The book of Zechariah was written during the time when God's People were returning to Jerusalem and Judah. The book falls into two parts. The first half is prophecy in the form of dream visions. The second half, starting with chapter 9, is an oracle which looks forward to the coming of the messiah. The people of Zechariah’s time were looking for the Chosen One (the Messiah), who would be their king and restore the dignity of Israel, similar to when David was king. In Jesus’ time, the people were looking to oust the Romans, and restore a Davidic-style kingdom.
- This sounds like Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The key words here are “celebrate” and “humble”. The people did celebrate Jesus’ ride on a donkey, shouting Hosanna, and laying palm branches in his path. But he is also a humble messiah, riding on a little colt. (v. 9)
- People expected a warrior messiah who would rescue them from Roman oppression. I guess the peace would come afterward? (v. 10)
- Finally, we are reminded that our covenant with him is sealed with blood. His sacred blood. He will rescue us, and give us hope. (vv. 11-12)
Jesus continues to show us how to behave, even on his way to the cross. Instead of a warrior king, we got a peaceful messiah who would save our souls from sin and death Our Savior is humble, meek and mild. A bringer of peace. We need to be more like Jesus!
In previous chapters, Paul has been explaining that we are dead to sin through our baptism; that we receive the free gift of grace and forgiveness from God our Father. In today’s lesson, he speaks of the inner struggle that exists in each of us. Also, in previous chapters Paul used the pronoun “we”. Here, he switches to “I”. We may view this as his personal witness, but also as a pretty good description of ourselves, too.
- When I read those first two paragraphs, I think “Paul, you are a mixed up mess!” But he speaks for all of us, really. We know how we should act, but we go ahead and do the other thing instead.
- At the end of each paragraph, he says it is the “sin that lives within him” that makes him do these things. This reminds me of the old comedian Flip Wilson’s expression “The devil made me do it!” That’s the cheap way out, blaming it on someone other than one’s self. I don’t think Paul is trying to blame it on the devil; I think he is saying that we are simply born with a sinful nature. We are drawn to sin like a moth to a flame.
- Now, Paul talks about The Law. He’s not talking about just the Ten Commandments, but the whole list of laws. We love these rules, because they define the framework of how to walk our walk with the Lord. But by our very nature, we try to bend or break the rules. (vv. 21-23)
- We are a mixed up, not just Paul. We are a miserable mess! (Verse 24a)
- Who will rescue me…?” It is Jesus. Thanks be to God! (vv. 24b-25)
Let’s admit it—we, too, have this struggle going on within us. We can’t rescue ourselves, we need outside help. Let us thank and praise God for sending Jesus to rescue us from our poor, miserable selves! Let us confess our sins to him frequently, asking for the forgiveness he has promised, knowing that our sins are forgiven.
MATTHEW 11:16-19, 25-30
We continue to follow the narrative presented in Matthew. In the beginning of chapter 11, Jesus (finally) sends out the 12. Then, he starts preaching, too. Jesus is frustrated with the people. Well, at least at the spiritual leaders. He has performed miracles and preached the good news, only to have it fall on deaf ears. In the omitted verses, 20-24, he even names some cities that he is frustrated with.
- The first two verses are the most puzzling. First of all, they are a lead-in to verses 18-19a, where he talks about John the Baptist and his very different ministries. In these later verses, Jesus says
- John the Baptist comes, living an austere life, and you say he has a demon in him; you reject him.
- Jesus comes along, and you accuse him of drinking too much, and associating with the wrong crowd.
- Jesus basically says that these people cannot be pleased. They don’t like either man of God. This is why he starts with the curious saying in verse 17. When he says “when we played the flute, you wouldn’t dance”, he is referring to his joyful ministry, eating and drinking (with sinners). But the Pharisees “wouldn’t dance”. When he says “we sang a funeral song, but you would not mourn”, he is referring to John the Baptist call for mourning and repentance. They wouldn’t “mourn”, any more than they would “dance”. (vv. 16-19a)
- Verse 19b needs some explanation. In the Old Testament, godly Wisdom was highly treasured. In some passages, godly Wisdom actually becomes a person, which is why it is capitalized—“Wisdom”. Jesus is saying that both he and John the Baptist are godly Wisdom, in the flesh. The people should recognize this, because of their good actions. In effect, Jesus is saying that actions speak louder than words, yet the people criticize instead of believing.
- Next, Jesus prays, thanking his Father that he has come for the ordinary people. Those fancy religious guys are missing the boat. The ordinary people are more open to his message. (vv. 25-26)
- He reminds us that what he teaches us comes from the Father, and the Father wants us to know Jesus. After all, the Father sent his son to proclaim this message. (v. 27)
- Jesus concludes with words of comfort. The burden is light. Come to Jesus. This reminds me of the hymn “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling. Come home!” ( v. 28)
Let us receive the Good News of Jesus with open hearts. Let’s come to Jesus, and He will give us rest. He really is gentle and humble. (Remember Zechariah 9:9?) The yoke is easy, and the burden light. Amen!