Rejoice, Dear Christian!
O Lord God, please be with us and bless us as we worship this day. May we welcome Your dear Son into our hearts with joy and in true humility, recognizing that He is indeed the Savior of our souls and the sovereign of our lives. Instruct us, dear Lord, so that we grow in grace and serve you faithfully in love. Amen.
The Lord God announces the coming rule of His Son, our Savior, Who would be both our everlasting Priest and King. May we embrace Him with joy and follow Him in faithfulness.
Let us "run with endurance the race that is set before us" keeping our eyes on Jesus our Savior. He endured the cross for us but now sits at the right hand of God ruling over us!
Jesus was anointed with precious oil by Mary in preparation for His burial. The next day, Palm Sunday, Jesus proceeded to Jerusalem where He was greeted by the crowds which cried out, "Hosanna!" Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!
Text: Zechariah 9:9-12
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you."
In Christ Jesus, our beloved Savior and almighty King, dear fellow redeemed:
Today is the first day of "holy week." During this week we trace our Savior’s steps from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane. We accompany Him to the judgment halls of Annas and Caiaphas, and then Pontius Pilate. We watch in sorrow as He is crucified. We rejoice in the wonder of Easter, which proclaims that our Lord and Savior is alive and victorious. Yes, today is the first day of "holy week."
Today is "Palm Sunday." As we heard in our Gospel Lesson, Jesus entered Jerusalem on this day amid the cries of supporters waving palm branches in the air and greeting Him with loud hosannas as their “King!” There were many people in the crowd that day. Most of them obviously knew Jesus and greeted Him enthusiastically. Some of them may well simply have been drawn into the streets out of curiosity. Many of the people believed Jesus to be the promised Savior, while others probably doubted His claims, and still others outright opposed Him.
There are about 400 of us here this morning. Our understanding of and enthusiasm for Jesus may well vary. Many of us are here to proclaim with joy our faith in Jesus—our Savior and King, to hear His words, and to thank Him for the many blessings we know He brings into our lives. Others of us may be here this morning with hearts burdened by life’s trials and struggling to find joy as God’s children. Still others may have doubts in our minds, questioning the validity of the Christian faith and wondering whether Jesus really can make a difference in our lives. My dear friends, the words of Zechariah the prophet are intended to be personal words addressed to each of our hearts! Let us all listen carefully as he urges each of us—REJOICE, DEAR CHRISTIAN!
Your King came and will come for you! Zechariah writes, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey.” The titles “daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” are Old Testament names for believing Christians. Zechariah is addressing us when he says, “Your King is coming to you.” The idea would be better expressed by saying, “Your King is coming [for] you”—for the purpose of helping you, being at your side, delivering you, and saving you! Needless to say, it implies an intense and personal interest on the part of your Savior-King in you! We are told, “He is just and having salvation!” You can trust your Savior-King to do what is right. Yet, in spite of your own sins and weaknesses, you need not fear His coming for our God promised that He would send Jesus to save you. That is exactly what He did. He came into this world, not like other kings in pomp and circumstance, but rather He assumed our flesh in lowly manner and was intent upon serving us, rather than being served. Consequently, as He entered Jerusalem for this last time during His earthly ministry He came in “lowly” fashion, “riding” not on the back of a magnificent stallion, but rather on a beast of burden--“on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey.” This He did for you, as our Epistle Lesson states, so that he might be “the author and finisher of [y]our faith.” Yes, He knew the joyous result of His work of redemption would be your salvation, and so we are told that He “endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Zechariah looked ahead to that first Palm Sunday. We now look back at it knowing that our Savior-King came and won our salvation. We also look forward to His second coming to deliver us to heaven. Therefore,REJOICE, DEAR CHRISTIAN! Your King came and will come for you!
Your King also brings you peace! Zechariah writes, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” What exactly does Zechariah mean? It is important to know, for while Zechariah and the Bible in general speaks a lot about “peace,” there may be quite a few people here today, who long for peace, but do not feel they possess it. There may be quite a few people here today, who wish that they would experience more of that peace personally in their homes and within their families. My dear Christian friends, peace can be a reality for you personally and for your families, if only you will let your Savior-King bring it to you!
Consider Zechariah’s words, but in reverse order. He states that, “His (Jesus’) dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” This statement is objective truth. Jesus Himself tells us, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus now sits at God’s right hand and exercises His authority on our behalf (cf. Ephesians 1:20-22). The world may and does scoff at this thought, but we need have no doubts, for evidence of His grace and blessing are all around us in this physical world (Acts 14:15-17).
