Rejoice Over Your King - Zechariah 9:9
Today marks the opening of a very serious and yet enjoyable time of year for Christians.
It’s the week we call Holy Week. We have been planning events, making arrangements and preparing ourselves for this special season of worship. And we call it “Holy Week” because we celebrate the events which led up to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is this series of events which point to the most significant time in human history – a point which all prior history had looked forward to with expectancy, and all history since has looked back upon with wonder.
Certainly the ministry of Jesus Christ spanned more than a week, but this one week in His life was filled with so much significance. Every moment was driving toward the culmination of His rising following His propitiatory work on the cross.
Holy Week begins today with the very memorable scene from Scripture.
In fact, it is one of the few stories of Christ which is found in all four of the Gospels. Mark didn’t write about this part of it, but Jesus Christ came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey – an ancient symbol of peace – as opposed to the horse, which was a symbol of war. Jesus was, of course, the “Prince of Peace,” as He was called by the prophet Isaiah. He was the one who would usher in peace – not from man to man, but from God to man.
In Romans 5:1 we learn; “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And as He entered Jerusalem, He was surrounded by people holding palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!”
Their palm branches were symbolic of victory, because many of them believed Christ had come to usher in a time of victory over the occupying Romans.
The crowd was aware of His many powerful miracles, which had begun three years earlier with the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana and culminated just a short time before when Jesus had raised Lazarus from his grave. They believed His mighty powers could lead them to a powerful political victory. In fact, some of the people were ready to declare Him King of Israel, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leaders.
In fact, Luke’s gospel tells us that the Pharisees were standing by watching all this go on, and they demanded that Jesus silence His disciples (Luke 19:39). Jesus responds with a famous remark saying, ““I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (v.40).
This was the moment in which God had decreed that Christ’s Kingship would be declared to the world. It was a day that had been a part of God’s plan from the beginning of creation – a truth that was prophesied over 400 years prior. This morning, we are going to examine the messianic prophesy which foretells this event, and see what it tells us about the King who is to come…
Zechariah 9:9 reads; “ 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.” The prophet Zechariah lived at a time in Israel’s history which is filled with significance.
The Jews had been in exile since they had been captured and taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, they had been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild and restore their nation. However, they had seen many obstacles in their attempts to rebuild, and there was great dismay among the people. They had faced several major obstacles, and their morale was shaken.
So God sends Zechariah to provide words of exhortation and encouragement.
His timing is like that of a coach addressing his team which has gone into half-time with a deficit on the scoreboard. Their confidence is waning, so he delivers a needed word of encouragement so that they can continue to move forward. And within these words of encouragement from Zechariah are found some of the most profound Messianic prophecies in Scripture. In fact, there are eight very specific messianic prophecies in the brief 14 chapters of his book.
The people may not understood it, but he was telling them that what they were living out was leading up to something of major historical significance. There is a king coming; a righteous, saving king, who will bring the blessings of God to His people.
But what does Zechariah tell us about this coming King? It is noteworthy that this text begins with the word, “Rejoice!” And why would he want the people to become so filled with excitement and joy? Israel had seen many kings come and many kings go.
After Saul, David and Solomon, the kingdom had split into the northern and southern kingdoms. The northern kingdom being Israel, which had only evil kings after Solomon. The southern kingdom had a few good kings, but also had experienced many evil ones as well. So why rejoice over another king? Well, we already know that this King would be different than all those who preceded Him!
But it is not like Zecharaiah hadn’t provided three good reasons to Rejoice Over our King: it was the Righteousness of our King; the Salvation of our King; and the Humility of our King.
The Hebrew word for righteousness can also mean “just” or lawful.” But when we consider the word righteous, we must also understand that there are different contexts in which this word is used. In Genesis 6:9 Noah is called a righteous man. Why? Because Noah was blameless in his generation and walked with God.
But this righteousness is different than the righteousness spoken of by Zecharaiah, because Zecharaiah is speaking of a perfect righteousness which belongs to God alone. It is similar to the goodness Jesus spoke of when he told the rich young ruler; “There is only One who is good.” The goodness He was referring to is perfect goodness, God’s goodness.
