St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Behold The King

Sermon on Zechariah 9:9&10

Text: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses 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.

Each language has certain words that it uses, when the speaker wants to get the hearer’s attention. In English, we might use the words, “Look” or, the more formal “Behold.” We see this at various times throughout the Bible. For example, we might think of John the Baptist’s proclamation, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The angel’s words to the shepherds on that first Christmas night were, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” There, the Greek words are idou and idh. The Hebrew also has a word like that. It is hnh. The word has the idea of a flashing light, calling your attention to what is about to follow. ‘Don’t miss this!’ This morning, this little word, this hnh, calls our attention to a king. Let us, then, this Palm Sunday BEHOLD THE KING. As we do so, we will note that he is 1. A Different Kind of King. We will also note that he has 2. A Different Kind Of Kingdom.

Zechariah prophesied to God’s people in the years following the return from the Babylonian exile. At first, the people were excited to rebuild the temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. However, as time went on, their enthusiasm faded. The rebuilding of the temple came to a standstill. Zechariah was to call the people to repentance. He told them that the problems they were facing were of their own doing. However, if they would turn again to the LORD, he promised that he would preserve and protect them as he had in the past. Yet, not the entire message is one of repentance. Just prior to our text, the overthrow of three of the enemies of Israel — the Syrians, Phoenicians and Philistines — was prophesied.

It is on this backdrop that words of invitation are extended. In verse 9, we read, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!” Instead of moping about because the work in Jerusalem wasn’t going so well, the people were to rejoice and shout for joy. The reason for this joy is “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” A king is coming. It is a king that you have been waiting for a long time to see and welcome. This is the Messiah! Obviously, in this section of Scripture, we see a prophecy of the events of Palm Sunday. Our Gospel lesson detailed the things that happened that day, from the foreknowledge of the donkey’s whereabouts, to the disciples’ escorting Jesus into Jerusalem, to the people shouting “Hosanna!”. The people of Jerusalem rejoiced and shouted at the King of kings’ entrance into Jerusalem.

However, this king doesn’t act or look like your typical king. Normally, when we think of a king coming to an area, we would think of great pomp. The red carpet would be rolled out. The king would enter wearing his finest clothing. Likely, he would have a body guard or soldiers escorting him. We see none of these things when we look at this king.

Look at the way that this king enters. He does not come in riding in a war chariot or on a stallion. His majesty would not be shown in armed might. Rather, he comes “riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He came riding a simple beast of burden, and a borrowed one at that! This shows his humility. As Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Jesus was a different kind of king.

We are told that this king would be “righteous and victorious.” Righteous means being in a perfect relationship with God. Obviously, only one who is without sin can truly be called “righteous.” We know that Jesus was righteous. He perfectly followed his Father’s will. He did everything that the Father asked him to do. Soon, the Father would ask him to lay down his life to pay for the sins of all people. This, also, Jesus did. It also says that he would be “victorious.” Actually, that is not the best translation for that word from the Hebrew. It would be better translated, “one who was helped.” This reminds us that, during Jesus’ humiliation, he depended on his Father to help him. He put his trust in his Father as he lived those days here on the earth. Even though he was forsaken by his Father while on the cross, God exalted Jesus to a position of power and glory by raising him from the dead.

This is a different kind of king. Normally, the king would be served by his subjects. They serve, because they have to. If they don’t obey, there is punishment. By all rights, Jesus could have come to the earth the first time as a Judge. All people, including you and me, would have been sentenced to eternal death because of our rebellions against him in our thoughts, words and actions. You and I have sinned against him, time without number. It doesn’t take us too long to come up with a long list of ways that we have disobeyed God. We should be punished, because we have not obeyed our King as we ought.

However, in this case, the situation is reversed. The king is serving his subjects. Jesus came to the earth to live for us, to die for us and to rise again. He did everything necessary so that we could be with him forever in his kingdom. He even sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that faith might be created and all of the blessings that he has won for us will be ours. When we see all that Jesus, our different kind of King has done for us, we too want to rejoice greatly and shout, as we are invited to do in our text. In other words, what we have seen and experienced is too great a thing to sit on and keep to ourselves. It will just naturally show itself in the way that we live, in the way that we talk to and about others, in the way that we trust in God to take care of us. Rejoice greatly and shout because your king has come, and will come again at the last to take us to his heavenly kingdom.

That is another aspect that is different about this king than any other, namely his kingdom. Zechariah describes his kingdom in verse 10, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses 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.” The first thing that we note about this kingdom is that there will be absolute peace. He speaks about taking away the chariot and war-horse. The battle bow will be broken. We know that the peace that is enjoyed by earthly kingdoms or nations is easily broken. Safety and security are issues that have come into great focus, ever since 9/11. However, the peace that is enjoyed in this kingdom will be enjoyed by all for all eternity. This is the peace that the angels sang about the night that Christ was born. It is the peace that exists between God and man, since Jesus took away our sins. All that it took to bring about this peace will be our focus on this upcoming Holy Week. It is the peace and confidence in knowing that God will take care of all of our needs. It is the peace that when we leave this earth, we will be in heaven with our God. Jesus’ kingdom is different because of the peace that it brings.

Jesus’ kingdom is also different in the way that it grows. When earthly kingdoms or nations want to expand, they use military might to take land from other nations. The other nations are subjugated against their will. They are forced to obey. Look at how Jesus’ kingdom is expanded: “He will proclaim peace to the nations.” It is through the proclamation of peace, namely, the proclamation of the peace that Jesus brings. We find this proclamation of peace in his holy Word. People are not added to Christ’s kingdom against their will, but rather through the working of the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, that is, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Through the working of the Holy Spirt, faith is created in the heart. When faith is created, we become members of his kingdom. God doesn’t drag anyone kicking and screaming into his kingdom. Rather, through the gentle message of the Gospel, he tenderly invites us to be citizens in his kingdom.

A third difference in the kingdoms is the scope or size of these kingdoms. It was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. It was a bit of an overstatement, but it was so large that you could find their holdings throughout the world. However, as large and grand as it was, it soon fell apart. Look at the size of this kingdom: “His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” A true worldwide kingdom is being described here. Every single time a person is brought to faith, they become a member of Christ’s kingdom. It doesn’t matter where they are from, here in the United States or in far-off lands such as Japan and Russia. Wherever the word of peace is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit can work faith in the heart of the hearer. What we have here is a preview of Christ’s Great Commission to the Church, when he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Through this message, people are brought into his kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom is different from all other kingdoms, because of the peace that it enjoys, because of the means by which it grows, and because of its scope and size.

Is it any wonder, then, that the people of Jerusalem were encouraged by Zechariah to shout and rejoice? Can we do any less? Today, as we observe the events of Palm Sunday, let us join the crowds of Jerusalem in singing our Hosannas to the king. As we follow Jesus this week, observing all that he endured for our salvation, may it be that we are moved to rejoice with our whole lives. As we gather on Easter and hear the blessed news, “He is not here; he is risen.”, may we be filled with praise to our Lord. May our every day lives show the joy that fills our hearts as Christians as we behold the King. Amen.