Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sermon -- 6th Sunday in Lent / Palm Sunday (March 20, 2016)



In the name + of Jesus.

     The prophet Zechariah preached to the nation of Israel shortly after they had returned from 70 years of captivity in Babylon.  These Israelites came back to find Jerusalem laying in ruins and their temple nothing but scorched rubble.  Until they had walls reconstructed, their city was defenseless.  Until they had the altar rebuilt, there was no smoke from the offerings to proclaim that God was with them to have mercy upon them and atone for their sins.  These Israelites had just begun to rebuild their city and their temple when Zechariah proclaimed the word of the Lord: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you...” (Zechariah 9:9)
     Now, keep in mind that Jerusalem was still pretty much in shambles when Zechariah proclaimed these things.  David's kingdom had been cut off with no evidence that it was poised to return.  There was no palace, and there was no one who dared to claim a throne for himself.  To do so would have been regraded as an act of treason against the Persian government which allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem.  Israel was not even looking for a king, much less preparing for one.
     “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...” (Zechariah 9:9)  The king whom Zechariah foretold would be a righteous king.  He would not be like the idolatrous kings who incurred the Lord's judgment against the nation and led to their exile.  He would not be crooked or deceptive.  He would rule in justice and would proclaim the truth even if the truth should hurt.  Behold!  Your king is righteous.  That means more than he is honest; it means he is holy.
     Americans do not appreciate what it means to fear a king, much less one who is holy.  We take great delight in mocking our leaders.  Saturday Night Live's best skits are the political ones.  With freedom of speech, we seem to think it is our duty to post insulting comments about our leaders on the web.  No sovereign would ever put up with that kind of insolence.  Just ask the North Koreans.  Now, if an earthly, sinful monarch would not tolerate mockery, how much more does it anger our holy God!
     The fear of the Lord has been felt by anyone who has ever come face to face with him.  The prophet Isaiah and the apostle John both received visions of the Lord upon his heavenly throne.  Both heard the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! (Revelation 4:8)  “The whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)  And both fell face down to the ground in terror at their glimpse of the holy, holy, holy Lord.  Even the seraphim sheltered their faces from him.  Sinners have good reason to fear the Lord.  But we don't.  Not even the fear of hell keeps us from sinning against him.  We boldly defy God by using his name as an expletive or failing to use it at all in prayer.  God tells us to love our neighbor, but we despise the people he brings us into contact with.  We defame acquaintances.  Rather than calling loved ones to repent, we assure them that they are fine when they sin against God and others.  We plot revenge rather than grant forgiveness.  We avoid giving our time, our energy, and our money to anyone.  We even regard our loved ones as a burden or a nuisance.  And we think that God either does not see or does not care because life goes on as usual.  But the God who rules over heaven and earth sees all that goes on in heaven and earth, even in every heart.  The righteous God knows, and he judges righteously.  The King of heaven and earth will put all people to the test.  Those who are guilty will be rightly judged as guilty, and they will be rightly condemned for their guilt.  Repent.
     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. (Zechariah 9:9)  Jesus Christ is, without a doubt, the holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty.  Yet, he does not come in glory.  He comes in humility instead.  For, he does not come to give sinners what they deserve.  He comes having salvation.  The Almighty comes to save us who are feeble and frail.  He comes in meekness to save us who have been bold in our sins.  The Lord of hosts entered Jerusalem and the crowds welcomed him with rejoicing and shouts of “Hosanna!”  Although unwitting, it was a perfect plea.  For “Hosanna!” means, “Save, now!”  It proclaims exactly what Jesus came to do.  He is the Lord who comes to save.  Behold!  Your king comes to you, and gives you every reason to rejoice.
     When your king comes, he comes unarmed.  Zechariah declared, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off...” (Zechariah 9:10)  Your king establishes his reign without an army, without chariots or war horses or bows and arrows.  Jesus enters Jerusalem not to slaughter, but to be slain.  You may wonder, “What kind of king is this?  He is meek and presents no threat.  He is righteous, and yet comes to pardon the guilty.  He comes to establish a kingdom, and yet is going to his death.”  This, dear Christian, is the King who comes for you.  He comes to deliver you from your guilt by taking your punishment for you.  He comes to deliver you from the grave by going into death for you.  He comes to destroy your enemy, the devil, so that you are free from his tyranny of temptations and accusations.  The king dies for you to pay the price for sins, and then the king rises from the grave to overcome every threat you face.
     Behold!  Your king comes to you!  And he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10)  The Lord Jesus answers our prayers of “Hosanna!” and establishes a kingdom of peace.  The peace which Jesus gives is peace between God and man.  God's anger only rests upon those who are guilty of sin.  But if you have been pardoned for all your sin, and if the blood of Jesus purifies you from all unrighteousness, then God cannot be angry with you.  Rather, God is pleased with you.  We cry, “Hosanna!” and our Savior King makes his royal decree: God's favor, salvation, and peace are ours.
     Behold!  His kingdom extends from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth.  Behold!  Your King reigns where he grants his peace.  Wherever the word of God is rightly preached and his sacraments are rightly administered, there is the kingdom.  There, Jesus reigns and bestows his salvation.  His kingdom is not limited by borders or race or even time.  His kingdom extends to the ends of the earth and even into heaven.
     Behold!  Your king comes to you again today.  And the church of heaven and earth join together in receiving him.  He is the “holy, holy, holy Lord God of heavenly hosts; heaven and earth are full of his glory.”  We sing the song of the angels and saints in heaven.  They, in turn, join the song of the saints on earth, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!”  Again, we will cry out our Hosannas, and again the Lord comes and save.  And once again, he comes veiled in humble means.  The holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty comes in bread and wine to deliver his salvation and to preserve us in his kingdom.
     Rejoice, dear Church of God.  Behold!  Your King comes to you.  He answers your prayers of Hosanna.  He delivers his righteous salvation to you.  He grants you his everlasting peace.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.