“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)
As we walk the road to the cross with Jesus this week, these words of Zechariah are a helpful place for us to start. They are words of prophecy which are picked up by John to help us see their fulfilment in the Lord Jesus as he enters Jerusalem before going to the cross. Zechariah’s message is one of rejoicing and of rule; to shout out loud in praise because the king has come!
These are words of a king spoken to a kingless people. In Zechariah’s day, as in Jesus’ day, the people longed for and looked out for a king. The king that God would send for his people. But what kind of king would this be? What kind of king was expected by those who shouted “Blessed is the king?”
The kind of king is a humble king. The king God sends is your king, the king of Zion, not the king of Persia or of Rome. And he comes not seated on a war horse, or at the command of chariots. He comes as one who is lowly, riding on a donkey. Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The donkey was the royal mount of Israel’s earliest days. Here was divine royalty, the one who commands God’s authority, to whom all people, and all other rulers must come and bow.
But he comes in humility. He comes not to exert authority or command allegiance, though he would be entitled to do both. He comes as a servant. He comes as a one who brings peace not war. The arrival of a king in the ancient world often brings conflict, instability and uncertainty. What will happen under their reign? What will happen to those they come to rule?
Here comes Jesus, riding on a donkey to bring about the words that Zechariah speaks. He comes as king, but comes as a king with the message that John reports, “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion, see your king is coming.” He comes to dispel fear and to proclaim peace. For we who are rebels, we who resist his rule, we who wish to rule ourselves, who ought to be afraid that the king has come, he comes lowly, bringing peace.
For this is not only a humble king, but also a saving king. “See, your king comes to you,” says Zechariah, “righteous and having salvation’.
His salvation brings freedom for the captives. “I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit,” says Zechariah. The captives who languish in the lowest dungeon ─ the jail of our sin, of our pride, of our selfishness, and our self-rule, are brought out into the light. The prisoners become prisoners of hope, given the expectation not of punishment but of blessing. To be restored more, much more, than they could have ever expected.
Here is a king who comes not to be served but to serve. Whose rule is a rule that saves. A salvation that comes through the blood of the covenant, says Zechariah.
As Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem, to the acclaim of the crowd and the fulfilment of this prophecy, he comes to go to the cross. “See, your king comes to you,” says Zechariah, but a ruler who comes to be rejected. To be humbled ─ to death, even death on a cross.
To see Jesus on the cross of calvary is to see the monarch on his throne. The tree of Golgotha is the coronation of the king. We see the character and power and rule of God’s king nowhere more clearly than the cross of Jesus Christ.
Above that cross on which the king is enthroned stood a sign: “This is the king of the Jews.” This is the king. The notice was written in mockery. How could a king ever be like this? But we may know better. We may see this as the triumph of the king not the defeat. Will we respond in the same way as that sign ─in mockery, in dismissal, in rejection of this king and his rule. Or will we bow the knee before a king who comes to rule and who comes to die. At the foot of the cross, will we say to one another, “See, your king comes to you”?
Rev Dan Wells from his Keeping the Heart blog