April 13, 2017
Pastor John Hering
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. 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 wind blew the smoke from the grass fire into the next state. You’ve seen those signs along side the road before, “Do not drive into smoke!” and now you can understand why! The fire had raged through the country-side by your house and soon would come the moment of truth. Would you return to your home, or return to a pile of rubble? Then your life would be turned up side down. What do you do when your life is turned up side down?
Your work tells you they’re down-sizing and you are going to be laid off. Your life is turned up side down.
They did the biopsy and found cancer. Now you’re going to be a cancer patient. Your life is turned up side down.
You get the news that your father has six months to live. Your life is turned up side down.
You son gets killed in a car accident on the way home from school. Your life is turned up side down.
Your spouse whom you love more than life itself has been cheating on you. Your life is turned up side down.
What do you do?
The disciples had been with Jesus, bought into his program that they thought would have ascending value – move up in life. But, they were just told that Jesus was going to suffer and die. News like this hits the mind, but often not the heart. You know, first comes denial, then anger, regret. The disciples were emotionally resistant.
It would have been a similar scene for the Jews returning from exile in Babylon back to Jerusalem. The scattered people of Israel had their hopes running high. “We’ll go back home and restore Jerusalem to prominence and prosperity. We can do it!” But when they returned to Jerusalem, they found the city to be one big pile of rubble and ruin. Their lives were turned upside down. What were they going to do? Twenty years later reconstruction was at a standstill. What were they going to do? There were so many obstacles in rebuilding the town and the temple, primarily their own self-interest and the taunting and teasing by hostile neighbors. The people of Jerusalem were discouraged and depressed. They needed guidance, direction, and purpose. “If only we had a king!” they cried. God had not forgotten his people. He sent the Israelites a messenger named Zechariah whose message fits perfectly with our Palm Sunday and Confirmation celebration: This was his message!
What a King!
Suppose one of these confirmands were given the job of going to Jerusalem and asking one of the young people there at the time of Zechariah, “If your life was turned upside down and you needed help, what sort of king would you like in order to get that help?” That young person would probably say, “The only kings I’ve ever seen are Babylonian and Persian kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. I wouldn’t want a new king to be like them. They seem so cold and crude, rude and ruthless.”
We might ask an older Jewish person the same questions. An older person in Jerusalem would say, “I wouldn’t want a new king to be anything like the last four we had before we were taken captive—they were horrible!” The people of Jerusalem were depressed and discouraged because their life was turned upside down and there was no candidate for king in sight.
So was the dashed hopes of God’s people when God sent them the Prophet Zechariah. It was a scary message because their problems were worse than they thought. Zechariah said,
“Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord” (Zech 1:4)
Having a city without walls was a big problem, but there was even a bigger problem! There’s a war going on, and you’re in big danger!” “A war?” they responded, “What war? We just got back from exile in Babylon a few years ago. We don’t even have an army. We’re just struggling to survive. Jerusalem’s walls are still in shambles. We have no defense. What war are you talking about? If there’s going to be a war, we’re dead.” Zechariah replied, “You’re wrong, and you’re right. You are wrong because you are thinking of the kind of war fought on a battle field. But, you’re right because I’m talking about the battle going on inside you. It’s a war for your soul!”
This same war has been going on in every human being ever since Adam and Eve bought into Satan’s lie and became captives of his power. And you’re right in that you are defenseless. In fact, on your own you are as good as dead. Our worst problem is sin. Sure, we might survive all the pressures around us, but if we don’t get rescued from this war zone of sin, we’ll end up in hell! That turns your life upside down for eternity in torment! Yes, we need help. We need a hero. We need a champion. We need a king!
That’s when Zechariah heralded this good news, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you,” But look at the kind of king he predicted. He wouldn’t come charging in on a chariot. Instead, “See, your king comes to you … lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” If you lived in Jerusalem at that time and heard Zechariah’s message, would you be excited to hear this news? Your eyebrows would probably be raised in disbelief, “You mean we are going to get a king who is a ninety-eight pound weakling? Don’t make us laugh. Who wants a humble, poor king? Certainly he can’t turn things around?!!!”
