More Than a King Comes
Of the 4 Palm Sunday accounts, only Matthew records that it was in fulfillment of Zechariah's prophesy, "This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: '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.'"" And only Matthew goes on to report that "the blind and the lame came to Jesus at the temple, and He healed them." And only Matthew reports the children shouting, "'Hosanna to the Son of David'", the OT church leaders being indignant about it, and Jesus reply: "Have you never read, 'From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise'?" Zechariah predicts Palm Sunday; Ps. 118 the hosanna part, and Ps. 8 the praise coming from infants. But when Jesus says in John 5 that the OT Scriptures are about Him, we can only think of the familiar predictions we go over at Christmas. Well, Zechariah predicted much more than a King would come riding on a donkey. Just 11 verses later we read: "From Judah will come the Cornerstone, from him the Tent Peg, from him the Battle Bow..." (Zec. 10:4).
Much more than a King comes today, a Cornerstone does. But don't think of a static, in place rock. Think of as 1 Peter 2:4 does "the living Stone." Think of the Fantastic Four's, Thing, the Rock Guy. Jesus rides into Jerusalem with the temple still standing. Google "Western Stone Wailing Wall". That stone's exposed face is 45' by 13'. There were many such stones standing when Jesus rode in as the Cornerstone. The 1 Peter passage says the Living Stone was rejected by men but chosen by God. Here this massive Living Rock is accepted by men but rejected by the church leaders. But that doesn't stop Him or even slow Him down. As we know from Luke's account when these leaders demand Jesus silence those praising Him, Jesus replies, "'I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'" (Lk. 19:40). This is Beauty and the Beast's tea set. Put a mouth on this gigantic, living Cornerstone, and put mouths on all the stones in the temple wall. See them speaking.
This figure goes back into the OT
Church, forward into the NT one, and into ours. Is. 28:16: "This is what
the Lord God says: 'See, I lay a Stone in Zion, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone
for a sure Foundation; the one who trusts in Him will never be dismayed." 1 Cor.
3:11, "For no one can lay any Foundation other than the one already laid, which
is Jesus Christ."
Eph. 2:19-20: "Consequently, you are... built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief Cornerstone." Calling Christ the Cornerstone may relate to the pagan Canaanites in Palestine. Their cornerstone laying was a sacred ceremony. "Under this important stone of temples, or other great structures, bodies of children or older persons would be laid, consecrating the building by such human sacrifice" (ISBE, 1, 784). In our text, who's coming to be sacrificed? Who's going to be buried? Who's going to be sanctified by that death and burial? And who's going to be built on this Cornerstone? No wonder the disciples then and now shout, "Hosanna in the highest."
More than a King comes today. A Cornerstone does and also a Tent Peg. Is. 22:23 says, "I will fasten Him as a Peg in a secure place, And He will become a glorious throne to His father's house." And Ez. 9:8 says, "And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to... give us a Peg in His holy place." At first I thought the symbol of a Tent Peg was one of support. In rock climbing you drive piton's into the cliff as you ascend. Your whole weight is going to be on the one above you. In Ranger School, you first ascend using piton's the school has put in. Eventually, you use your own or a partners. You make very sure a peg is secure. You shake it, wiggle it, pull down with all your strength before trusting it. I can go with that figure. That seems to be Isaiah's and Ezra's point. A peg in a secure place.
Heb. 6:19 has this idea too: Christ is our hope "as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil." Beyond the veil is the Holy of Holies where God dwells. We sing of this in My Hope is Built on Nothing Less saying, "In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil." Yes, by all means hang your fearful, tearful, aching heart on Jesus. His holy life lived in place of sinners like you is a Peg that won't bend let alone break. And His guilty death died in place of sinners such as you can bear all the weight of all the sinners climbing into heaven on it. But what about the idea of Tent Peg as unconventional weapon? This word being translated Tent Peg in Zechariah is translated as nail or just peg. They all are the same word. Christianity Today has an article, "Bringing a Tent Peg to a Sword Fight". The first battle at Armageddon takes place in Judges 4. The battle is won for the OT Church when the commander of the Canaanite armies is killed by a Hebrew woman who drives a tent peg through his head while he sleeps.
