Bible Text: Zechariah 9:9, Philippians 2:5-11 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Our Humble Lord Zechariah 9:9 & Philippians 2:5-11 by William Klock St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem takes us back to Prophet Zechariah’s oracle of judgment against the enemies of God’s people.  The first verses of Zechariah 9 are a litany of woe and destruction: “Lo, the Lord will strip Tyre of her possessions and hurl her wealth into the sea and she shall be devoured by fire…Gaza too shall writhe in anguish…The king shall perish from Gaza; Asheklon shall be uninhabited…I will make an end of the pride of Philistia…”  These were great nations and prideful pagan peoples who worshipped false gods, produced unspeakably immoral cultures, and persecuted the holy nation of Israel next door.  You can almost hear the Israelites cheer as Zechariah speaks this message from God.  You can picture the Messiah, the Anointed One, riding down from heaven, flaming sword in his hand, to drive his enemies out of the Promised Land and destroy them and their cities.  In verse 9 Zechariah exhorts the people to rejoice: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he… (Zechariah 9:9a) I see pictures of the allies liberating Paris in August 1944.  Grateful crowds cheering the men who drove off the Nazis and a victory parade through the streets led by Charles De Gaulle.  We’ve all seen those pictures.  Just put it in an ancient context – move it from 20th Century Europe to Ancient Palestine and you’ve got the idea.  The Jews had been looking for their promised Saviour for centuries.  Every girl longed to be the chosen mother of the Messiah.  When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, many of those in the crowd cheering him on were no doubt expecting that in Jesus of Nazareth was come the one who would ride down on the pagan nations with his flaming sword in hand, giving the Romans the boot, and leading the people in a great victory parade through the streets of Jerusalem. But that isn’t the end of verse 9 – it goes on: …triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9b) This isn’t the Messiah that the people were expecting.  Conquering heroes ride through town in a chariot or on the back of a warhorse – not on the back of a donkey.  Donkeys are farm animals for poor people.  But that’s what the Messiah did – he came, the conquering hero, riding into Jerusalem on a simple donkey. St. Paul writes about the humility of the Messiah in our Epistle lesson: Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7) Jesus was “in the form of God.”  This was one of the great Christological passages of the New Testament that the Councils drew on when they worked out our creeds.  St. John reminds us, “In the beginning was the Word” – in the beginning was the preincarnate Christ, in the beginning was the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.  Jesus said of himself, as we read last week in our Gospel lesson, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  Jesus named himself with the holy name that God revealed to Moses when he appeared in the burning bush: I AM.  Jesus Christ is God, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of life, the source of all blessing, now incarnate.  Jesus had every right to ride down from heaven, sword in hand, to vanquish the enemies of his people.  He is perfectly holy, he is perfectly just, he is God.  The Messiah deserved the praises of the people around him – he deserved their worship – he was God and we all, as his people, owe him all those things.  They are our “bounden duty and service.” And yet Christ didn’t come in the way people expected.  He came humbly like one of us – and even then not as the highest of us, but as like the lowest.  As St. Paul says, he “emptied himself,” became a man like us, and not just a man, but a servant.  Not just a servant in the terms that we think of a servant.  The Greek word used by St. Paul is δουλος; not a just a servant – literally a slave.  St. Paul says that Christ emptied himself, that he gave up his heavenly and godly prerogatives, and became the lowliest of the low. Theodoret commented on these verses saying, “Being God, and God by nature, and having equality with God, he thought this no great thing, as is the way of those who have received some honour beyond their merits, but, hiding his merit, he elected the utmost humility and took the shape of a human being.”  Jesus was God, yet he didn’t feel the need to “fill himself up.”  Instead he emptied himself, St. Paul’s Greek literally says he “poured out” himself.  As God, Christ was worthy of the people’s praise, worship, and adoration.  He was worthy to be led to the Temple and enthroned inside of it as the Creator and King.  He was worthy to receive their tribute and their service.  But that’s not what Christ did.  Christ emptied himself – he poured himself out.  He knew that as God he was worthy of all these things, that he deserved and even had a right to greatness, but instead he gave up all thought for himself and poured out his fullness so that he could enrich others.  St. Paul isn’t saying that Christ gave up his divinity.  He’s telling us that Christ gave up the rights that he had as God and put himself totally at the disposal of his people – God became poor so that his people could be rich. Jesus was born as one of us.  He could have been born as a nobleman – a rich man or a man in a position of political power, or even as a Levite, maybe as the high priest himself or some other earthly religious leader.  He could have, but instead he became not only a man, but a slave.  A rich man would still have had some right to the admiration and praise of men.  A great political leader – a warrior or a king – would have been raised up on a pedestal by his people.  A great religious leader would have been looked up to by the people too.  But Jesus’ desire was to empty himself – to completely pour himself out – and so he became a lowly slave to others.  Not literally a slave, but he took on himself the attitude of a slave.  He didn’t come to lord over people.  He came to serve them.  Remember that Jesus’ ministry was to the people as he traveled by foot around the country with nothing more than the clothes on his back.  It was Jesus who washed his disciples feet.  His ministry was one of service to others. St. Paul goes on in verse 8: And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Christ became one of us so that he could serve us.  In Hebrews 4:15 we read: For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Each of us is guilty of offending God.  Each of us has committed the cosmic treason of sin.  God graciously created us, and yet every one of us has rebelled against the very one who has given us life.  We, his creatures, choose to be gods and arrogantly enthrone ourselves on his seat.  