Secondly, Zechariah says, “He (Jesus) shall speak peace to the nations.” The gospel message of our Savior proclaims “peace” for all. The peace of which He speaks is not merely potential peace, but real peace. Man by nature is at emnity with God, but the Scriptures assure us that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for the sins of the whole world. Jesus was our substitute. Through Him God was reconciled to us—He doesn’t charge us with sin any more. The war is over! We are at peace with God right now through Christ! Believe it, dear friends, for it is true and it is real!
Why is it, then, that people, who are at peace with God, so often do not seem to be at peace with themselves or others? Consider Zechariah’s words, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off.” What is Zechariah talking about? Simply this—Zechariah is not talking about disarming and defeating our enemies. Rather he is talking about Jesus disarming us. Until we are utterly disarmed, defenseless, and dependent upon our Savior-King, we will not be able to experience personal peace, nor will such peace grow within our relationships, whether that be in our marriage, our family, or elsewhere. My dear friends, let us wake up to the fact that it is alone through the Spirit of God that we learn to depend upon our Savior-King. Without His influence we thrash around in self-defense, attempting to preserve what we believe is ours and to secure our futures all by ourselves! Yet, our lives—present and future—lie in the hands of a Savior-King who loves us and has invited us to rest in His arms. Yes, REJOICE, DEAR CHRISTIAN! Your King brings you peace!
Your King also sets you free! Zechariah informs us, “As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” Zechariah here uses two common experiences of Old Testament believers to drive home a wonderful and comforting truth. He reminds us, first of all, of the sacrifices they performed in their religious services—animals sacrificed for the sins of the people. Yet, it was not the blood of animals that atoned for sins, but rather that blood symbolized the blood your Savior would shed on Calvary’s cross. This, Zechariah describes as “your covenant.” God, recognizing that you and I could not atone for our own sins, established an agreement with us. It was, however, a one-sided agreement. He would send a Savior. The Savior would act as our substitute gaining for us righteousness and removing from us the stain of every sin. Our part of the agreement would simply be to believe and accept it—something that the Spirit of God enables us to do through the precious gospel message, for as Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Secondly, Zechariah describes the freedom we receive through that gospel promise by taking another Old Testament illustration. Palestine is a very dry country. There are few rivers and streams. Consequently, God’s Old Testament people would dig wells, and where no wells could be dug, they would dig cisterns—holes in the ground into which precious rainwater would run. However, during the dry seasons, after the water had been used up, those dry cisterns were often used for prisoners. They were generally quite deep, with narrow tops and expanding bottoms. Without help, it was impossible to get out. Zechariah describes the hole we dig for ourselves by our sins as just such a “waterless pit.” Sin leads to sorrow, to suffering, to feelings of guilt, to bitterness, and abuse. We can and do hurt the very people we claim to love. But Jesus, dear friends, can and will lift you out of your “waterless pit” of sin, if only you will turn from your sin, repent of that sin, and turn to your Savior. Do not sit in anger at the bottom of your pit. Do not spend your time in resentment trying to climb out yourself—it will not happen! Listen to your Savior-King, rely upon your Savior-King! He will keep His promises to you! Yes, REJOICE, DEAR CHRISTIAN! Your Kings sets you free.
Finally, your King provides you a basis for hope! With his final words, Zechariah extends to you God’s open invitation, “Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you!” How can we, who have been set free by our Savior-King, still be “prisoners of hope”? It is really quite simple, if you think about it. As long as we live in this world, we cannot see our Savior-King, nor can we experience fully the blessings of His heavenly kingdom. We can only look forward in “hope.” This hope is not an uncertain wish—no, we can be certain of everything God promises us, for He is God and cannot lie. Yet, on this earth we remain hope’s “prisoners” awaiting our final redemption and entrance into eternal life.
Oh, Satan will try you, attempting to lead you away. Life will be difficult, especially for the godly (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). The world will be no help, for the world is God’s enemy (cf. 1 John 2:15-16). Our sinful flesh will be no help, and in fact we must daily crucify it as Paul urges us (cf. Romans 6:6). God, however, gives each of us two wonderful encouragements through Zechariah’s words. First of all, he urges you to “return to the stronghold.” The stronghold is God Himself, as He reveals Himself in His Word. The Psalmist reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Paul tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and if profitable for doctrine, for reprood, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). My dear friends, if you find yourself without hope, then cling to God’s promises and revealed in His Word. Therein you will find the basis for all true and lasting hope.
Secondly, God promises, “I will declare that I will restore double to you!” Double what? It is certainly not double punishment, for Jesus has already endured the punishment for our sins on the cross. No, God here is speaking in the same way He spoke through Isaiah, who was once moved to write, “Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs” (Isaiah 61:7).REJOICE, DEAR CHRISTIAN! Your King provides you a basis for hope! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting