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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Ride on to Die!

The Coming King of Zion

Palmarum (Palm Sunday) – March 24, 2024

Zecheriah 9:9-12

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Zechariah in the ninth chapter with special emphasis on verse nine which reads as follows:

 

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                Religion, true religion, is a fact of history. It is neither an accident of circumstance nor is it an invention of myth makers. True religion is that collection of teachings and practices rooted in the historical reality of God and His activity in the world. Let me be clear about this: Christianity, true religion, is based on the historical, real, actual work of God in history. That is to say, God has done mighty deeds through history for His people and for the sake of granting them those good gifts He desires them to have. And such is the character of God He still does this now and will continue to do this until the end of the world.

                This idea, that history is bound up in true religion, in our Christian faith, should seem familiar to you. After all, many of the things that we celebrate in the church year are of historic events. Christmas celebrates the real birth of Jesus in history. Ascension, Annunciation, the Presentation, these all celebrate events related to the history of our Lord Jesus. Commemorations remember real people and the things they did in service to God. Today is no different. Palm Sunday recalls the beginning of the last week of Christ’s life, His entrance to Jerusalem. In just a few short days, which we celebrate on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Jesus will be betrayed, given over to corrupt leaders, be tortured, and die a cursed death for you and your forgiveness.

                This was no accident. No fluke in history. It was always the plan for this to work out this way. The Prophet Zechariah, who prophesied from 520 BC to 518 BC, foretold the event we commemorate this day. God has always expressed Himself in history, and the things that we commemorate today, namely Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, is no different. Five hundred and fifty years before this day, Zechariah spoke these words we read earlier foretelling the coming of Christ.

                Now this is important for a number of reasons, but to begin I want to focus on the simple fact that this was both foretold as a historical event and that it did actually take place in history. Now you may be thinking that my fascination with this being historical may seem a bit odd since the historical reality of this is something we take for granted. However, I am beating on this drum to counter a common view in our day that religion is non-historical and that, by extension, religious texts record non-historical events. That is to say, many today assume that religious stories are simply that – stories – and are not history that took place in the real world. The basic assumption is that these things must be non-historical and therefore cannot be historical. Usually, people who hold this view argue against these accounts because of the miraculous and singular events that they record. Dear friends in Christ, this is exactly the point! Why would we follow Christ if everyone and anyone was running around saying and doing the things that He did? Christ is a singular individual in history; only He is the very Son of our Father! Of course His life and all those things and point to Him would be special as well!

                The truth and comfort of our Christian religion is not rooted in extra-historical story, in allegories derived from old tales. No, the peace and comfort of the Gospel is precisely rooted in these historical events. Without history, there is no atonement, no salvation, no forgiveness, no resurrection, and no peace. These things all have their roots in Christ’s own life, death, resurrection, and ascension. If they did not happen, then the promises our Lord makes are not valid either. But they did happen, proving once and for all that the Lord’s Word is certain and His promises true and trustworthy!

                Zechariah described how our Lord would come into Jerusalem, humble, and riding on a foal, the colt of a donkey. And this is what our Lord did. He demonstrated great humility in doing this, showing that He was willing to refrain from exercising His divine, godly abilities in order to prove that the weakness of God is stronger than the greatest power of men. And in so doing, He sets an example for us Christians.

                Too often, humility and meekness are understood to be doormat personality traits. That is to say, we often take these words to describe a person who lets everyone abuse them and take advantage of them, to walk all over them with muddy boots. But this is not the case. Jesus did not fight back during His trial and execution, this is true, but this was not because he lacked strength. It was because of it. That is to say, our Lord could have brought legions of legions, thousands of thousands of angels to bear to deliver Him from the events of that first Holy Week. But He did not. He refused to exercise His strength and, out of love, laid down His life for us.

                Humility and meekness look like this: self-control, having strength and ability, but holding back for the sake of love. Further, our Lord did these things to save us and to give us life and salvation in the forgiveness of our sins, but we are not Jesus. Nor are we called to die for the sins of the world. And while there will certainly be times that a Christian must refrain from using his or her strength in order to love and serve the neighbor, it does not mean that we must allow evil to grow and flourish in our midst because we lack resolve or exhibit weakness. First and foremost, we must struggle with the most profound and personal of wickedness that we find in this life: that which is within ourselves. The Lord’s example is to put aside the passions and desires of the sinful flesh: envy, jealousy, gossip, slander, pride, arrogance, selfishness, lust, greed, and all things like these. Instead, we should cultivate that which is godly and good, which gives us strength of character and mind: knowledge of God in the Scriptures, faith, peace, joy, love, gentleness, and self-control. These also make us strong, not as the world expects, but in the way of our Lord Jesus, whose strength and power are shown in weakness so as to shame and confound the strong.

                The world around us is fascinated with power, that is, with the ability to do this or that thing. We Christians must not think this way. The quest for power, much like the quest for lust or money, is never-ending and leads to all manner of evil. Power in this sense is something that is taken, not bestowed. Christians do not spend their time taking things for themselves in this world, instead, we receive what God gives. God gives authority, that is, responsibility over certain things, not for power, which so often corrupts, but for the sake of goodness, love, and human flourishing.

                Our Lord did not come in the pomp of power, but the humility of authority. He, as a real historical event, rode into Jerusalem, the very city of God on earth, in order to set into motion the events that would lead to His death for you, His beloved, chosen, redeemed people. This was no accident. It was always His will. And, though it cost Him great anguish and even His life, He did so, gladly, for your sakes.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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