Christ had to become one of us so that he could be the second Adam – so that he could live life as we do, suffering temptation, but not falling to it.  He was obedient in every way that we are not and that total obedience led him to the cross.  Again in Hebrews we read: In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10) The ultimate act of service and of obedience was his death on the cross in our place.  I don’t know that we give much thought to the manner of Jesus’ death other than to focus on its cruelty and heinousness.  If we look at the mock trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate and someone asks us “Why?” I’m not sure we give the right answer.  Why was Jesus dragged through these sham trials?  Why was he crucified?  Why was he taken out to be executed with two thieves?  Jesus could have died in all sorts of ways.  Why couldn’t he have been hit by a speeding chariot or stampeding horse while walking down one of Jerusalem’s narrow streets?  Why couldn’t he have died from typhoid or leprosy or one of the other many fatal diseases that plagued the ancient world?  Why couldn’t he have fallen out of a boat on the Sea of Galilee in a storm and drowned?  Jesus had to suffer what he did because it’s what we deserve.  We deserve to be put on trial for our sins.  We deserved to be mocked and ridiculed for our sins.  Ultimately we deserve to die a criminal’s death for our sins. As you read the Gospel lessons this Holy Week, put yourself in the place of Christ.  Would it be unjust if we had stood accused before Pilate or before the Sanhedrin?  Would it have been unjust for us to have been scourged?  Would it have been unjust for us to have been nailed to a cross and left to die?  No.  I expect that every one of us is probably guilty of a crime that was punished by death in the Old Testament – remember that even dishonouring one’s parents was a capital crime!  Yet we take all those things very lightly.  But God’s divine standard is even higher.  God’s divine standard hands down the death penalty for any and all sin.  Every one of us stands condemned before God. But an awful lot of the time we seem to forget that fact.  We ignore the fact that we’re sinners.  We ignore the fact that our sins deserve death.  And we start thinking that God owes us something.  Instead of living Christ’s humility in our own lives, we become proud and self-righteous.  We take pride in the knowledge that we’ve never stooped as low as this or that person. We take pride in our good works and in our “morality.”  We like to point out the faults in other people, but aren’t interested in having others show us our own faults.  We like to praise ourselves for overcoming sin as if we are somehow totally victorious over all the sin in our lives and as if the victory we’ve experienced over a handful of sins is somehow because of our own doing and not God’s.  Each of us came to Christ knowing that there was nothing we could do to save ourselves.  We came to him in humility – totally relying on his sinlessness and on his sacrifice – his sinless death made in our place.  (If you haven’t ever done that, then regardless of what you may think, you are not a Christian and still stand condemned before God.)  We knelt humbly before him at one time, but it seems all too common for us to become over-confident in ourselves as time goes on, and eventually we start to get the idea that somehow we can stand before God on our own merit.  Maybe we rely on Christ a little bit and we pay lip service to his death on the cross as the payment for our sins, but in reality we expect to earn God’s favour.  We start to see righteousness in ourselves and that’s a very dangerous illusion, because when we become self-righteous we kill our Christian witness.  The self-righteous person takes great pride in the sins he doesn’t commit, but is blind to the sins he falls into every day.  He goes to work and condemns the sin in everyone else around him, but is blind to the obvious sin in his own life.  He shows an utter lack of charity to others, he short-changes the company by leaving early when the boss isn’t around, takes home office supplies, he gets caught up in the dirty jokes of the guy in the next cubicle. You wonder why people have no interest in Christ.  It’s in part because of our lack of Christ-like humility.  It’s we proclaim Christ with our lips, but all these folks ever see is us trusting in ourselves.  We say we follow Christ, but we fail to live like he did.  We’re called to imitate Christ, because for many people we’re the only Jesus they’ll ever see.  To a certain extent, we set the standard for the unbelievers around us – but too much of the time we set that standard awfully low and misrepresent what it means to be a follower of Christ.  You wonder why some people don’t want anything to do with the Church?  It’s because they look at us and they see prideful do-gooders and hypocrites. St. Paul doesn’t just tell us about Christ’s humility and servant attitude because he wants us to know that Christ was a humble servant.  Notice how he begins this doxology: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. St. Paul’s point is to urge us to be like our Saviour.  We’re given the example of Christ so that we can be like him.  Philips Brooks said, “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” Christ is that higher nature for us – he is our measuring standard.  He is the one who shows us how small we are when we’re tempted to think we’re spiritual big shots.  And when we faithfully hold Christ’s example before us we can never be self-righteous – we can never trust in ourselves for access to the Father, because we will always be humbled by the Eternal Son, who condescended to become man, and who died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. St. Paul’s doxology reminds us that because of his humility, the Father has exalted the Son and given to him the name above all names: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Philippians 2:10-11) He who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, honours the Father, and he who hates the Son also hates the Father.  On judgment day there will be no one on earth who will not confess that Jesus is Lord.  The saints will confess it in love and admiration, and those who rejected Christ will have their eyes opened and will confess it in fear and trembling.   God will honour those followers of Christ who make their confession out of faith and love, but there will be no hope for those who are only able to make that confession on the final day out of fear after their eyes are opened to the glory of Christ. Our goal as Christians should be to give to Christ alone the glory for our redemption.  We need to be like him in his humility, not full of ourselves, but pouring ourselves out so that we can be filled by the grace that Christ has poured from himself.  Those around us should see Christ-like humility, not pride.  They should see redeemed sinners serving their God out of gratitude and aspiring to personal holiness, not self-righteous, holier-than-thou jerks.  Self-righteous people rarely have the desire to serve out of humility, because prideful people don’t stoop down unless it’s to take pride in that stooping.  Just as he exalted his humble Son, God also promises to exalt those who follow in his humble footsteps.  Our sole desire should be to faithfully follow Christ – to be like him – to imitate his model of the humble servant, but we can only do it when we rely on the grace we find in him.  This was what we prayed for in our collect today: “Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
