Easter is 8 days away. There are a lot of different ways to celebrate. Some people I have talked to will be visiting the beach in order to relax. That’s nice. Others will spend money on nice new Easter clothes and 2 for 1 chocolate bunnies at the Dollar Tree. That’s nice too. Still others will pack up and go visit family. That’s usually nice.
But Christians…They’re planning on spending the week doing final cleaning at church. Some are making sure music is practiced and ready to go for worship. Others have volunteered time to go and invite the community to the service. Still more will attempt to reconnect with friends and family by inviting them one last time to Easter Sunday Worship.
Why not relax? Kick back? And Catch “It’s the Easter Bunny Charlie Brown,” on TV and call it an Easter celebration? Why get up and follow Jesus?
Over the past weeks, we have discussed how life is a Battleground. We fight temptations. We are in conflict with doubts. We alter our perspective. We fight alongside others who may be very different than us. We even stare death in the face with confidence.
It isn’t easy. So…why do it? Why follow Jesus?
Our Words from Zechariah will work to answer that question for us. Listen as he describes who Jesus is and what he brings. Then, see if there is any good reason not to follow him?
I. Consider Who He Is
Zechariah wrote, “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!” These words describe Palm Sunday 400 some years before it happened! And what it says about the one riding in on a donkey is astounding!
First, he’s righteous! Totally upright and completely just! How many politicians do you know like that? Yet, it sounds good when a political leader calls for some kind of moral improvement – even if they aren’t so moral themselves.
There are a few politicians who are taking flack for wanting to defend “Marriage.” They call homosexuality a sin (which it is) all while asking others to excuse the fact that they are on their third marriage.
Righteous? Not so much.
Here’s how righteous Jesus is:
Then, to top it all off, Jesus never sinned even once! It’s why the Pharisees had such a hard time condemning him. They couldn’t pin a single immoral word or action on him!
This ties into the second thing about Jesus. He is called victorious!
It’s good to follow a perpetually victorious leader. It’s why Duke fans always rest securely between basketball seasons. They’ve got Coach K. It’s proven to be victorious. They’ll be in the Title hunt next year – no worries!
Jesus marched into Jerusalem having won battle after battle.
Anybody else you know defeat death?
You might be thinking, “Jesus rode into Jerusalem righteous and victorious! But I’m lowly. I’m sinful. He wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I don’t know if he even wants me to follow him.”
Listen to the third thing about his ride into Jerusalem. See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey!
I could probably think of about a thousands scenarios in which a hero of Jesus’ fames ride into Jerusalem that seem more appropriate. A white stallion. A chariot. An elephant. He could have come as the Messiah year’s later and chosen a tank. Air Force One. A Hummer. A Limousine! Even a moped wouldn’t have been so smelly.
Yet there he was…on a stinky, stubborn, braying donkey. Bumping up and down as he tried to balance on the stubborn mammal’s back.
Why would Jesus choose such a ride?
Philippians 2 offers us a clue. It says, "Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Jesus’ entire life had been one incredible paradox! With his miracles and works, he proved himself divine. He was God worthy of all worship. Yet he humbled himself by coming down from heaven and becoming a man! Understand how that’s humbling:
o He has all authority, yet he lived by the rules of his mom and dad.
o He is all knowing. Yet he grew and learned just like the other children.
o Jesus is God. Almighty! Yet, he became a man and needed rest.
o He is eternal – yet he would – later on this Holy Week – die.
o And not even a noble death! He was crucified with the worst of sinners.
This paradox is clear on Palm Sunday! Jesus is totally righteous and absolutely victorious and completely worthy of the palm branches and songs of praise. Yet he rides on a donkey. Humble.
This is only a microcosm for how he comes to you! Sin separated you from him. He had to go through this sin to get to you. So he did! Even if the only way to do this was to suffer and die a terrible death on the cross for your sins. Jesus was willing to humiliate himself in this way in order to get to you.
And the gifts he offers you? Those are incredible too!
II. Consider What He Brings.
A) Peace for the nations
Listen to what Zechariah describes: 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.
And what a marvelous thing peace is! At times of political unrest among other nations (even within our nation) how beautiful peace is.
