Sunday, March 24th, 2024

The Messiah Has Come for You

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold you 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.” With these words, the prophet Zechariah foreshadowed the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It was a day of celebration, a victory parade of sorts. Picture the many images you have seen; the crowds lining the street of some city to celebrate maybe a championship, or the crowds lining the streets of New York on Thanksgiving, Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. Such a crowd was gathered in Jerusalem to welcome their Messiah, rejoice at his arrival, to anticipate the deliverance that he would bring. Now there was no ticker tape, but there were palm branches waving to and fro with celebration on the occasion. There was no red carpet, but there were cloaks to honor his arrival, and there were voices crying out almost certainly in song, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord the King of Israel.” But let us not get swept away in the celebration. We must remember the word of the Lord has spoken through his prophet Zechariah. Maybe even look at those words before you today as we consider the significance of what they say. “Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on the donkey.” See these words reveal just how great a gift the Messiah truly is. Messiah is our king and he is coming to us. It’s not a statement referring just to the direction of his travel, it’s not, “Hey you, look the Messiah is coming down the road” and he happens to be coming toward you. No, this is the statement of advantage. Behold the Messiah is coming to you means the Messiah is coming for you, he’s coming for your good. It’s like when a child gets stuck on top of the monkey bars and a classmate goes to get the teacher. When the teacher is on the way, the classmates try to calm the frightened child by telling them “Don’t worry she’s coming to you.” The prophet Zechariah says the same thing don’t worry. Rejoice your king comes to you righteous and having salvation is he. He has your salvation, and God’s been planning this. He’s been building towards this; he’s been working throughout history to bring about the salvation of the world on the day when he sends his Messiah. That’s what Psalm 118 says. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone and this is the Lord’s doing. It’s marvelous in our eyes. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Like a child makes a spaceship by carefully piercing together blocks of Legos, our Lord has made the day of your salvation. The day of salvation is the day which the Lord has made. This is the Lord’s doing. It’s marvelous indeed. Your king comes to save you, something only he can do because only he is righteous, only he can fulfill the law properly, for only he is without sin, only he can be the sacrifice to take away the sin of the world. Any righteousness we have is derived from him. His righteousness is his own. We are like the entourage who live in luxury, only because we happen to be friends with someone famous. We are like the people huddled around a fire trying to get warm, with the heat that the flame produces. He is the fire. He is the heat. He is the warmth. He is the true righteousness. He shares that righteousness with us. He not only lets us warm our bones beside the fire. He sets up camp right in our hearts with the fire of the Holy Spirit that is ours through the preaching of his Word. He not only lets us live in the lap of his luxury but he actually seeks out the lost and says to us, “Come follow me.” He selflessly gives us all his riches; he takes all our poverty for himself. That’s what the Messiah does.  He’s humble, riding on a donkey. As we saw last week, Jesus is nothing if not humble. His birth was humble. Not in the palace of the king, but in the barn of a full hotel. His childhood was humble, not surrounded by cameras and bodyguards and all the other trimmings that typically surround celebrity children, but the simple son of a carpenter and his wife, who lived in a small town in northern Israel. In the famous words of the prophet Isaiah, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him”.  Or in the words of the apostle Paul, “who though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Messiah is humble, not only in appearance, but also in mission. He does not come as a despot to subdue the empires of the world; he speaks peace to the nations. That in itself should give us a moment’s pause. The righteous one, the Messiah, comes and speaks peace. We have his words today. Do we use them to speak peace, or do we prefer judgment and condemnation? Which file verses are the quickest to pop into our minds, the ones that condemn the sins of others or the ones that speak of the tender compassion of our God. Is the word of God a two-edged sword to be used against Satan, or do we prefer to cut down the people around us with it, leaving ourselves the last one standing? For all the abuse that sinful people have done to and with the precious word of God, that word remains first and foremost a word of peace, because the Messiah speaks peace. He speaks peace to the warring nations and the books of Zechariah. He speaks peace to calm the storm in the gospels, he speaks peace into your life. Cast all your anxiety on him. Live in peace, for he cares for you. He doesn’t promise that your life will be free from problems or free from pain, only that in him you will have a perspective that rises above the chaos of this life, and he can promise that, because only he can deliver. He is, after all, the only true king, “righteous and having salvation is he” “his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. He will rule in peace. That’s why through the Messiah we are prisoners of hope. In the words of the prophet Zechariah, because of the blood of God’s covenant with us he will set us free. For the Israelites of old, that referred to the blood of cows and birds that Abraham cut in half, by the shedding of that blood, God irrevocably bound himself to the Israelites, promising Abraham a son, a promise fulfilled in Isaac, promising to give Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars, a promise fulfilled in the people of Israel, and even more so in the church today, promising to establish the Israelites in the land of Canaan, the promise fulfilled in the days of Joshua, and promising to send the Messiah, the one through whom all nations will be blessed, the promise whose fulfillment we will celebrate over the span of the next week. Because God had made a promise and sealed it in blood the Israelites could confidently wait for his deliverance. We have covenant with God too, a blood covenant, not one sealed with the blood of goats or bulls, but with the blood of Christ himself, the blood of the new covenant given and shed for us and for our salvation. And that blood, the very blood waiting for you at the communion rail this day, established the promise between you and God, the promise that he will never leave you or forsake you, the promise that you belong to him, and that he lives in you. And because Christ lives in you, in the words of Paul, we are now bond servants of Christ, slaves of Christ, we remain prisoners, but no longer prisoners to sin. Because we are in Christ, we are in the words of Zechariah, prisoners of hope. We are enslaved to hope. Hope now permeates everything that we do. Hope tints the way that we look at the world around us. As we look past the struggles of this life, to thank our Lord for his blessings, hope seasons our speech, for we are the salt of the earth. So, we speak, not only of the concerns and the brokenness of this world, but for the hope of the life to come. And hope defines our relationships as we live in forgiveness and reconciliation, rejoicing in the unity that we possess in Christ. And that is the stronghold to which we return. The stronghold of Christ himself, through the gift of baptism you are in Christ, you are in the kingdom of God. Nothing can harm you in this stronghold. If God is for us, who can stand against us? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, “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, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” And he shall speak peace, not only to the nations, but peace to you. “His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” And as for you, because of God’s blood covenant with you, he will set you free from the waterless pit, to return to your stronghold, prisoners of hope. The Lord has promised that he will restore to you double. He is faithful. He will see it done. In Jesus name, Amen.