Bible Text: Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-17 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for Palm Sunday Philippians 2:5-11 & St. Matthew 21:1-17 by William Klock Our Epistle this morning begins with this exhortation to us: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) Again, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  Now, think of Adam.  Adam was created in the image and likeness of God—he had this mind—but through his sin, he defaced the image of God that was in him and he set his mind against the things of God.  He set his mind on the things of the world and on his own ambition and satisfaction.  And so Jesus came—the second Adam—to save us from our sins.  But Jesus didn’t just come to wash us clean from our unrighteousness, he also came in order to make us righteous again—to restore the image of God in each of us.  And that’s where St. Paul’s going here: If you’ve put your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross—that’s what we looked at last Sunday—then the Spirit has united you with Christ and made you part of his Body.  Jesus is the head of that Body—so let his mind be yours—let him transform you from the inside out.  But then we have to ask: “What is the mind of Christ”.  And so Paul goes on: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-11) Paul tells us that the dominating character of Jesus was his humility.  He was God—he was with his Father as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity from all eternity, he was there at the Creation of the world as the Divine Word—as the very means of Creation itself, he is Lord of the world—and yet he was willing to “empty himself,” as the King James puts it.  When we, his creations, fell into sin and were separated from the life he offers, he humbled himself and became one of us so that he could restore us to himself.  But he didn’t just become one of his creatures.  He could have come as a great earthly king and still been a man, but instead he humbled himself to the lowest of the low—born of a woman pregnant before she was married, poor herself and from a poor town, rejected by other men even from his birth—because of that rejection, being born in a smelly and dirty stable.  In his thirty years, he never rose much above those humble beginnings in the stable.  He was rejected and despised by his own people.  Paul goes on: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) God humbled himself and became the servant of his creatures, even to the point of dying for them—and not just dying a natural death, but dying a painful, brutal, and humiliating death on the cross, a death that was reserved for criminals and the lowest of the low. St. John tells us in his Gospel: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:9-12) The good news is that Jesus didn’t humble himself for nought.  There were many people—and still are many people—who received him and who have let him make a triumphal entry into their hearts and lives with his gifts of redemption and sonship. But today, in the Gospel, we see him making his entry into Jerusalem—going there in humility as our servant, offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  That Thursday night he had spent in Jericho in Zacchaeus’ house.  On Friday he continued on toward Jerusalem for the Passover.  The roads were crowded, because everyone in the nation was making that same journey—all the roads leading to Jerusalem would have been packed with pilgrims.  But he didn’t go all the way there on Friday.  Jews didn’t travel on the Sabbath—on Saturday—so he stopped to spend the night in Bethany—just a few kilometres from the city.  He stayed with his friends—whith Mary and Martha and Lazarus. We can only imagine the number of people who came to Bethany while Jesus was there on that Sabbath.  The roads were crowded and the stories of Jesus having raised Lazarus from the dead would undoubtedly have been passed along among all those pilgrims.  Now here was their chance, not only to see Lazarus—the man who was raised after three days in the grave—but to see Jesus too, the man who had raised him.  A lot of these people would naturally have been doubters, but here was their chance to see the evidence and they went away from Bethany believers.  And that made the Jewish leaders all the more furious. On Sunday morning the crowd in Bethany was bigger than ever.  I can just see Jesus stepping out of Simon the Lepers’ house, where he spent the night, and there was this huge crowd of people cheering—the King, the Messiah had come and was going to march into Jerusalem and take his throne.  Who wouldn’t want to miss that!  Word had spread to Jerusalem and another crowd was making its way down the road from the opposite direction too.  As Jesus was coming to the little town of Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples ahead to get a donkey and a colt that he told them they’d find tied there.  It was more evidence of his divinity—he knew without seeing.  And sure enough, the disciples did what he told them to do and came back with the donkey and the colt.  No doubt they wondered what this was all about, and there were people in the crowd thinking, “If this is the King, the Messiah, he sure looks poor.  Why is he riding on a donkey?  Shouldn’t the great King be coming on a great war horse and with an army?”  At the time the disciples didn’t understand either, but later they remembered Zechariah’s prophecy: 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.  (Zechariah 9:9) The promised King was to ride into Jerusalem, not with a great show of earthly power, but in humility—riding on a humble donkey. As the crowd from Bethany got closer, they met the crowd coming from Jerusalem, and true to the prophecy, the daughters of Zion rejoiced and shouted aloud.  The crowds surrounded Jesus shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 21:9) Those were the words of Psalm 118.  They were part of the Hallel that the priests sang or chanted as they received the Passover procession.  