King on a Donkey, Bringing Salvation
Advent reading for December 20: Zechariah 9:9-10; 12:10-13:1
God continues to reveal details about the identity and mission of the Offspring that he promised to Eve (Genesis 3:15). The two themes of the Messiah’s suffering and future reign continue to be developed through the Old Testament. Zechariah, one of the last prophets of the Old Testament, gives us one of the better known verses quoted in the Gospel according to Matthew. On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before his crucifixion, Jesus sent two disciples into the village of Bethphage to bring him a donkey.
Matthew 21:4–5 (ESV) — This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
Some 500 years before the birth of Jesus, Zechariah had prophecied,
Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) — Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
In this prophecy, Zechariah tells us several things about the coming Christ. First Christ the Messiah is our king: “Behold, your king is coming to you.” He is the one who was “born king” though his “kingdom is not of this world” (Matthew 2:2; John 18:36).
Second he is righteous. Time and again the Old Testament calls for the people of God to live righteous lives. The coming Messiah would be known and identified for his perfect righteousness (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:4-6; 16:5; 32:1).1
Third, he would bring salvation. He would be called “Jesus” for he would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Fourth, he would show himself to be “humble” or “lowly.”2 Jesus invited us to learn from him, “for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). “He humbled himself” (Philippians 2:8).
Finally, he would come to his people “mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He came not on a war horse, but as the One who would be our peace. “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Zechariah takes us another step in showing how the coming Messiah would bring salvation. The LORD speaks of a time when the house of David will mourn as one mourns for an only child, a firstborn:
Zechariah 12:10 (ESV) —…when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced…
The Jewish scholars did not understand how the LORD could be pierced, but John tells us, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water…these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled…: ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced.’”
Zechariah tells us,
Zechariah 13:1 (ESV) — On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
Yes, this Word made flesh, this humble King was pierced for our transgressions. His blood was shed that we might be cleansed from our sins and uncleanness.
1 George L. Klein, Zechariah, vol. 21B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2008), 271.
2 Klein, 273.