Concordia University Chapel Devotion
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Zechariah 9:9-12 Sermon
April 4, 2017
A WORD FOR TODAY
TEXT: Rejoice with all your heart, people of Zion! Shout in triumph, people of Jerusalem! Look! Your King is coming to you: He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and rides on a donkey, on a colt, a young pack animal. He will make sure there are no chariots in Ephraim or war horses in Jerusalem. There will be no battle bows. He will announce peace to the nations. He will rule from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. I will set your captives free from the waterless pit because of the blood that sealed my promise to you. Return to your fortress, you captives who have hope. Today I tell you that I will return to you double blessings.
This morning, I'm going to start out with one word, and that word is "Hosanna!" Will you say that word with me? ....Okay now can we try it again with a bit more enthusiasm?
That was very good. Now let's try it again, but I want you to imagine that you're at a football game here at Bulldog stadium, and Concordia is playing one of its biggest rivals,DoaneUniversity. It's the Bulldogs vs. the Tigers. The score is 23-24, it's fourth down, and the Bulldogs are trailing by one point. One second remains on the clock in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs have possession of the ball. A field goal will almost surely win it. It's going to be a 34 yard attempt.
The players are in formation, and the play begins. The ball is snapped. The kick is up...and it's good! The Bulldogs have defeated the Tigers, and the final score is 26-24.
Now I want you to pretend for a moment that you are in the stands, and you have just witnessed this. You have all the jubilation and excitement just boiling over in your body. And the word you are going to use to express this, is "Hosanna!" Come on now, let it rip!
....Wow. Now that's what I call "enthusiasm!" And the word we used is a term right out of the Bible. It's a Hebrew term actually. How many of you actually know the meaning of what you have just said? (show of hands)
"Hosanna" means "Lord, now save us." This was not just a cry of celebration; it was also a cry for mercy.
In our text for this morning, we see words of prophecy, words that were recorded by the prophet Zechariah. In verse 9, Zechariah writes, "Rejoice with all your heart, people of Zion! Shout in triumph, people of Jerusalem!"
To see how all this plays out, we go to Matthew chapter 21, which is Matthew's account of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Verse 4 reads, "This happened so that what the prophet had said came true," referring back to Zechariah's prophecy. And then we continue reading in verse 9, "The crowd that went ahead of him and that followed him was shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!'"
You might have thought that my football illustration was perhaps a bit overly dramatic. But reading what the Bible says about this event, I don't think it was. There was yelling and shouting, like the noise from a football stadium. It was so dramatic and enthusiastic that it captured the attention of a lot of people.
If we look again at Matthew 21, we read in verses 10-11: "When Jesus came into Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar. People were asking, 'Who is this?' The crowd answered, 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.'"
Hundreds of years before this event, Zechariah penned the words of prophecy that foretold this rather dramatic event. The Jews of the day were very familiar with these words, as they were with other words of prophecy. They knew a Saviour was coming, and now he was here.
So who were these people? Jesus had come fromBethany. There were many people there who were mourning at the death of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. Lazarus had been dead for four days, and his body was beginning to decompose. Everybody there knew the stench of death, so there was no question that Lazarus was really dead in his grave.
So when Jesus brought him back to life again, the joy was far greater than a winning field goal at a football game. It was so intense that they followed Jesus toJerusalemand welcomed him with shouts of "Hosanna!" "Lord, save us now!"
Zechariah continues in verse 9 with his prophecy, "Look! Your King is coming to you: He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and rides on a donkey, on a colt, a young pack animal."
This was about as humble as one could get. Kings and heroes and dignitaries would be in a parade riding on a gallant steed, probably a white horse. White horses were not beasts of burden like a donkey. That was a work animal, especially for poor folk. People of means would have a mule as a work animal, so this was definitely a poor man's parade.
While we're at it, there's one other rather miraculous thing that's often overlooked here. If we read Mark's account of the triumphal entry, this is what Jesus says in chapter 11, verse 2: "Go into the village ahead of you. As you enter it, you will find a young donkey tied there. No one has ever sat on it." Do you have any idea how an animal reacts when nobody has ever sat on it? An animal that hasn't been broken can get rather wild, even a donkey! And from what we can tell, this donkey was about as docile as a kitten. And Jesus humbly rode intoJerusalem to complete his purpose on earth, be illegally tried, to be beaten and tortured, to die the death of sinners, and to rise again from the dead to free us from Satan's captivity.
And so here we are. We sing "Hosanna," we say it, and we look to our Saviour for the salvation he gives to us. And this is where it gets really personal.
If you look at the people who fill a football stadium, you'll see a lot of students, along with faculty, parents, alumni, and others from the general public. People who gather at a football stadium from a variety of walks of life are there with a common purpose, which is to cheer on their team. A student might be seated between two faculty members, or a parent might be sitting next to one of our pastors. And yet, their cheers are the same, and their enthusiasm is shared.
It's essentially the same way you walked into this chapel today. As I look out, I see a whole variety of people. And yet, we walk in with a common purpose. We walk in to give glory to our one true God with one voice. And we walk in to hear and experience once again the forgiving love of our Saviour.
It hasn't been too long ago that I read a list of objections a person had to the Christian faith. There were 11 of them, and I'll give you one in particular that caught my attention: "There's only so many ways a person can say 'Jesus died for your sins' before it becomes repetitive and monotonous." And it's sad to say that this can happen.
This is when we need to look at the prophecy of Zechariah and the events of that first Palm Sunday. What did the Saviour mean to those people? What was the cause behind their cries? How meaningful was Jesus in their lives?
This brings it right down to you and me. Knowing that Jesus died on the cross is just a fact. Knowing and believing that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins and mine out of nothing but love for us makes it real for us. This is what touches our lives and our very souls.
Believe it or not, I've heard people complain in the past that they've heard enough Gospel, and that it's more important to hear about what they are supposed to do, or not supposed to do as Christians. And so the message of forgiveness is drowned out by the law. When this happens, people make what they do more important than what they believe. Their work becomes more important than Christ's work. This is how non-Christian religions can be so attractive to the sinner.
The Christian faith is the only religion that exists where God has done everything for us. Jesus kept the law perfectly so we could be freed from its burden. Jesus died on the cross so that we would have life, and death would hold no power over us. This is what a loving God does.
Years ago, my Hebrew professor said, "In heaven, we'll sing hallelujah, but not hosanna, because our hosannas have been fulfilled." How true that is!
Zechariah prophesied that Jesus' entry would be met with rejoicing and shouting. His welcome would be loud and cheerful. So when it's time for a "hosanna," it isn't something we mumble as we stare at the floor. We are looking to our Messiah to save us. We are pleading for his forgiveness with an assurance that we have received it.
So before I close today, can I get one more fourth down, field goal, game-winning "hosanna?" ....Hosanna Lord, save us! And so it shall be.