But, you might be thinking, “Jesus came and went…and there’s still war. There’s still violence. There’s not peace.”
Not among humans…not now, no. But the peace Jesus proclaims is greater than that. It’s the divine kind of peace. Peace with God!
Because on your own, there is no peace between you and God. You’re a sinner. You’ve offended God – who hates anything not associated with perfect love – with your thoughts, words, and actions.
But with Jesus, that sin is forgiven. There is reconciliation. There is a peace that says, “God, the Almighty sin hating, fire in his eyes, righteous Lord of heaven and earth, whom I’ve countlessly offended…
…is my friend.”
B) A Global Rule
Look at the next part of verse 10: His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. King Jesus brings a global rule!
Just think about it. We’re reading about Jesus’ Palm Sunday ride today. That happened in the Middle East long before iPhones, Twitterfeeds, and TV. There weren’t even printing presses!
Yet, here we are today. Jesus’ news of peace with has crossed the Atlantic ocean. It’s in Raleigh. Think of how incredible this is!
I know that not all parents are excited about the school district that their kid might go to here in the Triangle. Where you live determines the district. Many think that therefore, some schools are better and the same opportunities aren’t available in all schools so you might even have to move in order to get your kid into a good school.
There’s no need to change districts to fall under God’s love. Jesus lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose triumphantly for every school district in America! “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life!” (John 3:16)
C) Freedom from the Pit!
These gifts really lead to the third one. Listen to how verse 11 describes it: As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
A waterless pit doesn’t sound like a good place to spend spring break. Dark. Treacherous. No nourishment. No hope of survival. Just a slow, sad, lonely, pointless death.
Whether your pit is real or spiritual, Jesus sets you free. When you are haunted by your sins, when you are longing for love, when you are frightened by the darkness of your guilt and screaming for help.
Jesus reaches out. Not just with one arm, but with both. (on the cross) And he lifts you out of the pit. He frees you.
But Jesus doesn’t free you and let you go get entangled in some other messy, abysmal pit. He has a place for you to be.
D) A Fortress of Hope.
Listen to verse 12: “Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you!”
Do you know where the President goes in a time of crisis? To a fortress. Hidden underground this fortress is able to withstand nuclear holocaust! Bombs, bullets, and explosions will have no effect and all that are inside will be safe.
Jesus is an even stronger fortress. A mighty fortress of hope. With our eyes on him and his promises of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life in heaven – nothing that the devil attacks us with can make us hopeless! God’s Word surrounds us with hope that refuses to give up. That knows God’s love is unfailing and unending.
And when you’ve spent plenty of time in that fortress of hope, then you will undoubtedly be given the final blessing of Jesus.
E) A Wake Up Call.
Verse 13 has God’s promise, “I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim.” In other words, and this is a cool picture, God’s going to use his people of Judah and his followers in Ephraim, as a weapon. To accomplish his purpose.
And with archer like precision that’s better than Robin Hood or William Tell, God chooses his arrows and shoots! He awakens his people in order to share his message with the world!
Who is God shooting you at?
It’s one week till Easter! The highlight of the church year. We’ve been inviting people for three weeks now.
Who is God aiming you at? A friend. A relative. A neighbor.
If God has aimed you than, don’t backfire! God wants to use you to share that message of love! Could one more invitation do the trick? Could one more email reminder be helpful? Could a quiet conversation where you open your heart and explain why Easter is so important be the conversation that person needs?
“But I don’t feel up for the task!”
Don’t worry. It’s not about you. Listen to the last part of verse 13. I will rouse your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword.
Did you see that? "I rouse you. I will make you.” In other words, God is the one in charge. He has equipped you with his love and a knowledge of his Word to share this wonderful message this Easter. Don’t be frightened. Aim and shoot! Follow in your King's footsteps and share the message of his love!
There's a lot of leads to follow this Easter. Peter Cottontail. Hershey's chocolate. The call of the beach. Whatever you feel like doing.
Why not follow Jesus? He's our righteous, victorious, and humble king. A king who brings peace around the world. A king who has rescued you from the pit and placed you in a fortress of hope. A king who needs you!
Follow his lead this Holy Week and always! Amen.