Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’ ” Matt 21:4-5 (NAS)
And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” John 12:14-15 (NAS)
This week, we’ll look at parallel passages of an Old Testament quote from the prophet Zechariah found in the Gospels of Matthew and John. The prophecy concerns the means by which the promised Messiah would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The complete context of the passage which both John and Matthew reference via inspiration of the Holy Spirit is located in Zechariah 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
As many of us are aware, this is one of many prophecies concerning the Christ that we use to help folks understand and prove that the Bible is the word of God. Zechariah uttered this prophesy approximately 545 years before it occurred (around 515BC).
Before the King can come
If you study your Old Testament, one of the principles you’ll see that the LORD sought to impart to His people through the prophets was a proper understanding and appraisal of history, both events past and future.
The past was to instruct them not to make the mistakes of previous generations, or to take lightly His deliverance of them from their oppressors. They were His special people, used as an example to the pagan nations.
The future events prophesied were used as a measuring stick of sorts, to confirm the progression of His plan in bringing forth the Messiah. Here in the context of chapter nine, which includes the quote from Zechariah cited by both Matthew and John, that’s exactly what the LORD was doing.
Zechariah prophesied of one to come (Alexander the Great and Greeks) sweeping down from the north taking out Syria, Phoenicia (Tyre & Sidon), and Philistia, yet bypassing and sparing Jerusalem and the Temple which was rebuilt during Zechariah’s time (Zech. 9:1-8). Many believe Jerusalem was spared and this prophetic announcement by Zechariah fulfilled because the writings of the prophet Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great demonstrating that the LORD had spoken of him prophetically in the sacred writings of the Hebrew people.
Once these events of Zechariah 9:1-5 were fulfilled, then the next key event to come in history according to Zechariah was the arrival of Zion’s king, seated upon the foal of a donkey. Even Old Testament Israel understood this passage to be Messianic in nature. This king is just, endowed with salvation, and humble.
Combine Zechariah’s predictive writings with those of other Old Testament prophets (Daniel, Micah, Isaiah et al) and you can see that Israel would recognize that the time of the appearance of the Messiah was near.
The King’s “ride”
In years past, it had once been a custom among the ancients, including kings, to ride upon a beast of burden such as a donkey. With the advent of horses and chariots, it was soon deemed to be below royalty or those in authority to ride upon a donkey (ass). Although King David began the accumulation of horses in Israel, he didn’t ride upon them. Absalom, in preparations for raising his status among the people in anticipation of deposing his father, provided for himself a chariot and horses (2 Sam 15:1) and runners; Solomon “amassed” both horses and chariots (2 Chron. 1:14). Leaders and conquerors of the nations employed horses and chariots as part of their pomp and triumphal march demonstrating their regal station.
Behold, your king is coming Zion!
Now, here comes Jesus riding humbly upon a colt of a donkey, rather than in pomp and circumstance with horse and chariot, into Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. The multitudes, aware of His power and the eyewitness reports of His miracles, recognized Him as the long awaited King, giving Him a king’s greeting by spreading their garments and branches upon the road and rejoicing with cries of “Hosanna to the son of David!” (Matt. 21:9) The king had finally come to Zion! Or so they thought. For them, Jesus was not the type of King they anticipated. He was not bringing physical salvation from their Roman oppressors, but salvation from their sins. We know the rest of the story, the Just One was unjustly condemned. Within one short week the cries of rejoicing turned to “Crucify, Crucify Him!” Physical Zion had rejected and no longer recognized Him as their long awaited king.
The King comes, the Nations come in
Here’s the good news though. With the coming of the King in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy, was the prophesied coming in of the nations as a part of His people as well. Back in Zechariah chapter nine is this verse about the nations: “And I will remove their blood from their mouth, and their detestable things from between their teeth. Then they also will be a remnant for our God, and be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite.” (Zech. 9:7) This is a clear prophesy of the Gentiles who respond to the gospel coming in as a part of that faithful remnant foretold by the prophets. We, as part of His worldwide church are the beneficiaries. Amen?