“Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!” (John 12:12-19)

Palm Sunday
April 5, 2020

“Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!” (John 12:12-19)

I don’t know about you, but these last couple of weeks I’ve been watching the daily briefings from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. I find these briefings fascinating. Not only do they provide information on the virus itself and how to slow the spread–I’ve become familiar with terms like “mitigation,” “models,” “flattening the curve,”; “granular” is the latest one–not only do I find that part fascinating, but it’s also interesting to see how the government responds to calls for help from around the country. “New York, you need 2,000 ventilators? Don’t worry; help is on the way.” “Los Angeles, we’re sending you a hospital ship to help with relieving the stress on your system.” Much-needed supplies are being sent out, like N95 masks for health-care workers. And then there’s the financial assistance. The Treasury Secretary reports on the emergency money that’s coming your way. The Small Business Administrator tells businesses how to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, so that they can keep paying their employees. So you’ve got the President, the Vice President, the Treasury Secretary, the SBA, an assortment of admirals and private-sector business leaders–they’re all delivering the same message: “Don’t worry; help is on the way.”

Well, in a way, this reminds me of what we find in today’s Palm Sunday Gospel reading. The main message is likewise, “Don’t worry; help is on the way.” Only in this case, it doesn’t take a whole White House task force to do the job. No, here the much-needed help comes in a task force of one, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so God is saying to us today, in the words of our text: “Fear Not, Daughter of Zion; Behold, Your King Is Coming!”

“Fear not, daughter of Zion.” First, I think I need to explain who is meant by this “daughter of Zion.” Who is being referred to? You! Us! We are the “daughter of Zion” being addressed in this verse. Oh, originally it was spoken to the children of Israel, but now it applies to us also. For we, the church–we are God’s people now. Daughter of “Zion”? Zion was the place of God’s abode, his dwelling place on earth with his people, in the temple, on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem. So “daughter of Zion” is a poetic way to refer to God’s people. And that is who we are. We Christians have been made God’s people by the Holy Spirit working through the ministry of the church, through Word and Sacrament. We have been brought into God’s family through Holy Baptism, when God placed his name on us and claimed us as his children. So we are the “daughter of Zion” who is being addressed in this verse.

“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming!” You know, this verse in John is really a quote from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah. And in Zechariah the verse actually reads, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!” It doesn’t say, “Fear not”; it says, “Rejoice greatly.” But in order to “rejoice greatly,” first you’ve got to “fear not.” So it’s kind of an interpretive quotation. But it works. Boy howdy, does it work! Because when we know who this king is, and what he is coming to do, not only do we not need to fear, we can even begin to rejoice–and rejoice greatly, in fact.

Why would Jerusalem need to be told “Fear not,” when they see a king coming into town? Well, because Jerusalem’s experience with kings riding into town was not always a good one. In fact, it could be rather terrifying. Jerusalem had had kings and their armies riding to town in the past. The Assyrian king Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem with destruction back in 701 B.C. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar literally did destroy Jerusalem with his army back in 587 B.C. So a king coming to Jerusalem could be a cause for tremendous fear.

And deservedly so. For Jerusalem was ripe for judgment. Their sins were piled up against them. And God would have certainly been justified in sending a king and his army to the city to destroy it. Friends, this is a picture of us. We are the Jerusalem whose sins stink to heaven. God would certainly be a just judge if he were to strike us down for our repeated sins against his commandments. Our behavior has earned his wrath. This pestilence, this plague, this pandemic that is afflicting us right now, should do nothing if not to bring us to repentance. We have earned God’s punishment. And that should, rightly, cause us to fear.

But instead, God in his mercy says to us today, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming!” Because this king comes, not to destroy but to rescue. This king comes, not to condemn but to save. “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven,” as we just said in the Creed. This is Jesus Christ we’re talking about here! The only Son of God, come in the flesh to be our Savior-King. This is why he comes riding into Jerusalem–to do that saving job. Don’t worry; help is on the way.

And here he comes, riding into town. And notice what he’s riding on: a donkey. “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” A donkey, not a war horse. A donkey, a peace-time animal, suitable for domestic duties. This king comes in peace. He comes to establish peace. Peace between God and man. Peace between heaven and earth. This is what we need. And this is the help that Jesus comes to bring.

This king will establish that peace not with haughty might but with humble servanthood. “Humble and mounted on a donkey” he comes. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” I love the words of the hymn that we’re going to sing later, at the close our service today:

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.

Christ rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in order to carry a cross to Golgotha on Good Friday. And on that cross, Jesus will suffer and die for your sins, as the sacrifice for your forgiveness, so that you will not suffer and die eternally. And Easter, Christ’s resurrection, will be the affirmation of that triumph on the cross. Christ your King has conquered sin and death for you. Trust in him today!

“Fear not, daughter of Zion.” What are your fears? What are you afraid of? What are the fears that are gripping our nation right now? I think, obviously, the first one that comes to mind is the fear of catching the virus. We’re all probably more than a little nervous about even going to the grocery store. What can I touch? Will a mask help? That’s the first fear that people have. And the second is like unto it. It’s the fear of economic ruin. Will I have a job after all this? What is happening to my retirement savings, which I worked so hard for? We’re not used to such a double whammy, a virus scare plus an economic collapse.

But the coming of our king on Palm Sunday reassures us. This same Jesus who rides into town is the one who has taught us to trust in our heavenly Father. “Do not be anxious over what you will eat and what you will wear. Consider the birds of the air. Your Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Or look at the flowers of the field. Even King Solomon in his glorious array was not clothed as splendidly as they are. Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

The Jesus who taught his disciples in that loving heavenly Father is the same Jesus who now rides into Jerusalem. By his death and resurrection, we know for certain that God loves us and will take care of us. If God loves us so much so as to do that, to send his only Son to die on the cross for us, will he not also with him freely give us all the things we need? He will. God has taken care of our greatest need, by giving us forgiveness for our sins and life, eternal life, that overcomes death. If he has done that for us, we can be confident that he will care for us in our every need now. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, and that assures us we can ride this thing out.

The message today is this: Don’t worry; help is on the way. “From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming!” “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Published in: on April 4, 2020 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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