This article makes the observation that there is a "recurring pattern in Scripture where Israel defeats her enemies with tools instead of weapons. In this case, Israel has no shields or spears but conquers, instead, with a peg and a 'workman's hammer'" (5:26). Another judge defeats the Philistines with a cattle prod (3:31). Gideon wins with jars and trumpets (7:19-23). A Philistine king is killed by a millstone being thrown over the wall (9:53) (). Heb. 10:6 has Jesus saying that since the blood of goats and bulls in the OT Church didn't take away any sins, God prepared a body for Him. So Jesus brings a body to the fight for the eternal salvation of our bodies. His Body nailed to a cross bearing all the Laws against us and all our sins, is going defeat Sin, Death, and Devil. He won't defeat them by power and might, but by submitting to the life and death sinners can't endure. Jesus rides into that battle today. This is the second battle of Armageddon, the final one. And so we have Zechariah saying more than a King comes today: a Cornerstone, a Tent Peg, and a Battle Bow does.
Read Rev. 16-19. There the last Battle of Armageddon is set up. There the Lord, the Word of God, the King of Kings, rides into battle on a white horse to face all the enemies gathered against Him. He is only armed with a two-edged sword. No actual battle is described. Christ wins easily, and the 2 beasts are thrown into the lake of fire and the Devil is bound for the NT era. The only place in Revelation we have a battle bow is with the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. "I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest" (Rev. 6:2). Some don't think the first horsemen is Christ at all but a fake Christ. The battle bow in his hand might argue otherwise. Today let the First Horsemen of the Apocalypse be the same as the White Horse Rider in Rev. 19 who slays all of His enemies easily, and let it be that Battle Bow who comes today "gentle and riding on a donkey, even on a colt the foal of a donkey." Why?
I'll tell you why. Not since the First Gulf War have I heard so much gloom and doom being predicted, so many apocalyptic expectations, so much Armageddon this and Armageddon that. You see: We had the pestilence of Covid. There's one horse. That broke when war in Ukraine started which could turn worldwide and/or nuclear any second. There's another horse. The third horse: war leads to a famine of not just toilet paper but money, meat, oil, and more. And just in case you aren't paying attention: tornadoes in Central Texas. Surely this is "The End of the World as We Know It". Surely we're on "The Eve of Destruction". Though the first song is 35 years old and the second one is 57 years old, you think we've never been here before or we've never been this close before. Okay, if I can't talk you off the ledge of seeing the Battle of Armageddon in every headline, tweet, or news clip, let me point you to the real battle because today it starts and next Sunday it ends.
What I'm saying is what Christians have always pointed out when someone wants to make a war a holy one. All of God's enemies were defeated on the cross. That doesn't mean there is never a cause for a nation to go to war. The Just War theory goes back to St. Augustine. What I am saying is that "wars and rumors of wars" are not the end of the world. The end of the world is Jesus returning. And He's not coming to defeat His enemies. He already did that almost 2,000 years ago. When He returns, it's to expose the reality which Christians alone can see by faith. Our God, Savior, and Sacrifice has already ridden into history. He's the Lord's Battle Bow. His weapon is His own holy Body which He never soiled with sin and His holy blood which He poured out to atone for, to cover up, the sins of the world. Stop seeing yours poking through. That can't be; they're submerged in a "Fountain Filled with Blood".
It's true; Jesus tells us in Luke 21 that "nations will be in anguish, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the surging waves" And people will be "fainting from fear and expectation of the things coming on the world", but that ain't you. "When these things begin to happen, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near", says Jesus (21:25-28). We've been to the end of the world where God triumphs. We're going there again on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. For 3 services in a row: we'll get to eat and drink the Medicine of Immortality, the Body and Blood of our King, God, and Savior who bought us from Sin, Death, and the Devil and who won't ever let us go. He's the Cornerstone on which we stand; the Tent Peg that holds us in every high and stormy gale; and the Battle Bow that defends us from "fightings and fears within, without". Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Palm Sunday (20220410); Matthew 21:1-17