Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. – Psalm 118: 26
Sunday 5th April was a significant day for the Christians around the world. This day is known as the Palm Sunday. You will see that every year, this day, many Churches (Some chooses not to celebrate) celebrates with carrying Palm leaves around.
But this year has been different, as we face this unprecedented Pandemic across the world, the Covid19 Pandemic. The Christians and rest of the world are forced to be quarantined. The major functions across the world is at stand still, collective gatherings are prohibited. But we still see many Christians observing this day on the rooftops, through laptops online, and different ways in their capacity. Many churches don’t celebrate this day though as they consider Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of all the laws and celebrations. I personally don’t celebrate the Palm Sunday in a traditional way. I believe that celebrating our Lord Jesus does not require any rituals or methods other than sacrament of the Lord’s table that He commanded us to take as a remembrance of His body and of the Blood as a sacrifice for the atonement of our sin. Either way, remembering the historical Palm Sunday for our worship meditation will be a sobering and God glorifying thing to do.
Thus let us look into the scriptural text that is relevant to this theme, for our edification, Zechariah 9: 9-10
9 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.
10 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.
Book of Zechariah was written around 520-518 BC, the book contains series of Visions that Lord shows Zechariah concerning the coming Messiah as The King and His coming Kingdom. Along with these Visions of Prophesy God instructs the people of Israel as to how they should live and conduct themselves, keeping these future events in mind. How Israel should remain loyal to God?
With this context God gives the above prophetical words to Zechariah concerning their coming King, and His everlasting Kingdom. We shall look at three aspects of the above passage, 1) Its Prophetic Importance, 2) Its Spiritual Significance, and 3) Its Practical Relevance.
1) Prophetic Importance:
The above passage has Prophetic importance to the Nation of Israel, this passage was or is considered as one of the most important signs of the coming Messiah for the nation of Israel. This messiah was to redeem the world from the sin. We can see this prophesy being fulfilled by Jesus Christ, in John 12: 12-33, Matthew 21: 1-11, this shows the dramatic entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. As it is written, 12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
We see two things here the dramatic entry of Jesus Christ on the Donkey with a colt as mentioned in the prophesy of Zachariah, and the response of People as mentioned in Psalm of David. They rejoiced and cried out Hosanna, and uttered David’s words of prophesy, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. The disciples however did not realize at that point of time, it was a fulfillment of a scriptural prophesy concerning Christ, John 12: 16. His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about Him in their scriptures and had been done to Him.
The importance of this prophesy is that Lord Jesus Christ was making His first entry to Jerusalem, after He left Jerusalem when he was not received by the people there, as the Messiah and King as spoken in the OT scriptures. This time He enters Jerusalem as He was to suffer for the sins of His people later that week. He knew that He will be received in Jerusalem as a King (Son of David) but by the time Passover was to come that week, He was to be Crucified, buried, and later resurrected from the dead on Sunday, and be ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of The Father. Thus considering these events culminating, we can consider this week as The Week of Christ’s Suffering. Let us consider 3 aspects concerning the Prophetic importance of this event.
a) A Sign to the Nation: There are many Old Testament passages that are given as signs for the people of Israel to know who their Messiah is. Some examples of which are, Psalm 22, Isaiah 9: 6-7, Isaiah 53. These signs were clearly laid down for people to meditate upon, remember, and understand so that when it happens, they will know who their Messiah and King is. Likewise this was also a prominent prophetical sign that was given to the nation of Israel. Israel considered this text as a prominent text of prophesy, for their coming King and with this background we see Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey with a colt.
This was also to show God’s love and zeal towards His people. God wanted Israel to recognize what He had planned for them thus He gave them many prophesies concerning their Messiah and King. Out of all the prophesies this event was a distinct one as God declares to Zechariah, to proclaim to the daughters of Zion, Behold your King comes to you! Riding on donkey. He is righteous and He is the salvation of His people. God was excited to declare to Zechariah what He was going to do, He was excited to declare that the King He is sending, is none other but His Son, He is righteous and salvation that the Father was going to give to them. Consequently, the people of Israel right from the time of Zechariah to the coming King, was to live rejoicing of the fact that the one God was sending to them is the blessed King and to proclaim Hosanna to God for what He was going to do.
