into Jerusalem restoring peace between us and our God on his way Amen.