The prophet Zechariah was born and reared in Babylon during Judah's captivity. He came from a priestly family and is named in the book of Ezra as one who came back to Palestine with the return from exile.
The prophet's message begins with a call to return to the Lord - "The Lord was very angry with your forefathers. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.' But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord" (Zech. 1.2-4).
The prophecy is full of hope and chapter 8 has the Lord's promise to bless Jerusalem - "Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.' This is what the Lord says: 'I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain'. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there'. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'It may seem marvellous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvellous to me?'" (8.1-6)
The fortunes of God's people will change. Their enemies will face judgment, but they will have the greater cause to rejoice - "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 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" (9.9ff).
The King is coming! The Lord himself is coming! Rejoice! Not just another interim ruler - faltering and fallible. Already we seem to be in "promise time". The national surplus is much higher than expected. It is cynically suggested that the government will keep it for election promises. But even the opposition doesn't want it spent, they want it to pay for their policies! Yet all political leaders can only at best be interim rulers - faltering and fallible! The other side of that, of course, is that they have to work with a greedy sinful society!
The King is coming! Not just another ruler under which the people of God will falter and fall and merit punishment - but a rule, a reign, a Kingdom of which there will be no end! The King is coming! Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
Do you remember the time when the disciples had an argument about which of them would be greatest? We read the reply of Jesus, "The Kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves" (Lk. 22.25-27).
Zechariah wrote of the coming King in contrast to the prevailing kings - who brought judgment with pomp and injustice. Here comes a King with justice and salvation - and humility! And Jesus says, "I am among you as one who serves".
That was the pattern of the King's life when he came - humility! Paul describes Jesus as the one "who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to the grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (Phil. 2.6-8)
Born in Bethlehem in a stable back of the inn, laid to rest in a cattle feeding-box, whisked off to the safety of Egypt for fear of King Herod, a wandering teacher who had no permanent home - nowhere to lay his head - tried on trumped-up charges, declared innocent by the judge, yet sent off for execution, laid to rest in a borrowed grave
It's as if Zechariah the prophet is saying, "Your King is coming! Be ready for him! He's not coming on a warhorse! He's not coming with lots of pomp and ceremony! Your King is coming! Be ready for him - or you might miss him!"
This prophecy is in fact the one Jesus deliberately chose in his declaration of himself. We recall it on Palm Sunday, as he came riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey. The Jewish leaders were not impressed - and they pressed forward with their plot to have him crucified.
That's not the end of it all of course! Old Pilate irked the Jewish leaders by having the inscription over the cross - "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". That's what he said, not what he is, they protested. But Pilate was going to get the last word, no matter what - "What I have written, I have written".
Yes, Pilate - that is what you wrote, and it's truer than you know - but it's not the last word! God has the last word! He is risen! He's alive! Jewish scheming couldn't get him! Roman cross couldn't finish him! Dark, cold tomb couldn't contain him! You cleverly thought you had summed up his life and got your own back on those Jewish authorities, didn't you? And that would be the end of it! But it wasn't! He's alive! He is the King - the King the Jews were supposed to be expecting, but also the King over all nations and all peoples! Yes, Pilate, even over the Romans, even over you!
The King is coming! The early Christians used it as one of their watchwords - Mananatha! The Lord is coming! Again and again Jesus himself promised that he would come again. His second coming would be different. It would be a coming in glory, majesty and power. It wouldn't be for the purpose of salvation, but to bring final judgment on all who had rejected salvation.
Some fourteen years ago we were doing some last-minute shopping for a twenty-first birthday party. The Christmas carols were being piped through the store's music system. "I wish they'd turn it down," the checkout girl said. "I like the Christmas carols, but not so loud!" I don't know, of course, about that girl's faith or otherwise, but I do know that her comment is represents something symptomatic of our whole society. We like Christmas, but not too loud - the story of the birth of a baby, of angels, a star, shepherds, wise men, but not his ministry, his teaching, his cross and his resurrection. Well, Jesus is OK up to a point - but not too loud!
The King is coming! Those wise men were right! That Palm Sunday crowd were right! Even Pilate, in his own twisted way, was right! But Jesus isn't some been-and-gone figure of history. He's alive - and, yes, he's coming again!
We haven't been given a date - in fact the promise is that it will be at a time when we don't expect him! It is for us to be ready - ready with a faith that accepts the salvation he came to bring in his first coming, with our love and worship for he is with us now, with our obedience.
Are we ready for the coming of the King? Are we ready?