Further we see the prophesy getting realized by Jesus Christ, the intensity of the scene could be understood by the reaction of the Jewish leaders who were against Lord Jesus Christ, John 12: 19. They felt threatened that they were loosing their authority over people of Israel. That the people were going after Jesus Christ. Such dramatic was the event that transpired. Indeed how blessed!
Though we understand that in the next 4 days time things were to escalate as appointed and ordained by God the Father, of which there are many prophesies given, example Lord commanding to observe the Lord’s table, Judas betraying for a 30 shekels of Silver coins, to Jesus being taken as a Lamb for slaughter, to He being lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent made of braze in the desert and more.
Thus this prophetical sign was the beginning of Christ’s journey towards that one week which changed the course of the whole world, which over threw the rulers and defeated the greatest enemy of mankind.
b) Testimony to the truth of the Scriptures: This prophetical fulfillment was testimony to the truth of the Scriptures. This proves that every word of the scripture is inspired by God and what God has purposed, He will accomplish. We can look at this in two ways.
Firstly, God the Father’s witness regarding His Son Jesus Christ and what He was going to accomplish through His Son – We understand that the Old Testament is God’s testimony primarily regarding His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus affirms this in many places (Ref: Luke 24: 44, John 5:39, John 5: 46). Jesus in John 5, clearly tells about the ones who bears His witness, that His testimony is true. Firstly, He speaks of two witnesses one John the Baptist, and second His works that He does which was given to Him by the Father. But ultimately He goes on to tell that He has a greater witness, His witness is His Father and He ties it with those scriptures of the OT which bears witness about Him as His Father spoke to the Prophets in the Old Testament. Jews very well understood that the scriptures are God’s message to the nation of Israel. Jesus affirms that the scripture which is the message to Israel from the Father bears witness about Him.
Secondly, Jesus was fulfilling the scriptures as given by the Father to the Nation of Israel. Jesus often told to His disciples that He has come to do His Father’s will, John 6: 38, John 4: 34. We also understand from the scriptures that Jesus Christ fulfilled every details that has been written about Him in the Law and the Prophet. Fulfillment of these scriptures suggests that Jesus did what His Father purposed for Him. He was obedient to His Father and He did what the Father told Him to do and what His Father tells Him is what His Father spoke about Him in the Old Testament Scriptures.
c) Fulfillment of God’s Promise: This event that took place cannot be discredited from the fact that it was a part of God’s ultimate promise to the nation of Israel. God reflects or reminds His promise to all the generations of Israel in various forms and in diverse manners. Right from Abraham to Malachi we see God’s promise concerning the King He is to give to Israel. God always desired that His people may consider Him as King. But we see people of Israel were covenant breakers, they rebelled often against God who loved them, and considered them as the apple of His eyes. However, God doesn’t stop loving them. This event was also part of His promise, as He proclaims, “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.
As mentioned earlier He tells the daughters of Zion and Jerusalem, which symbolically means all the people of Israel, to rejoice greatly! He is asking all the generations of Israel to rejoice because their long promised King is coming to them.
2) Spiritual Significance: As we Look into this passage, we can see great spiritual significance, as it occurs in the life of Jesus Christ. To understand this we must look into the attributes mentioned about this King who is coming on the donkey. Zechariah tells few wonderful aspects about this King. Firstly, he mentions that this King is righteous, secondly this King is carrying or bringing salvation, thirdly this King is humble, fourthly this King speaks peace to the nations, and lastly, this King’s rule will have no end, He will rule over all things. We also need to look into the response of the people to understand the Spiritual significance of this event.
a) Attributes of the King: The King is called by God as righteous. This is not the first time that God has called someone righteous, God calls Job as righteous, Job 1:8. But when this prophesy was fulfilled by Jesus Christ, we learn that this King that God spoke about was inherently righteous by the virtue of being God. It was important for this King to be righteous because the battle that He was to enter was not going to be a battle of flesh but the battle against sin, death and dominion of Satan. We also see Jesus fulfilling all the righteous requirement of the law by virtue of being righteous. God also tells that this King is unlike any other King.
