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Palm Sunday

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, what do they all have in common?  Yes, they were great leaders, achieved great military success, but they also all have something else in common: they died and their kingdoms came to an end.  And so it is today.  Our world fawns after great leaders, great speakers, great achievers and yet, they too will die and their achievements come to an end.  This has been a pattern throughout history: a great leader will rise up and do his thing for a little while and then sooner or later someone else will rise to power and do their thing and so on and so forth.  While leaders are certainly necessary to keep law and order they all have limitations.  People would love a leader who would give his people riches, wealth, honor, prestige, dominance, etc.  Yet no earthly leader will be able to provide you or me with everything.  Even if he were able to give us a great life here on earth, a leader can’t save us from getting older and dying and losing everything we have on this earth.

Well, not too much has changed over the course of time.  It seems people of all ages have tried to find their hopes and dreams in this life and have looked for people who will promise them just that.  It’s no wonder why God often describes the ultimate King in prophecy in contrasting terms.  About 500 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday God had the prophet Zechariah record these words about Him.  The Messiah, the Christ people were to be looking for was: a King…but righteous.  How many great leaders or rulers or kings do you know that fit that description?  Everything they do is righteous, just, and good?  Most leaders we know use people as means to their own ends or as heads to step on in order to get their way, but righteous?  And a King…who’s gentle?  Riding on a donkey?  How many kings do you know do that?  And yet this King rules and extends peace all over the earth, this King never loses, never concedes to defeat, always wins, always conquers, is always victorious.  That’s the King the prophet Zechariah prophesied about.

Who is this prophet Zechariah?  Well, remember back to your Old Testament history that after continued unfaithfulness to the Lord He allowed His people to be hauled off in exile to a place called Babylon (modern day Iraq).  There they sat in exile for about 70 years, but after that time period a new king came to power who let them return to Judah/ Jerusalem.  So a remnant came back to Jerusalem and they laid the foundation to the temple and started to rebuild Jerusalem.  But all of the foreign nations around them weren’t too happy to have the Israelites back so they caused them no end of trouble.  So much so that the Israelites gave up on rebuilding the temple and became lethargic and lazy.  Then God sent two prophets Haggai and Zechariah to get the people refocused on rebuilding the temple.  Zechariah essentially told the people, “It’s going to be fine, God will take care of you, He’s looking out after you, and He’ll keep His promise to send the ultimate King, the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ.  This Savior will come humbly and gently but will establish a kingdom of peace.”

He said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!”  He’s talking to God’s people and He says, “There’s no reason to go about life with your head down, moping around like all is lost, instead, rejoice!”  Why?  “See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.”  Here’s the reason for rejoicing: Your King comes!  In fact, the Hebrew actually says, “Keeps coming.”  Your King keeps coming to you.  Yes, you’re sinful.  Yes, you’ve often failed.  Yes, you’ve done many things you shouldn’t have.  But, your King keeps coming!  And He comes not just “to you” but “for you.”  He comes on your behalf, for your good.  And unlike every other king or leader, this King who comes to you is righteous and having salvation.  Yet He comes not in terror or fright or fear or might or power on a white stallion to scare us into following Him, rather He comes gently and humbly and lowly riding nothing other than an animal fit for carrying packages…a donkey!

And since your King comes there’s no reason to find your security or strength or safety in chariots or war-horses or battle bows, not in tanks or air-craft or missiles or black-hawk helicopters.  Rather, His power over powers and His might is found in this: “He will proclaim.”  His words, His Gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.  And the effect of this mighty weapon?  Peace.  Peace just for some people or one nation?  No, peace that will extend from sea to sea and from that great River (probably the Euphrates which was supposed to be a boundary of Israel) all the way to the ends of the earth, from the land of Israel all the way to Bemidji, MN.  His word of peace will win for Himself a kingdom that extends across every nation, tribe, language, and people.

Can you imagine being a Jewish person looking forward to this King?  It boggles the mind!  A righteous King comes, but is gentle and humble?  He has a vast ruling and establishes peace but conspicuous by its absence is the use of any kind of weapon, force or might?  And His rule is going to extend over the nations and from sea to sea?  Wow!

