“Is Jesus Really the One?” | Zechariah 9:9-10 | Palm Sunday

Is Jesus really the one? That’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? I could just end the sermon right here and say, “Yes.” Let’s say a prayer and get to brunch. But the issue is deeper than that, and I think that you can sense it. Really, it might depend on what we mean by the question? When we ask, “Is Jesus the one?” are we asking, “Is Jesus the one, or could there be someone else?” or are we asking, “Is Jesus the one, and if so, what does that mean for me?” I think we mostly assume the first question. In other words, did Jesus really fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, or could someone else have done that? Might there be other messiahs, other christs? Then, if Jesus is the one, what does that mean for me? We’ll try to answer those questions today and we see that Jesus is the one. (1) He is the only one who fulfills prophecy and (2) the only one who can save us.

It won’t surprise you that other people in history have come forth claiming to be the Messiah, besides Jesus. Some of you probably remember such incidents as the Jonestown Massacre led by Jim Jones where 918 people died. Some of you probably have know about the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh and everything that happened in Waco, Texas back in 1993 when 76 people died. This seems to even be increasing in modern times, for whatever reason. More and more people are claiming to be the Messiah. Sometimes those people claiming to be the Messiah lead to disastrous tragedies. But, not all of them do. Some of these people aren’t dangerous, so much as just plain weird. For example, there is a man in Brazil who believes that he is the Messiah. When he was more, his parents named him Inri, spelt I-N-R-I. Despite the fact that this is a fairly common name in Brazil, Inri took it as an indication that he was Jesus, because the name stems from the sign hung on Jesus’s cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (or in Latin: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum). It didn’t help that his last name was Cristo. He’s now 66 years old and if you look him up on the internet, you can find pictures of him dressed up in robes surrounded by attractive women. Because we all know that’s what Jesus was all about.

Now, that man, while he claims to be the Messiah, does not claim to fulfill prophecy. How could he? Take for example our lesson for today from Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, Righteous and having salvation, Gentle and riding on a donkey, On a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). That verse is packed full of prophecy, but that guy from Brazil has never ridden a donkey into Jerusalem. He’s never even been to Israel. So, does anyone else fulfill this prophecy? The answer is kind of. Before Zechariah had given this prophecy, Solomon did something very similar on his way into Jerusalem: “Solomon mount[ed] King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound” (1 Kings 1:38-40). But, that doesn’t quite fit because it’s a mule and not a donkey. But, you might think that sort of event is in the mind of the people hearing this prophecy.

Another incident worth mentioning takes place in the Apocrypha—a collection of books set in between the Old and New Testaments. Some Christians claim that these books should be included in the Bible, but if you read them they aren’t God’s Word. They do provide some useful history though. In this account, a man named Simon Maccabeus processes into Jerusalem amid the cries of the people who thought he was their savior from a foreign army: “There was a great celebration in the city because this terrible threat to the security of Israel had come to an end. Simon and his men entered the fort singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, while carrying palm branches and playing harps, cymbals, and lyres” (1 Maccabees 13:51 GNT). But, that doesn’t quite fit either. First off, Simon Maccabeus was not riding an animal, but there are shouts and palm branches. Second, consider the second part of what the prophet Zechariah said, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10). Simon was a military leader, and this person Zechariah talks about is clearly not a military leader. Even though he will be victorious, he does it without instruments of war.