He is also called to bring Salvation with Him, as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem He literally was bringing with Him, the salvation of His people as He enters the city. Later that week He was going to go through the suffering God ordained for Him, being caught, being falsely accused, convicted, crucified, and resurrected on the third day. This was His ultimate purpose to enter the city on the Donkey. It was historical, it was dramatic. Without His Disciple or Israelite knowing it, He was entering in the battle field as King to confront their enemies and bring salvation to His people. In that sense Jesus Christ is the salvation and righteousness of God that came into the world, as Paul affirms in 1 Cor 1: 30.
We see this King as humble, unlike any king of this world this King who came was humble, riding a donkey, this was indicative of the fact that Jesus had not entered the city with boasting. He did not abuse His power rather humbled Himself to the point of death, even the death of the cross, Philippians 2: 6-11. Though He was God, though He was King He humbled Himself to the point of death. Right from Jesus Christ’s birth to His death, He remained humble. For the suffering He was required to endure, boasting had no place. The other point we can take from this is that Jesus Christ is inherently humble. The three persons of the Trinity is humble. When they boast, they boast in the other persons of the Trinity. Jesus took pride in the Father, He is jealous of His Father and everything that belongs to His Father, so was He prideful of the Holy Spirit, that He called the Holy Spirit as another comforted. He equaled the Holy Spirit with Him and the Father. He also proclaimed that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an unpardonable sin, He couldn’t stand anyone blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12: 31 that was the boasting that He had concerning the Father and the Holy Spirit. There is no boasting in Him of Himself.
Next we see the King speaking peace to the nation, the message of the Gospel. Repenting and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a message of peace. It is not about having peace in your heart from the worries of the world, but it is about making peace with God. Message of the Gospel is the message of the peace God makes with man. World looks for peace everywhere else but the Gospel, but true peace comes from the Gospel of peace. Jesus tells to His disciples that His peace He is leaving with them and this peace is not like the peace that the world gives, John 14: 27. Some more verses which suggests that the Gospel Jesus gave is the message of peace, Romans 5: 1, Colossians 3: 15, Ephesians 6: 15.
Lastly, we see this King as Sovereign, His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. Which means there will be no end to His dominion. This King is the sovereign one over everything. Jesus Christ, in the same chapter where this prophesy is realized, tells that the hour has come when the throne of every ruler of this world will be over thrown, a new dominion will be established and when Jesus is lifted up on the cross, He will draw everyone to Him, John 12: 31-32. Jesus knew the words of Zechariah is getting fulfilled at that point and the hour was near for Him to receive all the dominion, thus He utters this words to His disciples. Paul also reiterates it in Philippians 2: 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Here Paul begins the verse with therefore, which means because of what happens in the preceding verses, God exalts Jesus Christ. As looked at it before, the preceding verses talks about suffering of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
b) Response of People: We see two kinds of responses to Zechariah’s prophetical words when it was realized by Jesus in John 12. We read that God tells the daughters of Zion and daughters of Jerusalem to ‘greatly rejoice’ because their King is coming to them. But when Jesus Christ entered the city with the Donkey we can see two types of responses. One is positive and another is negative. We can see the positive response in detail from Matthew 21: 8-10
8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Thus we see here that people had an attitude of worship, they put whatever they had, cloaks, the branches from the tree, and put it on the road on which Jesus was coming, riding on the Donkey. It is mentioned that they believed He is the prophet and Christ but not because they realize He is Lord but because of the work Jesus did, they worshiped Him and partook in this prophetically significant event. They expressed by shouting Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, and Hosanna to the Son of David.
How much more should be our gratitude? knowing fully who Jesus is and how significant it was for Him to fulfill these prophesies? Let us thus look unto this King, giving honor and all the glory due to Him.
The second response, to keep it short was a negative response of hatred, the Pharisees hated to see what was happening in front of their eyes, so much so that they began to make scheme against Jesus in their mind and started plotting to kill Him. This was due their unbelief and sin, the lacked the Spiritual discernment to recognize their Messiah, it was as if God had shut their eyes and ears that they may not believe, as the scripture tells in both OT & NT. Natural man without the Spirit’s discernment, without the discernment of Christ is like this, rebellious, wretched, and deprived, not against man but against God.
Thus world can only be divided into these two kinds of responses to this King, either you are laying your soul down like the cloak or branches that people did Or you are standing aside with envy watching the whole scene with denial, envy and hatred towards the Lord. Either you accept this King as your King Or deny Him as your King. What would you like to do today? when you have come to know who this Jesus Christ is?
