Summary: God's kingdom comes in its own special way.
More than likely, most of you parents have taken your children to see the headwaters of he Mississippi located in Itasca stare park not far from here. You have walked the little walking bridge across those waters, and even encouraged your young children to take off their shoes and walk across the babbling brook that is described as the “source of the mighty Mississippi”. Little children cross this brook and their parents say to them, “You have crossed the Mississippi!” and meanwhile the child thinks, “Oh that's nice.” Because what does a child think of when he or she thinks of the Mississippi? She thinks of a river no larger than the one behind grandmother's farm. She thinks of the little river that the bus goes by on the way to school. He thinks of the river that goes through town. A river you can ride over in just a few seconds. Most children have no knowledge of how great and powerful the Mississippi is. It's hard for them to imagine a river so large that winds over 2,300 miles through twenty three states, and serves as a watershed for nearly half of the continental United States.
The mighty Mississippi demands some pretty big thinking and most children have a hard time trying to imagine just how large that river truly is.
This morning we have a text that demands from us some pretty big thinking too. It is our reading from the book of Zechariah written about five hundred years before the coming of Christ. Zechariah ministered to a rag tag band of exiles recently returned from the land of Babylon after nearly seventy years of captivity.
Zechariah describes for them how God will bless his people with a great king whose peaceful rule will extend “from sea to sea, and even the ends of the earth”. And this king, unlike all other kings, will bring peace to the world. He will drive away the “war horse and break the shield and sword” used in battle.
It was a mighty king that Zechariah described for God's people. “And who?” they must have wondered “Who will this king be?”
Zechariah's people were challenged to think big, but like little children, whose experiences and knowledge are limited, so also was it with the people Zechariah ministered to.
They thought of this king and probably tried to apply it to their own ruler of 500 BC. Zerubbabel who not even king, but only a governor appointed by the emperor of Persia, King Darius.
And what a limited kingdom Israel was at this time! Israel in 500 BC was the smallest it had ever been. Some commentaries describe it as stretching only thirty miles by thirty miles, north south and east and west. It's population of may have numbered as few as fifty thousand.
With its capital and temple in ruins, Zerubbabel's kingdom hardly compared with the description found in our reading for today. But maybe this small and marginal kingdom, was part of something much larger than itself? Something much grander than anyone could imagine? Perhaps Zechariah's people were being challenged to think not just of the “kingdom of Israel”, but of the “kingdom of God”.