And when Zechariah said that the King would be “righteous” it was in this second sense that he was speaking. Many earthly kings had been righteous, especially when compared to the very wicked kings of Israel, but none of them were perfectly righteous. This is a quality which applies solely and uniquely to Christ alone.
In 2 Corinthians 5:13 Paul tells us: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
And in 1 Peter 2:22 we learn: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Christ is the God-Man, thus He is perfection incarnate. As such, He is the only righteous king who has ever existed, and the only one who could fulfill this prophecy. The true blessing is that our King offers us comparative righteousness as a gift, and it doesn’t take much looking around to know that if you are following Christ you are comparatively more righteous.
But, hey, don’t take my word for it. In Phil. 3:9 we learn: “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” And in Rom. 3:21-22 we learn: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…”
We rejoice in our righteous king because it is His righteousness which causes us to stand before God as righteous — because we stand dressed in His righteousness and not our own.
Moving on, we should find it interesting that the righteousness and salvation of our King are linked in this passage because these two things are also linked in regard to the way our King saves us.
In our own tradition we often talk of salvation, but not so much about being saved. In much of the rest of Christian community, however, “being saved” is a very common term. “Are you saved” or “when were you saved” are very common questions in the modern Christian vernacular. But what does it mean to be “saved”? We must know what it means, right? Maybe not.
If I were to ask you if you are saved, would you answer, from what?
Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote a book about this topic where he demonstrated that the answer to this question is very profound. When we talk about being saved, we are commonly talking about being saved from Hell, which means we are being saved from judgment, which means we are being saved from God! But, we are the just objects of the wrath of God. Paul tells us we are “children of wrath.”
We are spiritually dead, and rebellious against the very Creator and deserving of His righteous judgment. But, instead of leaving us in this dead condition to rot in our earthly bodies until we are cast into the lake of fire, Jesus saved us.
He took our punishment, saving us from being the just recipients of the wrath of God.
We need to be saved – this is most certainly true – but we need to understand what that means…
- Our biggest need is not to be saved physically.
- Our biggest need it not to be saved financially.
- Our biggest need it not to be saved politically.
- Our biggest need is to be saved from the wrath of God – to be spiritually saved.
Those who trust in Christ are saved from the wrath of God. This, again, is why we rejoice in Him.
OK, so we rejoice in the righteousness of our King – and in the salvation of our King, but we also rejoice in the Humility of our King. Going back to Zechariah we read; “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.”
We have already noted that the animal Jesus was riding upon represented peace, as opposed to a war horse. This is just one earthly expression of His amazing humility. But what we must not forget is that the humility of Christ is far deeper than any earthly expression of humility.
The very fact that Jesus came to earth is an act of utter humiliation.
The fact that He entered into His own creation to fellowship with His creation is an act of complete condescension. Understanding the true act of Christ’s humility is best expressed in the Carmen Christi, considered to be one of the earliest “creeds” of the church.
It is, in fact, our second reading: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
- Christ humbled Himself not just by being born in a manger, but by being born at all.
- He humbled Himself not just by riding on a donkey, but by the very act of entering into His creation.
- He humbled Himself not just by going to a shameful death, but by submitting Himself to a human existence so that He could taste death on behalf of His people.
The incarnation – God becoming man – is the greatest act of humility in all of history. Our King came down from His heavenly throne for us. In that, we should never cease to rejoice!
So, the King has come – now what? The prophet says “Rejoice!” and “Shout!” for your King is coming to you!
He is a righteous King!
He is a saving King!
He is a humble King!
How will we receive this King?
The people of Israel received Him with branches of palms, and yet they rejected Him not more than five days later. And I hope and pray that this is not true of anyone in this congregation; that we think we can have Jesus as our Savior, but not as our Lord and King. Because to receive Jesus means to receive Him in the role of King of our lives. To receive Him means giving up our worldly autonomy and submitting to Him – fully.
Beloved, there is a day coming when another “Palm Sunday” will be celebrated. It is described for us in Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And it is certainly my prayer that everyone on of us here today will be among those who were just described.
That every one of us would submit to our King. Almost 2,600 years later Zechariah’s words ring true – REJOICE over Him, for He is worthy of that rejoicing. And I hope and pray that one day we will all meet together holding those heavenly palm branches around the throne of our King!
Please join Family of Faith for Good Friday services 12 Noon this Friday at the Elks Lodge in Traverse City MI