Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.
Endowed with Salvation
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
On Palm Sunday, the original Palm Sunday, Jerusalem received Jesus as her King. That day, the nation of Israel recognized Jesus as the One who was promised, the One in David's line who would ascend the throne of David and reign forever. I doubt if everyone present and participating on that day knew that they were doing so. It could be that none of them were aware of it. They were just acclaiming Jesus, a popular Rabbi and teacher. But on that Palm Sunday, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of our Old Testament Lesson. He came as King, humble, mounted on a donkey, and to the acclamation of the people.
One of the Gospels even tells us that Jesus sat on a donkey which had a colt, and it seems to indicate that He was riding the colt as well, somehow. That Gospel seems to have given us that specific information because he was writing to a Jewish audience, or one that was quite conversant with the Old Testament Scriptures and Jewish belief. He pointed their minds to this particular prophecy. It is certain that any Jew who witnessed this triumphal entry into Jerusalem should have recognized both the significance of the ride and the fulfillment of this prophecy. That was why the people were so excited - and why the Jewish leaders felt that they had to do something, and do something quickly! This festive scene meant that the Messiah had arrived - but only to those who believed. To the rest it meant trouble, unrest, a challenge to their authority and wealth, and possibly Roman interference.
They had to do something, and the choices they made turned the next week into what we call Holy Week, culminating for them in the crucifixion of a troublesome teacher and would-be-Messiah - and culminating for us in salvation and the glorious joy of Easter! This morning we look at the prophecy and see what it was that they might have expected - and what we should expect - under the theme, endowed with salvation.
Webster̓s dictionary defines "endow" as (among other meanings) "to equip with a quality or talent." That comes as close to the definition of the Hebrew words used in our text which are translated "just and endowed with salvation" as it is possible to come. The words literally mean that righteousness is the fundamental element of His nature, and that salvation (or victory) is one of His qualities, something that He possesses by nature that He might share it.
How true those words are about Jesus! "Righteous" is His name, or so says the Scriptures. His very nature is righteousness. This reflects the nature of man's problems. We sinned, and God is righteous. God had promised death to the one who sinned. In His righteousness, God could not simply ignore that promise. There is something in us that knows that, too. Man's sin has caused us to be naturally terrified of God and to hate Him when we confronted Him. Terror and hatred of God, and our own sins, has twisted our humanity and we have lost the natural spiritual ability to know God, to love Him, to understand Him or His will, or to trust Him.
Allow me to illustrate. Each of us has experienced or witnessed at least one of those things which caused people to wonder how God could allow such things to happen. Perhaps it was the innocent death of a good person - or of one at a tender, young age. Maybe it was a critical illness afflicting a beloved and urgently needed relative - urgently needed by their family or their job, or by us. It could have been a destructive act of nature, such as a storm - or a violent act of terrorism. The point is that we could not comprehend how God could allow such a thing to happen, or what good could possibly come from such evil circumstances. We cannot understand God. We cannot think the way He does.
Of course, God Himself tells us about this inability to understand Him or think like Him. Isaiah 55:8-9; "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." He would not be much of a God if we could think as deeply and clearly as He could. The truth is that our thoughts are limited by who and what we are, and then also by our sin, which blinds us to so much of the truth about God. The result. In the end, is that we cannot make sense of everything He does, and so we do not trust Him.
If we trusted Him, we would not be asking what good could possibly come from these events or circumstances. We would simply expect that it would be good, and if we could not see or imagine what the good could be, we would confidently wait for it, none the less.
But that is not how we usually handle such circumstances. Usually we chafe and worry. We try to figure it out, and failing that, we accuse God of being absent, or unjust, or inattentive. We find it almost impossible, and often patently absurd, to give thanks to God for everything when everything seems to be going wrong around us! We fret. We worry. We despair.
Think about your last trip to the doctor. If he told you things you did not want to hear, you had to wrestle with fear - and perhaps even anger about your health. Or, how about; someone who wants you to think they know something you do not tells you that things are going badly - gas prices are going through the roof, or the economy is beyond recovery, or whatever - and we react with fear, with anger, with a sense of impotence and frustration and look for someone to blame. We grumble and churn up those negative thought and feelings which are so close to our sinful nature and so near at hand even in our happiest moments. But such defeat and despair is sin!