We could probably sit here all morning and talk about people who have claimed or were thought to be the Messiah. But, I’ll tell you right now, that we would debunk every single one of them by testing them against the Scriptures. But, it says something about humans that they accept these sorts of people. As humans we have ideas about what the Savior should be like, and if we did not have the Scriptures, we would not think Jesus was the Messiah. Doesn’t it make sense for the one God chooses to be stately and kingly looking like Solomon was? Doesn’t it make sense for him to be a great warrior like Simon Maccabeus? That’s what humans look for, but those ideas don’t describe Jesus. If that is the sort of savior you want, it isn’t the one the Bible describes. The prophecies that the Bible gives us about the Messiah have been fulfilled, but they depict the Savior in an unexpected way. He comes victorious, but isn’t a military leader. He brings peace and rules over everything, but he hardly looks like a king.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he was very careful about it. Everything he did and told his disciples to do was done specifically to fulfill this prophecy. He made sure that he had the colt, the foal of a donkey. The people stood around him shouting, singing, and waving palm branches. They spread his way with their cloaks. Certainly, that day the daughter of Zion rejoiced. But that wasn’t the most important part of the prophecy Jesus fulfilled. Others could ride a donkey into Jerusalem, but no one except Jesus could do it as a person having righteousness and salvation. That is why this prophecy can only be about Jesus. It is only Jesus who lived a perfect life, so that we can correctly say that he is righteous on his own. No one needs to give Jesus righteousness. It’s only Jesus who could offer himself up as a sacrifice to earn salvation for the whole world. He won the greatest victory the world has ever known, and he did it without a single weapon, chariot, or warhorse. Instead, he did it with his precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Jesus is the only one who fulfills prophecy.

So what does that mean for the people of our world? If Jesus is truly the one, and he is. He is the one who has fulfilled all prophecies, what does that mean for them. One author put it is this way: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. […] It seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). When you look at the prophecies about Jesus, and see that he fulfilled them, you can assume that Jesus is a liar, you can assume he is a lunatic or you can assume that he is the Lord. But there are no other possibilities. When you see that he didn’t lie once in his life about a single topic, and when you see that he clearly wasn’t crazy, even though he did impossible things, that leaves one option.

Jesus Christ is the one Lord. He is the one God, and this is the fact people don’t want to accept. They ask, “Is Jesus really the one?” because if he is then they need to change their lives. They need to figure how to get right with God. They need to stop trusting in themselves, in their money, in anything other than him. They need to begin to follow his commands. They need to find a way to present themselves before God in a way that he will accept. Only, they know they can’t. They know that they can’t be perfect. The only way they have ever known is not what Jesus wants. He doesn’t want their best effort or their man-made perfection. These things are true for you as well. And it’s good for you to be reminded of this very basic truth of the Bible. Jesus doesn’t want you to try hard to get to heaven. He doesn’t want you to hope you’ve done more good than evil. He either wants you to be perfect or repentant.

The holiness God wants from you is the holiness that your God gives you. The righteousness you need is the righteousness that your king wins for you. The salvation you receive is the one Jesus won for you when he rode into Jerusalem as the king who humbled himself to death, even death on a cross. That is what you receive from God. That is why Zechariah calls us to lift our voices: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!” (Zechariah 9:9-10). King Jesus rides into Jerusalem today and he comes as a king declaring war against your every enemy. He will win the victory for you, so that you are declared right with God and granted salvation. So, sing Hosanna today. Praise your God for his wonderful work.

A man named Phillip was walking on the road from Jerusalem. Not far from him he saw a chariot, and in the chariot was a man reading. Phillip continued to walk, keeping to himself until he heard the Holy Spirit speak to him. The Spirit said, “Go over by that chariot.” So Phillip did what God told him to do. As he got closer, he heard what the man in the chariot was reading. It was a passage from the book of Isaiah. He read: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth” (Acts 2:32-33). That passage was a prophecy. It predicted that Christ would die. Phillip knew this, but the man reading didn’t understand. He wanted to know who Isaiah was talking about? Phillip had the opportunity to show that man two things that day. First, there is only one man that this prophecy could be talking about, and that was Jesus Christ. Second, Jesus Christ had saved this man from his sins. When that man heard these things, he asked to be baptized. The joy in his heart was great. When Phillip finally left him, the man continued in his chariot rejoicing the whole way. Be like that man today. Rejoice greatly, because your king has come. Amen.

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