So 500 years before it even happened God had Zechariah prophesy about Jesus.  So right on schedule Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the King, but lowly and gentle and on a donkey.  People lined the streets and laid down their garments and palm branches as a red carpet for him.  They called out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  And Jesus didn’t tell anyone to be quiet.  So many times before Jesus had told people not to spread around who He is, but now is the time.  Now as He fulfills the prophecy He makes it clear exactly who He is.  Now, unfortunately many at this celebration were likely simply cheering on their favorite candidate or earthly Messiah-king hopeful, others, like the Jewish leaders finally had their proof, their evidence to convict Jesus: He claims to be a king.  Now they could be done with Him once and for all.  But for Jesus this is all right on schedule.  Soon He’d be nailed to a cross going into our greatest battle for us and bringing us the peace that surpasses understanding.

God had this event written long before hand so people would have no excuse recognizing Jesus for who He is.  He is not some glorious earthly king who might ride into a city and cause fear and trembling, but rather He’s a king who drives out fear.  He’s not a king who’s come to tell us how to live right, have good jobs, earthly protection, make money, how to fight our wars, etc.  Rather, He has come for so much greater purposes- He wants us to inherit the Kingdom of heaven, to be saved, to be eternally rich and prosperous.  Most people have their highest concern on how to live here and now, how to manage their homes, acquire things, live in peace and safety.  But even if we live here on this earth for a long time, eventually we’ll still have to die and leave it all behind.  No scientist, no doctor, no inventor has or will ever come up with a way to prolong life indefinitely.  Yes, people may come up with ways to live right, eat right, exercise right in order to add a couple years to your life, but the simple fact remains: the wages of sin is death, everyone dies.  No earthly king, ruler, leader, president will ever be able to conquer that enemy for you.

But there is a King who isn’t an earthly one and He made that obvious.  Notice how Jesus came into Jerusalem- not in a great big show of wealth (He was riding something He borrowed!), not with might and power (He was riding a donkey, not a white stallion), rather Jesus came not to teach us how to be rich or have a bunch of toys, but to deliver us from sin, death, and the devil and to make us truly rich for the life beyond our grave.

Our king set up a very unique kingdom, different from all others, a spiritual and eternal kingdom over which He holds sway and influences with power and might through His Word and the Holy Spirit.  The treasures Christ came as King to win are by far the best.  No moth or rust can consume them, no thieves can break in and steal them.

Think about how blessed you are!  Your King Jesus has given you treasure beyond compare with faith in Him!  In baptism He has washed you clean from the filth of your sins!  In His Word over and over again He assures you of His continual grace, mercy, and love.  In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper you receive in a miraculous way the Lord Himself for the forgiveness of your sins.  Yes, they may seem so lowly, many don’t even remember their baptisms- a splash of water and a few words, in His supper we receive some of the most common elements- a bite of bread, a sip of wine, in the Bible we see another book among the billions of books in this world.  But don’t let the lowliness and humility fool you.  Don’t let dreams of earthly might and glory fool you to see only a man riding a donkey.  That is your King of kings.  He is the One who’s come to do more for you than you’ll ever be able to fathom eternally.  He rode willingly into Jerusalem to go to battle, the fiercest battle, the most decisive battle of all time.  The battle to pay for sins for all, for you and me.

Let us not be consumed by the things which only our eyes can see: gaining stuff, amassing wealth, achieving honor in this world.  Rather we work here, labor here and use this world’s goods for our bodily needs, but we never forget the other life.  In the end we have to leave all the stuff we accumulated here behind.  Let us remember where we really want to be, with Christ our eternal King and let nothing hinder or get in the way of being with Him.  After all Jesus is our King like none other, unlike every other king, ruler, leader, Jesus rode into Jerusalem in order to go to that cross so that you might not hear from God the words “Away from me,” but rather, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world!”  Yes, Jesus is your King like none other!