Instead, we should rejoice and shout in triumph. That is what the prophet says - and it is echoed loudly in the New Testament as well: Rejoice in the Lord always. and again I will say it. Rejoice! Or the Apostle Paul writes in another place, Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. We should be able to shout in triumph, for our Palm Sunday Lord enters in righteousness and victory! He was riding in victory, and being saluted by His people before the final battle was even confronted, because He knew that victory was His!
He came mounted on a donkey. Most kings would ride in on a mighty stallion. Not Jesus. He entered humble and gentle. Salvation was already His to give. The victory was assured even before the battle was joined. Salvation is in His nature, it is one of His attributes. He did not need to win it so much as to demonstrate it and claim it by the exercise of His love and goodness. For this victory, He did not need thunderings and armies and awesome signs to frighten the enemy into submission. He needed only to exercise His power in apparent weakness, gain victory by what looked like defeat, and create such great peace out of the frenetic violence and horrible assault of Good Friday.
And the prophet promised that by this victory, the machines of war would be silenced. Many have made the mistake of assuming that this meant earthly peace, nation to nation. They look for idyllic scenes, such as those pictured on the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower magazine. But the war is the result of sin - it is our war with God. The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God - enmity, says the King James Version, a burning hatred. The King of the Palm Sunday coronation ride did not ride in to take control of an earthly kingdom. Less than one week later, He was explaining to Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. The peace He came to establish was not that of nation to nation, but a bigger peace - between God and man by ending the war called SIN.
Mankind is at war with God. He is our natural enemy. Our sin and guilt make us hate Him, and He is utterly offended at us and by our sin. He is HOLY. That is why we look over our shoulder when we are engaged in activities of which we are clear that we ought not to be involved, and we silently blame God when things seem to go wrong one after the other. When trouble comes, we often feel that we have done a specific sin for which God is now dealing harshly with us.
And we would deserve it if He did! Our sins are an awful offense to the righteousness which is the very nature of God. We deserve anything and everything that God can throw at us! We deserve pain and misfortune in this life, and eternal condemnation in the next. Our guilty consciences know that! The peace that this humble King comes to establish is peace between man and God. He does that by taking the full wrath of God against us and our sins on Himself. He did not ride into Jerusalem unaware that the cross lay ahead of Him. He rode into Jerusalem to ascend His unique throne - to be nailed to that cross, and to suffer bitter agony and die the death that we have earned and so richly deserve.
The King of the Palm Sunday coronation ride endured the fear, the sorrow, the pain, and the death in our place. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He took our sin so that we might share in the righteousness which He is, by nature, and that He might give us the salvation which is His fundamental quality to give. He ended the war -- He silenced the sounds of battle and laid the implements of war to rest. God is no longer angry with us, and we are to be terrified of Him no longer! God has reconciled us to Himself by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ - shed for us on the cross.
Through us, the King of the humble ride is now proclaiming peace to the nations. It is the peace of sins forgiven. It is the peace of knowing the love of God for us, and His good will toward us - and what is His good will toward us? [Our Salvation] Our war is over. God is no longer the enemy to be feared - He is our loving heavenly Father. Our real enemies, sin and Satan, have been utterly defeated and rendered powerless to do us any harm.
Put practically, nothing in our lives is out of control, and God is never punishing us. The difficult things we must endure as part of life are from the loving hands of our heavenly Father. They are blessings, "For we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose." So, while the pain is real, it is not eschatological, that is, it is not judgment by God, or condemnation, or punishment. God is still with you for good. The troubles of life have purpose and meaning, but the meaning is never that God has finally discovered your secret sin and is dealing with you on the basis of your guilt. God alone knows the purpose, many times, but He is good, and His purposes are good, and His will toward you is good and salvation. The sign of God's heart toward you is not your circumstances moment to moment, or how they feel, but the cross of Jesus Christ, borne for you that you might live forever.
And this is the gift of the King who rides in on a donkey, not a mighty horse of war. It is the gift which He pours out for all - and it is received by everyone who believes in Him - that is, everyone who knows what he has done, and trusts the promises of God in connection with Jesus. Your sins have been forgiven. Jesus is righteous and endowed with salvation - it is His to give, and He has given it to you, and to all who simply take Him at His Word and learn to trust Him in life, and death, in good times, and in times that are difficult, painful, and troubling. Fear not, for behold I am with you always!
Jesus kept the promise of God through Zechariah, in our text today. Of course, He did it in ways no one expected -- from riding on two animals to dying on the cross. He has fulfilled the prophecy. He bids our hearts peace, peace with God, and peace within His love and protection. He would have us remember that He is just and endowed with salvation!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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