Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday Meditation

I know it is late on Palm Sunday, but the idea for this meditation came to me during the worship service this morning at my local church as I waited for my pastor to begin the sermon. I began thinking about the "Triumphal Entry" into Jerusalem. I looked up the passage in Matthew and found the corresponding Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9: 9. Then I read the surrounding verses, looking for clues as to how I would preach this Old Testament text in a Palm Sunday service. From that came this meditation for Palm Sunday.

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will 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 have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you" (Zech. 9: 9--12, NASB).

What is the promise of these verses? It is the promise of peace and deliverance. Prior to the invention of the stirrup the preferred animal for a king was a donkey because it is a sure-footed beast, unlikely to throw its rider. Kings in battle rode in chariots. Kings coming in peace rode donkeys. Here the promised Messiah comes in peace. He comes in humility, not in pomp and circumstance. He comes to end warfare and bring peace to the nations. His dominion will cover the earth. He comes to set prisoners free and to restore to us what has been lost. Let's unpack that just a bit.

The promised Messiah, we are told, is the Prince of Peace (Isa 9: 6). He brings shalom to his people and his world. Shalom is more than merely the absence of hostility. It is wholeness in our relationship with God that enables us to have wholeness in our relationships with each other.

The promised Messiah needs no pomp and circumstance to establish his presence. He is God incarnate. He does not need the testimony of men to support his claim to be Lord of lords and King of kings. Because he is God come in the flesh he possesses a unique sense of self-identity that has no need to be puffed up. He comes in humility, dressed in the style of a peasant carpenter-rabbi. But there is no mistaking that there is something radically different about this Jesus. He speaks with certainty, with authority, and yet condescends to the lowest people in society with love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Jesus came to bring peace to a world torn by strife, and yet it is not the kind of peace we imagine. Wars have continued since his coming. He even predicted that wars and rumors of wars would continue until the end. But the day is coming when the King will return, and when he does he will bring the final conflict to a swift conclusion and usher in the reign of the King of Peace, and then warfare will be ended forever.

The prophet promises that the reign of the Messiah will encompass all the earth. He is the supreme sovereign. As such he has entered into a covenant for the redemption of his people. He has promised to set the prisoners free and restore what was lost. We are prisoners of sin, and we have lost the beauty of our original holiness, and with it we have lost ourselves, our true selves. By the blood of his covenant, which he sealed on the cross, he has purchased us from the slave market of sin and is restoring in us by his grace the beauty of holiness that marks us as persons created in the image of God.

What is our guarantee that this is all true and that we will one day enjoy the full measure of this promise? He is risen. He is risen indeed.