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Palm Sunday Sermon: What Kind of King Did You Expect?

The Temple would be the center of Passover activity.  Antonia’s Fortress, the Roman garrison built adjacent to the Temple compound, would serve as a good vantage point from which to keep an eye on the Jews.  Pilate’s entry into Jerusalem was meant to send a message to the Jews, and to those who might be plotting against the empire of Rome.  The spectacle was meant to remind the Jews of what had happened the last time of a wide-scale uprising.  And, it was meant to intimidate the citizens of Jerusalem themselves, who might think twice about joining such a rebellion if it was slated to fail.

But I said this was a day of two processions, so let’s get back to Jesus and his entry into Jerusalem.  If Pilate’s procession was meant as a show of military might and strength, Jesus’ procession was meant to show the opposite.  Both Matthew and Mark record Jesus’s own words, as he instructs his disciples to go in to the city and find a donkey tied up.  They are to ask the owner if they may use the donkey, and they are to say that “the Lord needs them.”

Then, Jesus quotes from Zechariah, the 9th chapter –

 Say to the Daughter of Zion,
“See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

But, there is more to this passage than just a description of Jesus’ means of transportation for that day.  The prophet Zechariah is speaking to the nation.  In Zechariah 9, the prophet reassures the people of Judah, called Judea on the New Testament, that God has not forgotten them:

But I will defend my house
against marauding forces.
Never again will an oppressor overrun my people,
for now I am keeping watch.
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

In other words, Jesus’ quote from the prophet Zechariah reminded those who heard him of the entire passage.  The message they heard was, “God will deliver the nation from the oppressor”—in this case, Rome!