These were also the same words that families would sing during the Passover meals they had in their homes.  We still sing these words as we come to the Table in the Lord’s Supper.  They sang, Hosanna! “Give us your salvation!  Save us now!”  They were shouting: “Hail the King of Israel!  Here comes the one bearing God’s gifts and endowments for his people!  Here comes the one who has raised Lazarus from the dead and will raise us from the dead too!  Here comes the promised Messiah!” As the procession moved along, the people took branches from the palm trees along the road and spread them in Jesus’ way, and St. Matthew says, “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road.”  Think about that.  These were people who were a long way from home.  Most of them were probably travelling pretty light—they didn’t have an overabundance of clothing with them—many of them probably had no change of clothes.  But they carpeted the road with their own clothes in honour of the King.  Shouting Hosanna cost them nothing, the palm branches could be pulled off the trees pretty easily, but the clothes on the road showed a sacrifice on the part of these people.  They wanted to honour the Lord Jesus.  And it was as great day for Jesus—one of the few times, in fact, that he accepted homage as the King. There were some in the crowd who had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus.  Many of them had seen Lazarus alive again.  They were there as witnesses of Jesus’ divinity.  St. John tells us that the crowd was there mainly because they had heard about Lazarus.  And now as they made their way into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up.  Imagine a crowd coming into Courtenay, coming up the highway with this one man at the head of the parade and everyone cheering him.  We’d be asking, “Who is this?” and that’s exactly what the people of Jerusalem were asking: “Who is this?  What’s this all about?”  And Matthew says the crowd with Jesus told the people: “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:10-11). That probably left a lot of people scratching their heads.  All this for a poor man, riding on a donkey—and from Nazareth, of all places?  He doesn’t look like a king!  But the Pharisees knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be and this sent them into a frenzy.  Jesus coming into the city, acclaimed by the crowds as if he were a king—that was a direct challenge to their authority.  They were afraid of Jesus.  Everything they had done to stop him had failed up to this point.  They already had an order out that he should be arrested wherever he was found and now here he comes, riding openly into the city and acclaimed by a huge crowd.  They were helpless and in their anger they said, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (John 12:19).  No doubt it seemed to them like the entire world was carried away in this flood of enthusiasm for Jesus.  They were the only ones—they thought—who still had their feet on the ground. And it’s the hate of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders that makes the Palm Sunday Gospel so dramatic.  Jesus knew these men wanted him dead, but he went to Jerusalem anyway.  He was on a mission of love and not even their bloody hate would stop him.  But brothers and sisters, what does this mean for us?  We sing our Hosannas to Jesus.  We proclaim: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”  We sing praises just like those people did almost 2000 years ago.  The problem then was that those people missed what Jesus was really about.  They thought he came to establish an earthly kingdom.  They expected to share in his earthly triumph.  When they figured out that his destination was not the throne on Mount Zion, but was actually the cross on Mount Calvary all their praises evaporated.  Jesus knew this is what would happen.  That’s why he would stand looking over the city and weep: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood  under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37).  He came to his own.  They received him at first, but when he didn’t meet their expectations, his own did not receive him—they were looking for peace, but they were blinded by their misconceptions and false expectations of what the Messiah would do and who he would be. Brothers and sisters, Jesus comes today.  Just as it was then, his purpose is to bring salvation and holiness, to rescue us from sin, and to bring us into his kingdom—into his Body, his Church.  And in his Church there are still a lot of people who sing “Hosanna!” on Sunday and then run from the Garden on Thursday night.  A lot of people call him Saviour and acknowledge him as King, but they refuse to truly make him Lord—to truly follow him and do his will in their families, their businesses, or even in the Church.  A lot of people vow, just like Peter did that they will follow him forever and then deny him when things get tough.  A lot of people forget the humility of Jesus, and like the disciples get into disputes over who is the greatest and think they’re above washing the feet of their brothers and sisters. But friends, the Jesus who comes to us today is the same Jesus who sat with a dirty soldier’s coat on his whipped and scourged back and with a crown of thorns pressed on his bloody head; who held a mock sceptre in his hand and had the spit of drunk soldiers running down his face.  And because he’s the same, we treat him the same way Jerusalem treated him.  He’s not like other kings.  He doesn’t beat down anyone’s door and drag them kicking and screaming into his kingdom.  He comes with patience and humility and he stand at the door and knocks.  And we’re hesitant to open the door, because his patience with us and his humble servanthood destroys our pride.  We know that if we let him in, he’s going to call us away from the things we love so much in this world. And yet our Epistle reminds us that because of his humility, because of his willingness to be a servant: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Philippians 2:9-11) We have a choice today, whether or not we’ll open the door.  But when the Last Day comes, the choice will be gone.  Paul says that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  But those who heard him knocking and opened the door, they will bow before him as his loved subjects.  But on that day there will be all the others who refused him.  Many will have refused him because his call was so costly—they weren’t willing to give up the things of this world.  Others will have refused him as the Jews did.  He wasn’t the kind of king they wanted—they looked for earthly king.  This may be the greatest danger to us, because it’s subtle.  We think that Jesus came to save our democratic society or to bring an end to poverty or an end to war.  We forget that the only way these things can be saved is when men and women are saved themselves.  Our relations can never be right until our hearts are right with God and until he’s transformed us from the inside out.  But even those who refuse him will bow too on that day—but not as his loved subject, but as those who stand condemned before him as their judge. This is the Palm Sunday theme: the Saviour came to save us from our sins, to enter our hearts, and to make his light to shine on all our human problems.  So sing Hosanna!  He comes riding to us on a humble donkey to die on the cross so that he can open heaven for those who believe and trust. When Jesus makes his triumphal entry into a heart, he redeems it from pettiness and selfishness and pride and fills it with life and love that spills out to everyone around.  He makes us servants who follow his own example.  On that first Palm Sunday, when he entered Jerusalem, he cleansed the temple.  Today he wants to enter the temple of our hearts.  He calls to us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”  Open the door, and you join not the fickle Palm Sunday crowd, but the redeemed who, with palms in their hands, sing: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” Let us pray: “Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
Bible Text: Zechariah 9:9-12 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon on the Old Testament Lesson for Palm Sunday Zechariah 9:9-12 by William Klock I’d like to look this evening at today’s Old Testament lesson.  Its connection with the Gospel is an obvious one.  St. Matthew, in today’s Gospel, notes that when the disciples found the donkey and colt in Bethpage, in accordance with Jesus’ prophetic instructions, and when Jesus rode that donkey into Jerusalem, it was all in fulfilment of these words spoken by Zechariah five-and-a-half centuries before.  But what was the significance of those words to the Jews when they originally heard Zechariah speak them? Zechariah was on of the men who returned from exile in Babylon along with Zerubbabel—about 538 B.C.  He was a priest.  These exiles went back to Jerusalem to rebuild not only the city and their nation, but also to rebuild the temple.  But as a priest it wasn’t just the temple that was important to Zechariah—so were holiness, right worship, and the peoples’ commitment to God. Zechariah started his ministry about twenty years after the people got back to Judah.  When they left Babylon with Cyrus’ approval, they had great plans and visions.  They were going to rebuild Judah to its old greatness.  The problem was that their visions weren’t very realistic.  The fact is that there wasn’t much left of Judah.  They had visions of the Davidic kingdom, but that kingdom fell apart after Solomon’s death four hundred years before.  It had split in two and gradually degraded and had fallen apart from that point onward.  The northern kingdom had been destroyed and the people dispersed.  They were going back to Judah—to the smaller southern kingdom.  Even that wasn’t what it had once been in terms of area.  The Babylonians had carved up the whole region.  A lot of the land had been given to other people and nations. These returning exiles had their work cut out for them.  And it didn’t take very long for reality to set in.  In Ezra and Nehemiah we read about all the troubles they faced.  Even though the Emperor had given them permission to return and rebuild, he was far away and the people around them were threatened by these strangers who were now rebuilding Jerusalem.  We read how they had to make rebuilding the city wall a priority and built with their swords at hand, to fight off those who wanted to thwart their work. Pretty soon the people all but gave up on their original mission.  They intermarried with the pagan peoples around them.  They started living like the pagans around them.  They all but forgot about rebuilding the temple as the centre of a restored Judah.  The people got discouraged and it just seemed easier to ignore their ideals and just “go with the flow” of the world.  Two prophets stepped in to encourage the people to get back on track with their original mission.  First Haggai called the people to return to their work of rebuilding the temple.  The foundation had been built, but so many other things had come to occupy the attention of the people, that the foundation was as far as they ever got.  Then a few years later Zechariah backed up Haggai’s call to build the temple with his exhortation.  And what Zechariah does is turn the rebuilding of the temple into an object lesson that points to the future restoration of God with his people. Imagine how the people felt.  Even had they not been distracted by all the worldliness and worldly cares around them, they knew that the temple they were building wasn’t the same as the temple that had been destroyed.  It’s not just that it wasn’t as grand and glorious as the one built by Solomon, but two very important things were missing: the ark of the covenant was gone and so was the shekinah—the visible presence of God.  Those two thing had been at the centre of the tabernacle and then the temple from the time God had given his law and the people had built the tabernacle under Moses’ leadership.  The ark sat in the Holy of Holies—its lid the mercy seat—and the glory of God rested on it.  The ark was now lost forever and no one had seen the shekinahsince before the fall of Jerusalem.  Maybe these people hoped in some way to get these things back, but I think they knew that they were building a temple that was really, in many ways, just an empty shell.  But Haggai and Zechariah urge them to rebuilt it anyway. That temple was a symbol of their commitment to God, even when they weren’t aware of his presence with them.  God used that second temple to transition the people away from thinking of God’s kingdom in terms of a physical place.  It transitioned the people away from thinking of God being present with his people in a temple made with hands and pointed them toward a time when his presence would abide in the people themselves through his Holy Spirit. Zechariah spoke to a people who thought of the kingdom only in terms of a strong nation as had existed in the days of David and Solomon and they thought of God in terms of the temple and a system of imperfect sacrifices for sin.  That’s what they had so longed for while they were exiles in Babylon.  They’d finally been released from exile.  They came back to Judah, full of excitement and enthusiasm to rebuild that old kingdom…and then reality set in.  They just didn’t see any of that happening anymore, so they gave up.  And now Zechariah says to them: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! (Zechariah 9:9) And the people would probably have responded: “Right.  Why should we rejoice?  As far as we can tell, God has abandoned us.”  And Zechariah goes on: Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, These people, without a doubt, hoped for a king.  But all their hoping just wasn’t realistic.  They had a king—and emperor—and his name was Cyrus.  He might let them rebuilt Jerusalem, but their having their own king was out of the question.  And yet Zechariah doesn’t just promise a king; he promises the King—the Messiah.  He knew what they didn’t: that the Messiah, the King of kings, was their only real hope.  The Jews learned over the centuries that earthly kings could never solve their eternal problems.  In fact, their kings tended to get them into trouble more than anything else.  But the people always seemed to want a king anyway.  Had it been possible these returning exiles would have accepted a king in a heartbeat.  This was the same King the people were hoping for in Jesus on that first Palm Sunday when he rode into Jerusalem—a king come to re-establish the nation and drive out the foreign oppressors. But God’s plan wasn’t to give them another earthly king—it was to give them a heavenly king.  Zechariah’s promise isn’t an earthly king riding in on a great war horse.  He goes on to describe him as not only bringing righteousness and salvation, but also says that this king comes to his people: …humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. This is a new kind of King and he comes humbly.  In fact, Zechariah says in verse 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. This didn’t compute for most people.  The King—the Messiah—was coming, but he was coming humbly, riding on a lowly donkey, and he was going to disarm the nation.  The people had always relied on horses and chariot and on bows and swords.  In fact, it was only because the people armed themselves that they were able to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and it was those strong stone walls that gave them what little peace and protection they had.  I’m sure some people laughed at Zechariah: “A humble king, taking away our chariots and our bows to bring peace?  Ha!” And yet Zechariah says that he’ll not only disarm his people, but he’ll rule the earth and bring peace.  Actually—more specifically—he’ll bring peace, and because he’ll bring peace, he’ll rule the nations.  Again, that’s backwards thinking by worldly standards. But think about that.  The world wants peace, but we think we’ll have peace when a strong ruler or a strong nation forces the trouble-makers into peaceful submission.  What we get in the end is a free-for-all and a total lack of peace.  My own nation seems convinced that it can bring peace by invading countries that don’t see things our way and imposing democracy and peace at the point of a gun. The problem is that everyone else thinks the same way.  Everyone wants peace, but we all want it on our own terms.  The world has this foolish idea that we can wage war in order to establish peace.  That was the idea behind World War I.  It utterly failed, and yet we continue to do the same thing almost a century later. No, in contrast, the Great King will establish his kingdom, not by enforcing peace with a sword, buy by first establishing a peace that requires no sword to maintain.  And this is where the line is drawn between those who understand and those who don’t and between his kingdom and the world.  This is where that empty shell of a temple points the people to the futility of horses and chariots and earthly kingdoms.  God’s kingdom will never come at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun.  God’s kingdom comes as the King enters the hearts of the people—as he establishes a temple not made with hands.  And he builds that new temple as men and women give up their earthly loyalties and trust in the Saviour, allowing him to transform their hearts.  He comes humbly—in fact, he came and established his kingdom by first dying for his people—dying as a sacrifice for their sins, that they might be restored to fellowship with God.  And as he frees his people from sin and death, his Spirit knits those people together and replaces pride and selfishness and every other sin with the same love and peace and humility that the King himself showed his people on the cross. The question for us is whether or not we’ve received the King.  And if we have received him—if we’ve trusted in the sacrifice for sins he has made for us—are we letting his Spirit transform our lives and our thinking.  There are too many Christians who continue to think just like the world.  We expect Jesus and his Church to somehow govern the physical world in a way that isn’t much different from those Jews who lined the road on that first Palm Sunday, hailing Jesus as King.  They expected him to wield a sword to establish righteousness.  We’ve changed things a bit, but not that much.  We often fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus will establish righteousness throw the collective voting power of his Church—just to name one example.  But brothers and sisters, that’s still expecting the kingdom of God to be established by the sword.  If Jesus is our Lord, we need to look to his humble example. We need to see that he was humble unto death, that he might win his kingdom not by force, but by love.  And friends, if we would seek to grow God’s kingdom in the same way—by loving and by being willing to sacrifice ourselves—we would truly see his kingdom grow.  We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.”  Let us make it a reality as we follow the example of loving humility set by our Lord. Let us pray: “Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
Bible Text: Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-17 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Our Humble King Philippians 2:5-11 & St. Matthew 21:1-17 Our Epistle this morning begins with this exhortation to us: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) Again, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  That wasn’t supposed to be a hard thing to have, but the story of Adam teaches us that humanity has rejected it.  God created each of us as bearers of his image and likeness, but we have all defaced his image and likeness in us with sin.  We set our minds against God and against the things of God; we set our minds on our own ambition and our own satisfaction.  And so Jesus came—as a second Adam—to save us from our sins.  But Jesus didn’t just come to plaster and whitewash over our unrighteousness.  He came to restore the image of God in each of us—to change us from the inside out that we might actually be holy.  And that’s where St. Paul’s going here: If you’ve put your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross—that’s what we looked at last Sunday—then the Spirit has united you with Christ and made you part of his Body.  Jesus is the head of that Body—so let his mind be yours.  