But Zechariah wasn’t finished. He announced, “This humble king is exactly what you need because he will also be “righteous and victorious.” He is going to turn things around. He is going to fight the big battle and end the war against sin, death and the devil. He is going to humble himself so you won’t be humbled. He is going to be poor so you can be spiritually rich. He is going to do all the dirty work to pay the penalty for your sin so you can live in the mansions of heaven just as God promised, “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.”
After Zechariah died, many different people took control of Palestine and ruled the Israelites: Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria, Pompey and Caesar of Rome, all giants of history. But none of them fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy. Only Jesus filled the bill. On that first Palm Sunday he did not ride into Jerusalem on a powerful white stallion shouting orders to his troops. He did not have thousands of well-trained soldiers marching in step, brandishing swords, and holding gleaming shields. He rode into Jerusalem on a beast of burden. The donkey was even on loan. He had twelve disciples following him, most of them ignorant fishermen from the rural towns of Galilee. Yet he was righteous and by the end of the week completely victorious. He turned things around! What a king!
Zechariah’s message still stands today. Satan has invaded our lives, our mind, our heart. Because we are descendants of Adam and Eve, because like them we are sinners, we ended up on the wrong side at war with God. We have to be honest and admit that most of the pressures in our life are our own fault. We need a champion to end the war. Take a closer look at Jesus. He is the only one who could do the job. He did what no other king could do. He came “righteous and victorious. Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!” This is Jesus our King! And he comes with a great kingdom!
What a Kingdom!
If we had the opportunity, we might want to ask one of the youngsters in Jerusalem, “What kind of kingdom would you want your king to set up to get things turned around?” The young person would probably say, “I really don’t know. I hear Persia is pretty big. Maybe a kingdom as big or bigger than that.” We might ask an older person the same question. An older person in Jerusalem would say, “I would not want the kingdom to be anything like our nation before the exile. Our nation had been reduced to a few square miles around the capital. If I could live in a kingdom, it would be like the one our ancestor King David had.” The people were depressed and discouraged because no such kingdom was in sight.
Amid all that gloom and doom God sent Zechariah to announce, “[Your king] 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 was talking about God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom spreads far beyond your neighborhood, far beyond your city limits, far beyond the borders of your land, out into the remotest corners of the earth.
After Zechariah died, many empires expanded and expired. But no earthly king ever controlled the whole world: not Caesar, not Frederick the Great, not Napoleon. Only Jesus has a kingdom that extends that far. He didn’t march into Jerusalem, throw out the Romans, and start a new earthly kingdom. He didn’t come to relieve his fellow Israelites of heavy taxation. Instead, he told them, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and then sent his followers out from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth with a message that conquers Satan and wins souls, “Your sins are forgiven!” My friends, it has happened. Look at the extension of our king’s kingdom. It’s global! What a kingdom!
The Holy Spirit made you member of that kingdom when you were baptized. That turned everything around for you. I know, you probably don’t perceive the Kingdom of God at work. But, you will when you lose your job, get sick, find out someone you loves has died, or someone you love has cheated on you, when you’re low on funds, when there are disagreements in the family….then remember that you are part of God’s kingdom!
On the day of your confirmation it may not seem like a big thing to you, but it is to God. For when you were baptized God made you his very own—extending his eternal kingdom by washing away your sins and making you a child of his eternal kingdom. Jesus continues to work to extend his kingdom through the gospel in word and sacrament. So what will you do when your life gets turned up side down? Your girl-friend dumps you, you get cut from the team, you study for one job and end up working at McDonalds. You know what to do. Remember your King!
Today Zechariah lifts our sight—he calls on us to revel in the peace we have with God. You may not perceive it so much today because you are surrounded by family and friends who all are paying attention to you, and want you to continue to grow strong in your faith, just like you are hoping and praying for today as well. But, when Satan comes with his temptations and lies to lead you away from the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, then you will be tested and you will truly find out if you are confirmed in your faith or not.
So, what will you do when your life gets turned upside down? Fire, tornado, sickness, suffering, losing job, friends and spouse….Yes, while we live here in this life the days of gloom and doom are inevitable. The devil will use this to try and cause us to denounce our Lord and Savior. But when you feel yourself down and discouraged, remember that God has not forgotten you. You have a King ! …. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the highest! Jesus is the only King that counts, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Rejoice! Hosanna to the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen!