Readings: Job 19:23-27 | 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 | Mark 16:1-8
Text: Zechariah 6:1-15
Crowned King and Priest
Alleluia! Christ is risen! When the crowd saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowd cheered. The Jews grabbed palm branches and waved them in the air. They threw their coats onto the road. They sang Psalm 118 and cried out, “Hail, Son of David!”
These Jews were excited, because of Zechariah 9:9, which reads:
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.
By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus made a statement. He is the King of Israel! And since it was Passover, the Jews hoped that this King was coming to rescue them from the Romans. Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and then went straight to the Temple. Why go there?
Zechariah: The Priest-King Comes
Zechariah was a prophet 500 years before Jesus was born. He was sent by God to encourage the depressed and despondent Jews after the Exile in Babylon. One day, God spoke to Zechariah. “Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. 11 Take from them silver and gold…” Zechariah found these Jews and they gave Josiah gold and silver. And what did God tell Zechariah to do with these treasures? “Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.”
Zechariah made an elaborate crown. He brought it to Jesus, the high priest. I know, in your Bibles he is called Joshua. Jesus is just the Greek way of pronouncing the name Joshua (see also Ezra 3:2). Nevertheless, Zechariah put the crown onto the head of the high priest. Then, I imagine that Zechariah put a hand on his shoulder and gestured toward the East. He said, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.’”
Immediately, Jesus the high priest remembered that Isaiah had once described the dynasty of King David as a mighty tree that would be cut down, and yet Isaiah also said, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isa. 11:1) A King from the line of David was coming. Also, Zechariah had spoken of this Sprout before in chapter 3: “Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch… and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.” (Zech 3:8-9) The priests of Israel were signs, foreshadowing this coming Man into a greater priesthood.
Well, Zechariah told the high priest that this Sprout was coming. Just as the Jews were rebuilding the temple, this Man would build a Temple. Also, Zechariah said, “13 It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne.” And then, he said, “And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” This Man would be a King and a Priest—the two offices would be combined in this Man. Then, Zechariah told Jesus the high priest to keep the crown in the temple as a sign—that is, as a reminder that the Priest-King was coming to Jerusalem.
Jesus Received a Different Crown
Back to Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and headed straight to the Temple. You might expect that the scribes and priests were waiting for him, and that they would kiss Jesus and kneel before him. You might expect Caiaphas the high priest to place Zechariah’s crown on Jesus’ head. After all, that’s what the priesthood should have been expecting, as Malachi foretold: “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Mal. 3:1)
If this is what you expect, you are quickly disappointed. The scribes and the priests scowled at Jesus. They grumbled about His entrance. They hatched a plan to kill Jesus. They paid Judas thirty silver pieces to betray Jesus. They sent a mob to arrest him. They brought Jesus before the Jewish Council and Caiaphas, the high priest. They condemned him to death.
When Caiaphas and the council took Jesus to Pilate, the soldiers mocked Him. You think you are a king, do you? Well, every king needs a crown! Instead of giving him a crown of gold and silver, they gave Jesus a crown of thorns. Later, they nailed Jesus to a cross and killed him.
What Does Easter Mean?
A group of women watched Jesus die. They loved Jesus. They wept for him. Since Jesus was dead, they thought all their hopes were dead too. The visions of Zechariah must be for another time, if ever. Sin and rebellion had won again. After a Pharisee buried Jesus, these women observed the Sabbath Day, although I am sure their spirits did not rest on this particular Sabbath. And then, they went to the tomb the following morning with the remaining spices.
When they got there, the tomb was opened. They did not see the body of Jesus. Instead, they saw a young man dressed in white. He said, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
Those poor women ran from the tomb. They were trembling with fear. They were completely bewildered. The tomb was opened, the body was gone, and a strange man delivered a strange message. What does this all mean?
Easter: God Makes Jesus King
Well, the risen Jesus appeared to those women and then he appeared to the disciples. Jesus appeared and he wasn’t merely alive. He was immortal and majestic. And Jesus said to his followers, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” (Matt. 28:18).
When Peter heard those words, he began to understand. Caiaphas thought that Jesus was not the long awaited King. And so, he condemned Jesus to death. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Father has overturned the verdict of Caiaphas. God has declared, “Jesus is who He says He is!” More than that, when God raised Jesus from the dead, he crowned Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus, when Peter preached his Pentecost sermon, he said to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem, “[On the third day] God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified,” (Acts 2:36).
Easter: God Makes Jesus Priest
Jesus was raised from the dead. Forty days later he ascended into heaven. The disciples watched him. They saw his feet leave this earth and his body pass through the clouds. They saw Jesus enter the heavenly Temple—into the immediate presence of the Father. And as he ascended, he raised his hands and blessed them, just as the high priest blesses Israel at the temple in Jerusalem. (cf. Num. 6:24-26)
And suddenly, they understood. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he appointed Jesus the last High Priest. God accepted our Lord’s sacrifice on Easter Day and has granted this Man access to his presence. And now, Jesus intercedes for us inside the heavenly Temple.
No More Fear or Guilt
Dear saints in Christ, the disciples did not understand the significance of Easter, until they saw the risen Lord and witnessed his ascension. After Jesus was killed, the disciples were still hiding.
Can you see them? They were huddled together in a small house with the doors locked. They were paralyzed with fear, unable to do much of anything. And they were crushed by guilt because they abandoned Jesus. Peter is especially crushed. He is in the corner and won’t look anyone in the eye, because he denied his Lord three times.
And then, the risen Lord appears and everything changes! They see the risen Lord! They see that God has overturned the verdict of Caiaphas. The crown of thorns has been removed from his head and the Father has crowned him with glory. They don’t have to fear the Jews or anyone, because Jesus reigns as King! And their guilt is lifted, because they have a High Priest who has taken away their sins!
And so, we join the women, and the Apostles, and the whole Church in heaven and on earth to celebrate the coronation of our King and the ordination of our High Priest.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.