As we move through Holy Week, most of our devotions will focus on the Old Testament Readings. For Palm Sunday, we focus on the reading from Zechariah with an excerpt from LifeLight: Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi—Leaders Guide.
Psalm 118:19–29 or Psalm 31:9–16
Mark 15:1–47 or John 12:20–43 or Mark 14:1—15:47
Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.
When the Lord fulfills His promises, that is truly a cause for His chosen people to rejoice! Zechariah let loose the brilliant words of encouragement that the Holy Spirit placed on his lips. The Messiah Himself is prophesied parading into the Holy City in all His Palm Sunday glory. You almost get the impression that the prophet could see the entire opening scene of Holy Week, five hundred years into the future. People were strewing their garments along the road and waving palm branches in the afternoon sun as the Lord and His humble donkey passed into the shadow made by Jerusalem’s wall. Shouts of hosanna drown out every other noise that was coming from the assembled crowd. The rejoicing was truly great.
In his proclamation, however, Zechariah used a name that would certainly capture attention from his hearers, and most certainly it was not flattering. “Daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” sounded like slaps in the face. These terms did not mean a single person; rather, they referred to all the inhabitants of this important city, taken together as though they were one collective “daughter.” Hearing “daughter of Zion” would have reminded them of the past, of the exile in particular. It recalled what Jeremiah wrote as he looked out on the scorched and wasted leftovers of Jerusalem, (Lamentations 2:1) “How the Lord in His anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!” When the people of Jerusalem were called “daughter of Zion,” they were reminded of the sting of their sins against God and His utter punishment from which they were just beginning to recover. . . . It meant they had to face the hard truth that by themselves they were helpless—they needed a Savior.
These words were a perfect message of Gospel peace for people about to finish the once-destroyed temple, as they are also fitting for us today. The Church is full of doubting, frightened, anxious sinners like the ones we see every day in the mirror, so the terms “daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” work as though Zechariah were speaking to us today, which he is! Our reason to rejoice greatly and shout aloud in praise is precisely because our King Jesus has come to us just as God’s Word promised He would. He is not a thought or an idea that we call up from inside our own hearts. He is a Savior who invaded our sinful earth to speak the perfect peace of His death and resurrection to all nations. His rule over His redeemed Church shall be from sea to sea.
When Christ fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy on the first Palm Sunday, He achieved salvation for us no less than He did for the people who had seen Him with their own eyes. Jesus may not be riding on a lowly donkey for us today, but He is hidden in the lowly forms we do witness among us: words of preaching, water of Baptism, bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. This is the procession that makes us rejoice, because we don’t come to church merely to remind ourselves of the idea of a past Jesus—we come to meet our present Savior, who is pleased to dwell among us still! Thanks to His true blood of the eternal covenant, we the prisoners have been set free.
Devotional reading is from LifeLight: Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi—Leaders Guide, pages 35–36 © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.