• Christ Church, Willesborough

Palm Sunday Morning Service (10 April 2022) Zechariah 9:9–12


Today, we are celebrating Palm Sunday. In today’s readings, we heard the prophecy and its fulfilment when Jesus entered Jerusalem 2000 years ago. We meditate on these passages every year. We can read the prophecy in the book of Zechariah 9:9–12. The fulfilment is recorded in all the four Gospels in Matthew 21:1–9, Mark 11:1–10, Luke 19:29–40 and John 12:13–16.

Jesus entered Jerusalem during the time of Passover feast. On the seven days before the Passover feast, Ancient Israelites used to hold palm branches and walk around the altar once shouting Hosanna. On the last day, they used to walk around seven times with a big shout of Great Hosanna. Hosanna means ‘LORD save us now’. The word hosanna has a few other meanings also: Thank you for the Salvation, Praise God, Glory and Blessed. It also represents the triumph and victory to the king. When Jesus came near Mount Olives, He sent His disciples to bring the colt on which no one had sat on. The disciples cast their garments on the colt and set Jesus on it. In Matthew, we read that the multitude spread their garments in the way and cut branches from the trees. The people “Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). As people carried palm leaves, this Sunday is called Palm Sunday. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the multitude began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. They said, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” On the Sunday before His crucifixion, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the king of Israel. I would like to meditate on why Jesus chose a donkey and on the two prophecies from Zechariah 9:9-12 that were fulfilled.

Why did Jesus choose a donkey?

Jesus told His disciples, “Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither”. In the Bible, donkey is the symbol of service, suffering, peace and humility. In ancient Israel, donkeys were considered to be of high monetary value. The family was considered wealthy if they had donkeys. We even read about Saul going to look for his father’s donkeys. When he could not find them anywhere, he went to enquire of prophet Samuel to find the donkeys.

The LORD God gave instructions to Moses even before the Israelites were redeemed from their bondage land Egypt. In Exodus 13:2, the LORD God said, “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine”. In verse 13 we read, “every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck”. The Almighty Father did not force the Israelites to give their prized possessions. He wanted them to give offerings willingly and not with compulsion. While donkeys were considered a fortune, lambs were of lesser value. So instead of offering the donkey, the Israelites could offer a lamb in its place. If a lamb was not offered for the donkey, its neck had to be broken – that is, it would lose its life.

Humans are so precious to the Almighty Father that He sent His only Begotten Son to save us all from losing our lives. Jesus came as the Passover Lamb to redeem humans from eternal death. Symbolically, the Lamb of God sat on the donkey to redeem it from death. Jesus, the Lamb of God, came to this world and laid down His life to save humans from the bondage of sin. A lamb could be sacrificed to save the life of a donkey which was more precious than a lamb. Jesus sacrificed Himself as the Passover Lamb to save our lives. To the Almighty Father, we are more precious than His Son. Jesus chose a donkey based on the instruction of the LORD God in Exodus 13:13. As the Lamb of God, Jesus proclaimed He had come to release humans from death on the first Palm Sunday.

Fulfilled Prophecies

After the Almighty Lord brought Israelites out of Egypt and gave them their promised land Canaan, He blessed the Israelites and made a covenant with them. He also made a covenant with David, but when King Solomon’s ways did not please the LORD God, the kingdom was divided into two. When the kings led the people away from the LORD God, He permitted the Babylonians to rule Israel. Many were taken away as captives. Zechariah prophesised during this time when the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity. God wanted to save and rebuild Israel again. He spoke through many prophets to encourage Israel to turn back to Him. Zechariah prophesised during King Darius’ reign (Zechariah 1:1). By entering Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, Jesus fulfilled two prophecies from Zechariah chapter 9.

- Verse 9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass”. Zechariah prophesised about Messiah entering Jerusalem as the king and saviour to save Israel. That is, prophesised the King would bring salvation to the Israelites. Jesus was referred to as king when He was born and when He was nailed on the Cross. The people sang praises saying “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord”. The prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 was fulfilled on the first Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem as the lowly king.

- Verse 11 says, “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water”. Sheol or Hades is the place where the souls of Old Testament people went to rest. The souls of the Saints rested in the upper part, which is called Paradise. The souls of the other wicked people were in the bottom part of Sheol. There was a split between two places but they can see each other and speak with one another. This is the place that is referred to in the passage about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31. The rich man was in the bottom part of Sheol, which is a place of torment. He was shut in the bottomless pit without water and wanted Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. After His resurrection, Jesus’s soul went to preach the Gospel to the Old Testament saints. He took the upper part of the Sheol which is Paradise with Him. When Jesus overcame death on the cross, He sacrificed Himself as one-time sacrifice to release the souls of the saints from Sheol. He also shed His precious blood to redeem us from the second death and from the everlasting torment. Because He made a new covenant with us through His precious blood, He set us free from being prisoners in the pit wherein is no water. The prophecy in Zechariah 9:11 was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified on the cross and died for the remission of our sins.

Every year we are celebrating Palm Sunday and are singing Hosannah with Palm Crosses. When we sing Hosannah, we proclaim Jesus Christ as our Messiah. Is Jesus our Messiah always or only on Palm Sunday? In four days, the people wanted Jesus to be crucified. Do we turn to our sinful ways and crucify Him when Palm Sunday is over?

On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus sanctified the temple of God. He could not tolerate any other business in the temple of God. He said “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”. What would Jesus say if He walks into our church today? Outwardly, we can show many things, but nothing escapes the sight of the Lord who sees the hearts.

1 Corinthians 3:17 also says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”. We are the temple of God. Jesus entered Jerusalem as the sacrificial Lamb to make the temple holy. He suffered to release us from the bondage of our sin. He did this to make us holy. Are we freed from the bondage and made holy? Are we living our lives holy and worthy of His sacrifice?

The donkey accepted Jesus and He sat on it. If we accept Jesus, He will dwell in us and we will be redeemed by His blood. The donkey did not take Jesus where it wanted to go. Instead, it went where Jesus wanted to go. If we submit ourselves to Jesus’s direction, He will lead us in the paths of righteousness and eternal life.

The people who magnified Jesus wanted him crucified the same week. The Almighty Father’s will was fulfilled on the cross. As we read in 1 Peter 3:18 and 19, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison”. If we are like the people who denied Jesus, Hebrews 6:6 says, “If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame”. Once we have been redeemed by the Lamb of God, we must be careful to be worthy of the redemption. The LORD Jesus saved us from the pit with no water. Are we redeeming others who are trapped in the bottomless pit?

This Palm Sunday, let submit ourselves to the Messiah and be redeemed by His blood. Let us not go into the pit without water. “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” Amen!

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