But then we have to ask: “What is the mind of Christ”.  And so Paul goes on: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-11) St. Paul tells us that Jesus was characterised by humility.  Think about what who he was and what he did.  He was God.  He was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the divine Word, begotten of his Father from all eternity.  As the Word, he was the instrument of Creation.  He is Lord of the world—and yet he was willing to “empty himself,” as the King James puts it.  When we, his creatures, fell into sin and were separated from him, he humbled himself and became one of us in order to restore us to life and to restore us to himself.  That doesn’t mean he ceased to be God or gave up even the tiniest bit of his divinity.  It means that as God he took up our human nature and bound it to himself and in doing so he bound himself—his divinity—to us.  Imagine the humility involved in eternal God choosing to bind himself to humanity—to the lowly thing he created.  And yet it wasn’t enough for him to simply become a man.  He could have come as a great king, as another Solomon—but he didn’t.  He humbled himself to the lowest of the low—born of a woman pregnant before she was married, poor herself and from a poor town, rejected by other men even from his birth—because of that rejection, being born in a smelly and dirty stable.  In his thirty years, he never rose much above those humble beginnings in the stable.  He was rejected and despised by his own people.  Paul goes on: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) God humbled himself and became the servant of his creatures, even to the point of dying for them—and not just dying a natural death, but dying a painful, brutal, and humiliating death on the cross, a death that was reserved for criminals and the lowest of the low.  Born in the worst part of the wrong part of town to a poor and teenage mother, growing up a poor carpenter’s son, and ultimately dying a criminals death in disgrace.  That’s what St. Paul means when he says that Christ “emptied himself” and “made himself nothing”.  And yet it was for a purpose. St. John tells us in his Gospel: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:9-12) The good news is that Jesus didn’t humble himself for nought.  There were many people—and still are many people—who received him and who have let him make a triumphal entry into their hearts and lives with his gifts of redemption and sonship. But today, in the Gospel, we see him making his entry into Jerusalem—going there in humility as our servant, offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  That Thursday night he had spent in Jericho in Zacchaeus’ house.  On Friday he continued on toward Jerusalem for the Passover.  The roads were crowded, because everyone in the nation was making that same journey—all the roads leading to Jerusalem would have been packed with pilgrims.  But he didn’t go all the way there on Friday.  Jews didn’t travel on the Sabbath—on Saturday—so he stopped to spend the night in Bethany—just a few kilometres from the city.  He stayed with his friends—with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. We can only imagine the number of people who came to Bethany while Jesus was there on that Sabbath.  The roads were crowded and the stories of Jesus having raised Lazarus from the dead would undoubtedly have been passed along among all those pilgrims.  Here was their chance, not only to see Lazarus—the man who was raised after three days in the grave—but to see Jesus too, the man who had raised him.  A lot of these people would naturally have been doubters, but here was their chance to see the evidence and they went away from Bethany believers.  And that made the Jewish leaders all the more furious. On Sunday morning the crowd in Bethany was bigger than ever.  I can just see Jesus stepping out of Simon the Lepers’ house, where he spent the night, and there was this huge crowd of people cheering—the King, the Messiah had come and was going to march into Jerusalem and take his throne.  Who would want to miss that!  Word had spread to Jerusalem and another crowd was making its way down the road from the opposite direction too.  As Jesus was coming to the little town of Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples ahead to get a donkey and a colt that he told them they’d find tied there.  It was more evidence of his divinity—he knew without seeing.  And sure enough, the disciples did what he told them to do and came back with the donkey and the colt.  No doubt they wondered what this was all about, and there were people in the crowd thinking, “If this is the King, the Messiah, he sure looks poor.  Why is he riding on a donkey?  Shouldn’t the great King be coming on a great war horse and with an army?”  At the time the disciples didn’t understand either, but later they remembered Zechariah’s prophecy: 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.  (Zechariah 9:9) The promised King was to ride into Jerusalem, not with a great show of earthly power, but in humility—riding on a humble donkey. As the crowd from Bethany got closer, they met the crowd coming from Jerusalem, and true to the prophecy, the daughters of Zion rejoiced and shouted aloud.  The crowds surrounded Jesus shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 21:9) Those were the words of Psalm 118.  They were part of the Hallel that the priests sang or chanted as they received the Passover procession.  These were also the same words that families would sing during the Passover meals they had in their homes.  We still sing these words as we come to the Table in the Lord’s Supper.  They sang, Hosanna! “Give us your salvation!  Save us now!”  They were shouting: “Hail the King of Israel!  Here comes the one bearing God’s gifts and endowments for his people!  Here comes the one who has raised Lazarus from the dead and will raise us from the dead too!  Here comes the promised Messiah!” As the procession moved along, the people took branches from the palm trees along the road and spread them in Jesus’ way, and St. Matthew says, “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road.”  Think about that.  These were people who were a long way from home.  Most of them were probably travelling light—they didn’t have an overabundance of clothing with them—many of them probably had no change of clothes.  But they carpeted the road with their own clothes in honour of the King.  Shouting Hosanna cost them nothing, neither did the palm branches they pulled off the trees, but the clothes on the road showed a sacrifice on the part of these people.  They wanted to honour the Lord Jesus.  And it was a great day for Jesus—one of the few times, in fact, that he accepted homage as the King. St. John tells us that the crowd was there mainly because they had heard about Lazarus.  