What is There to Rejoice About?
Updated: Apr 17
Text: Zechariah 9:9-12
Palm Sunday, B
Very often the most powerfully life-changing events and words appear foolish, ridiculous, or just plain strange at first blush. To understand the power of Zechariah’s life-changing words in the OT reading you have to remember that although the people had returned to the promised land, their efforts to rebuild the Temple had been at a standstill for over fourteen years because of the opposition of enemies, political pressure and a growing indifference among the people themselves. Just what is there to rejoice about?
Well, how about this for starters? The Lord is faithful to His promises! No matter what things may look like for God’s people at the moment, it does not change one bit what God has promised or what God will deliver! 9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, ... 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, 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. God will deliver them. God will save them. True and lasting peace WILL come and will win the day!
And if that is not enough to rejoice over then there is also this important fact in addition: The Lord is faithful to His people! 11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. Their present problems in which they find themselves mired and trapped were due in large part to their own wickedness and lack of faithfulness. Nevertheless, if they would turn again to the Lord, He would preserve and protect them in the future just as He had in the past. Their nation would again prosper under the guiding hand of God who would send the Messiah into their midst to establish His kingdom forever.
By grace, the Lord invites sinners to return to their stronghold, the Lord God Almighty, Himself. In place of their despair, then, the Lord promises a double blessing: a security in Him AND His hard won victory over all enemies.
And Just how would God accomplish all this? Through His Son, that long-promised Messiah who would come to deliver His people just as Zechariah prophesied! For almost 100 years Israel had found herself at another standstill under the Romans. Soldiers patrolled the streets. Taxes impoverished her citizens and built Roman extravagances. Paganism crowded in on every side and a growing indifference was rising among the people themselves once again. On that first Palm Sunday, just what is there to rejoice about?
The Lord remained faithful to His promises! It was finally coming true! 9Behold, 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. Look. See. There He is! Listen to the crowds singing, the children shouting, the city rejoicing! The Lord is faithful to His people! 11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, ... today I declare that I will restore to you double.
This is the public proof that Jesus is the promised king, the looked for deliverer. The ancient kings of Israel rode donkeys. Here at long last was their rightful King. Their prayed for saviour. But this is where so many began to get the promise wrong. His kingdom is not an earthly one and the enemies from which He will deliver us is no Roman Emperor or any other man. His kingdom is heaven itself and the great enemies He has come to vanquish are sin, death and the devil himself.
As Luther observed: “Here there is no violence, no armour, no power, no anger, no wrath ... Here there are only kindness justice, salvation, mercy, and every good thing.” It is not what the people expected. God’s ways rarely are. Tools of war have no place in the Messiah’s kingdom. God’s Word is the only “weapon” by which He brings about peace. God’s own blood will pay for their freedom.
And that brings us to our situation now where we find our own little congregation at a standstill for the past year of covid concerns. Where we find the Christian church increasingly singled out for opposition by those who want us to be silent, political pressure from those who want us to obey and submit no matter what the rule or regulation is or what effect it may have on our congregational life and where a growing apathy and indifference among our own Christian people is seeing commitment to the Church dwindle and fade at an alarming rate. And so we might ask just what is there to rejoice about?
But you already know the answer to that! The Lord is even now, just as He always has been, entirely faithful to His promises! God is still with us. Jesus is in our midst. He remains our righteousness and brings us salvation, though we deserve none of it! He may not ride into our midst on a humble donkey, but He is here by means every bit as unassuming. In the water of Holy Baptism, the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion, the Words of Holy Scripture and the love and support of our fellow Christians ... there you will find Jesus continuing to bring kindness, justice, salvation, mercy, and every good thing.
In the Means of Grace God keeps His promises. And chief among those promises is that no matter what life may bring the Lord is ALWAYS faithful to His people! Because of our humble and victorious King we are no longer slaves to sin, destined for death, or ruled by the devil. The devil, the world and your own sinful heart want you to be depressed and despairing. They want you to look around you and wonder what else could go wrong. Don’t fall for it anymore! Just what is there to rejoice about? Everything! Because no matter what happens we have already been delivered and set free! We have eternal redemption by Christ’s own blood.