Palm Sunday, 2015
“Prisoners of Hope”
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Throughout history the coronation of a King or Queen was a huge event. The King or Queen would be escorted through the streets by the Military in full dress, throngs of people cheering and waving, security protecting, and the King or Queen in finest apparel adorned with great jewels and crown. Although I have not seen a coronation in my lifetime I have been to an event where the President has spoken. In May of 2004 President Bush spoke at Concordia University Wisconsin. The President came to Milwaukee flown in Airforce 1. He rode in an armored limo with Secret Service and Swat Teams escorting. We had to park our car miles away, ride in on a bus, stand in line for hours, go through metal detectors and the like. Streets were closed and throngs of people waved as the President passed by. When a King or Queen, or even a President enters the city…they are sure to be noticed! It’s a big deal! It’s a grand event! Everyone knows what’s going on!
That doesn’t seem to be the same description as the triumphant entry and coronation of our Lord. Instead of having security forces, police and military escorts or protection Jesus had 12 Disciples…two of them being sent to get the transportation… a colt the foal of a donkey. Instead of throngs of people lining the streets Jesus was cheered by “the crowd of disciples.” Yes, there were many people in the crowd…but it wasn’t an event the whole city came out for. In fact the religious leaders came only to ridicule Jesus and His followers. Jesus wore no crown, no jewels, no fancy clothing. He wasn't the kind of king people were looking or hoping for.
What kind of king did they want? The religious leaders seemed to want a king that would listen to them. A king that wouldn't rock the boat. A king that would bring them more prosperity and wealth. The people seemed to want a king that would be a mighty and powerful ruler. A king that would have vengeance on their enemies, bring retribution to their foes. A king that would command the armies of Israel as a great general and warrior and would restore the nation of Israel to its glorious past. Even Jesus' own disciples wanted that kind of a king!
Sometimes that's the king that we want too. We pray that God would grant a thousand and one things. We pray that God would bring economic prosperity. We pray that God would restore our nation to its prosperity and to destroy our enemies. We pray that God would grant us all that we desire. We want a bigger house, a nicer car, a better paying job. And while there is nothing wrong with praying that God would grant these things...the problem comes in when we don't get our way. We often turn God into a miracle worker...or puppet. We want a king that works for us!
But what kind of King did God send Israel? What kind of King did God send for all people? "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. I 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. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double." (Zechariah 9:9-12)
Some of those words sound exactly like the king the Israelites were looking for. "I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim." "His rule shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." "I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double." (Zechariah 9:10-12)
Now that sounds like our kind of king. That sounds like a king that will defeat our enemies, enhance our nation to control the world, free our people, and bless us with even greater economic, social, and political prosperity. That sounds great!
But that talk about our king coming with righteousness and salvation while riding on an ass? Or that speaking peace to our enemies? Where are the war horses? Where are the tanks, the planes, the ships, or the soldiers? Sure we want peace...peace that comes from defeating our enemies and receiving the spoils of winning the war. Where is that king? That's the king Israel wanted! That's the king we want! A king that will remind the world that He is the true God. A king that will show the world that we were right! A king that will bless us and make others suffer as we see fit.
But that isn't exactly the King we have been given in Christ Jesus. Our King is unique. Palm Sunday is our Lord's triumphal entrance to Jerusalem as King of all creation. "Here there is no violence, no armor, no power, no anger, no wrath...Here there are only kindness, justice, salvation, mercy, and every good thing." (AE 20:94).
There is a hymn that reminds us of our King. It is an advent hymn. "Comfort, comfort, ye My people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God; Comfort those who sit in darkness, Mourning 'neath their sorrows' load. Speak ye to Jerusalem Of the peace that waits for them; Tell her that her sins I cover And her warfare now is over." (TLH 61 Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People)
Jesus Christ, our King, is the King of Love. He is the King we need. Jesus came to save sinners. All sinners. Each one of us and our enemies. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17)
Christ Jesus comes as the King who brings peace. In a world where sin seems to reign...Jesus brings peace. In a world where we are constantly fighting with others and ourselves...Jesus brings peace. In a world where there is daily battle with sickness and disease, turmoil and heartache...Jesus brings peace. As we wage a life and death battle with sin and Satan...Jesus brings peace. He brings peace in the gift of life...that was earned by His death.
We are indeed prisoners of hope. We are prisoners in this sinful world...falling and failing...as we and all creation are corrupted by sin. Our hope is Jesus. Our hope is in the King who is mighty and powerful to save. Our hope is in the King who restores us from sin. Our hope is in the King who has defeated sin, death, and the devil. Our hope is in the King who brings prosperity...prosperity in paradise.
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." (Zechariah 9:9) He comes to die on the cross to save you. He comes to rise again. He proclaims "your sins are covered and your warfare now is over." Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.