3) Practical Relevance: Practical relevance of this event in our lives can be seen by the measure or intensity at which this event has impacted our lives.
a) Won the battle for us: By His entering into Jerusalem, it was time for Him to break the dependency of men on themselves and their war capabilities. He broke every schemes of men to save themselves. He entered the battle arena on our behalf against our greatest enemy. By entering in the city in this dramatic fashion, a great prophesy was being fulfilled in front their eyes, leading to the further sequence of events. Thus Jesus tells to Philip in John 12: 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
He knew from this point the count down had began, He was going to confront the greatest enemy which is the sin and death and win the battle on the cross, for us, His people. By doing so He had victory over the power and dominion of Sin and death. Thus along with Paul we can say, were is the power of sin over our lives who are in Christ Jesus? where is the dominion of death? 1 Cor 15: 55-57,
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The above verse is the song of the saints singing when they will be translated, this is only because of the King who has won the battle for His people. He is the Victorious King.
b) Changed the course of History: In Jesus’ own words, the time has come to over throw the rulers of the world from their thrown, the world had never witnessed such event. The world was shaken at the fame of Jesus Christ, hint to which is mentioned about the Greeks who came to see Jesus Christ, John 12: 20-21. But Jesus, rather than meeting the Greeks, replies to Philip and Andrew what seems to be an out of place response, John 12: 23-26. He tells the our has come for the Son of Man to be glorified and unless a grain of wheat doesn’t fall on the ground and dies it remains alone, but when it dies it bears much fruit.
This is very important for us to understand. Jesus here doesn’t give away Himself to the Greeks, which He could have and continued to become famous in the world. This however wouldn’t have served the purpose for which He had come. God had a different way or plan for His fame to go abroad. It was by His death, a penalty of sin for mankind, an atonement, a price to be paid for mankind to be reconciled to God. It was God’s will that Jesus becomes the propitiation for our sins. This way the portal to the Kingdom of heaven was swung opened. The fruit Jesus talks about is the souls entering into His Kingdom. Without Him dying on the cross it was impossible to yield that fruit. Jesus did not come to make followers of Himself, He came to give life to the men across all nation by His death. Thus this event lead to a historic moment in mankind’s life. Gate of heaven was swung open. People need not have to rely on Kings or rulers of this world anymore. For Jesus made us citizens of heaven. Those who are in Christ, this world is a temporary abode and we are the true Citizens of heaven, whose King is our Lord Jesus Christ. What a marvelous thing this is for us.
c) Transformed our lives: Another practical relevance of this Prophetical event is the transformed lives. We were once living in our own ways, in our own course, destined to doom. We like sheep had gone astray. So was the people of Israel but as Jesus enters with some people who already was following Him, their eyes turned to this King who is blessed, because He is the seed of David who comes in the name of the Lord. Their gaze was upon this inevitable Person, they stopped and turned away from whatever they were doing. Though they were busy, in a busy market place, they turned from their course to gaze upon this Man. Not only did they had their gaze but made all their efforts to welcome Him as a King with reverence shouting and singing Hosanna in the highest and Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is this Son of David who comes in the name of the Lord. The people in Jerusalem were their for important an business. It was the time of Passover, their greatest festival. On this occasion Jews and others from around the world comes to Jerusalem to observe this festival, I am sure people were busy making arrangements for the Passover festival. But we see everything changed, people turned away from everything they were doing and got themselves involved in welcoming Jesus Christ.
Thus it becomes all the more significant, this is symbolic to our lives. We were living our lives like the sheep that were gone astray, living our own way, enjoying our own sin, at the same time trying to be externally busy and righteous, and please God with our own efforts. But Jesus came and drawn us to Himself, transforming our lives for Him, for His praise, adoration, and service.
This symbolizes the summary of our Christian lives, where is our gaze readers? what is the song in our lips today? What is our proclamation?
Let us comply from this day to the end, as God tells to Zechariah rejoice greatly, shout with loud voice and as we see that people of Israel laid down their cloaks and cut the branches from the Tree and laid it down on the streets for the King to travel. Let us lay down our soul and our lives in the service of that King.
To God the Father be all the glory and His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.