There were, no doubt, people in the crowd who had been there when Jesus had called Lazarus out of his tomb.  And there were probably many who had seen Lazarus since—alive again.  They were there as witnesses to Jesus’ divinity. And now as they made their way into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up.  Imagine a crowd coming into Courtenay, coming up the highway with this one man at the head of the parade and everyone cheering him.  We’d be asking, “Who is this?” and that’s exactly what the people of Jerusalem were asking: “Who is this?  What’s this all about?”  And Matthew says the crowd with Jesus told the people: “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:10-11). That probably left a lot of people scratching their heads.  All this for a poor man, riding on a donkey—and from Nazareth, of all places?  He doesn’t look like a king!  But the Pharisees knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be and this sent them into a frenzy.  Jesus coming into the city, acclaimed by the crowds as if he were a king—that was a direct challenge to their authority.  They were afraid of Jesus.  Everything they had done to stop him had failed up to this point.  They already had an order out that he should be arrested wherever he was found and now here he comes, riding openly into the city and acclaimed by a huge crowd.  They were helpless and in their anger they said, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (John 12:19).  No doubt it seemed to them like the entire world was carried away in this flood of enthusiasm for Jesus.  They were the only ones—they thought—who still had their feet on the ground. And it’s the hate of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders that makes the Palm Sunday Gospel so dramatic.  Jesus knew these men wanted him dead, but he went to Jerusalem anyway.  He was on a mission of love and not even their bloody hate would stop him.  But brothers and sisters, what does this mean for us?  We sing our Hosannas to Jesus.  We proclaim: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”  We sing praises just like those people did almost 2000 years ago.  The problem then was that those people missed what Jesus was really about.  They thought he came to establish an earthly kingdom.  They expected to share in his earthly triumph.  When they figured out that his destination was not the throne on Mount Zion, but was actually the cross on Mount Calvary all their praises evaporated.  Jesus knew this is what would happen.  That’s why he would stand looking over the city and weep: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37).  He came to his own.  They received him at first, but when he didn’t meet their expectations, his own did not receive him—they were looking for peace, but they were blinded by their misconceptions and false expectations of what the Messiah would do and who he would be.  The couldn’t wrap their heads around a humble Messiah. Brothers and sisters, Jesus comes today.  Just as it was then, his purpose is to bring salvation and holiness, to rescue us from sin, and to bring us into his kingdom—into his Body, his Church.  And in his Church there are still a lot of people who sing “Hosanna!” on Sunday and then run from the Garden on Thursday night.  A lot of people call him Saviour and acknowledge him as King, but they refuse to truly make him Lord—to truly follow him and do his will in their families, their businesses, or even in the Church.  A lot of people vow, just like Peter, that they will follow him forever and then they deny him when things get tough.  A lot of people forget the humility of Jesus, and like the disciples get into disputes over who is the greatest and think they’re above washing the feet of their brothers and sisters. But friends, the Jesus who comes to us today is the same Jesus who sat with a dirty soldier’s coat on his whipped and scourged back and with a crown of thorns pressed on his bloody head; who held a mock sceptre in his hand and had the spit of drunk soldiers running down his face.  And because he’s the same, we treat him the same way Jerusalem treated him.  He’s not like other kings.  His Kingdom doesn’t come with force.  He doesn’t beat us into submission as earthly kings do.  No, he comes to us through the proclamation of the Gospel.  And he sends the Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts and to turn them to him.  And yet we resist, because.  We can’t wrap our heads around a humble Messiah.  Or maybe we can understand a humble Messiah, but we aren’t willing to be humble as he is.  We aren’t willing to have the mind of Christ ourselves.  We know that if we submit to his humble lordship, he’s going to call us away from the things we love so much in this world. And yet our Epistle reminds us that because of his humility, because of his willingness to be a servant: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11) We have a choice today, whether or not we’ll acknowledge Jesus as Lord.  But when the Last Day comes, the choice will be gone.  Paul says that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  Those who heard his call and embraced the Good News of his death and resurrection, they will bow before him as his loved subjects.  But on that day there will be all the others who refused him.  Many will have refused him because his call was so costly—they weren’t willing to give up the things of this world.  Others will have refused him as the Jews did.  He wasn’t the kind of king they wanted—they looked for an earthly king.  (This may be the greatest danger to us, because it’s subtle.  We think that Jesus came to save our democratic society or to bring an end to poverty or an end to war.  We forget that the only way these things can be saved is when men and women are saved themselves.  Our relations can never be right until our hearts are right with God and until he’s transformed us from the inside out.)  But even those who refuse him will bow too on that day—but not as his loved subject, but as those who stand condemned before him as their judge. This is the Palm Sunday theme: Our Saviour has come.  Out of his great love for us, he comes humbly.  He comes as man, that he might restore men and women to God.  And we see that humility on dramatic display as the great King rides on a lowly donkey to his own death on a cross.  And St. Paul points us to his loving humility and calls to us: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  By the cross, he has restored us to himself.  As God humbly shared in our humanity, he has exalted our humanity to his divinity that we set aside our sin, our pride, and our selfish ambition and, instead, live in service to each other and to him, spreading the Good News of our humble Saviour and eternally glorify our Lord and King. Let us pray: “Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”