Zechariah 9:8-9 Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again overrun them, for now I see with my own eyes. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
There was a time when ever story that was told had a moral. A moral is a truth that the story illustrates, and we are encouraged to apply it to our lives. In many cases the story is forgotten, but the moral is remembered, for the moral often came in the form of a proverb. So we remember the moral, Beware of Greeks bearing gifts! It is the moral that comes at the end of the story of the Trojan horse. We have learned this moral well, for now, whenever someone does something nice for us, the first question in our minds is often, I wonder what they really want.
For example, if someone from the IRS came to our house, we’d know it signals an audit, they just don’t personally deliver income tax refunds. I suppose if anyone from the government came to our door, we may be tempted to think right away, what is it going to cost us. And in this way there has been little change in the way man views government, for this was also Israel’s experience. If the King came, he came to raise taxes, he came to draft labor, or he came to call up an army. Who wants the king to come? And if he comes, what will it cost?
The one exception to this, was at times when Israel had been conquered, and if there was a king, he was just the puppet of some other government. In these times when all were oppressed and afflicted, the people would long for a true king to come and set them free. And so it is in every time, people turn to God when oppressed and afflicted, and they call for him to save and deliver them. Now the funny thing is, that if we had been with God all along, we probably would not be so oppressed and afflicted. But since the beginning, people have had a hard time being faithful to God, obeying his commandments and walking in his paths. Why don’t we faithfully follow God -- well, I really don’t know, other than that is our nature. What I mean is that original sin has left us spiritually blind, spiritually dead, and enemies of God. And original sin is the reason why we keep falling back into sin. The answer, is of course, that we must daily drown our old sinful nature, and daily put on the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus, through remembrance of our Baptism. Everyday we forget to drown the old nature, is a day we are liable to end up back in captivity, for the world, our flesh, and the devil would each hold us captive and prisoner, and usually we are captive to all 3 at once.
What is so special about our text this morning, is that when the king comes to us, he does not come in the way we usually expect. He does not need to raise an army, he does not need forced labor, he is not coming to raise our taxes, he is coming victorious, coming from the battle, which He has already won. And that is what is so special about Palm Sunday. It is a story of the free gift of God in Jesus Christ, a story that is unique in all the world, for here comes God with the only gift, which has no strings attached.
This is great good news for all who are oppressed and afflicted. Oh, and if you think you are not oppressed and afflicted… well … We know that all who commit sin are slaves to sin. We know that slaves are not free. And we know that we are all sinners. We also know that sinners are not welcome in the presence of God. Who therefore would continue in sin? Who would willingly separate himself from the love and grace of God which is ours in Jesus Christ.
For Jesus comes to us righteous and having salvation. And for us this means Jesus comes to us, to make us righteous, that is to take away our sin, to make us a new creation, and to bring us into the family of God. Jesus comes to us having salvation, for he has already won the victory, over sin, over death, and over the devil -- Indeed all his enemies have been conquered, and are subject to him, as the Bible says, they are under his feet.
And that is why we rejoice greatly, because of the great gift which has come to us. For we were lost, and Jesus came to save. We were captives, and Jesus has set us free. We were oppressed and afflicted and bound in heavy chains, and we have been liberated from our captivity. Our King has come, bringing gifts, gifts he has already paid the price so that all this and more might be ours. And so we turn from sin, and turn to our Savior, rejoicing.