Looking at Zechariah 9:9, this article shows how Zechariah pointed to Christ as the promised, righteous, victorious, and humble King.

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2013. 2 pages.

The Triumphal Entry of Christ


Zechariah 9:9 is one of the most famous messianic prophe­cies in this book that is so rich in messianic promise and theology. The prophet commands Zion to rejoice because of the coming of the ideal King. Both Zechariah and the New Testament place this coming during the time of Messiah’s first advent. Zechariah sets the prophecy against the backdrop of a prophecy concerning Greece’s world conquests and God’s defeat of Greece. Significantly, it is in this prophetic revelation about Greece that Zechariah announces the coming King. The contribution that Greece made culturally and linguistically to the “fullness of time” has received much deserved attention. Although the details of those contributions are not enumerated in this text, it is nonetheless impressive that Zechariah places Messiah’s coming within this general time frame. The New Testa­ment specifically identifies the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 as the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem at the beginning of what became the week of His passion (Matt. 21:5; John 12:15).

In this well-known text, Zechariah makes four key state­ments about the coming King. Unfortunately, the implica­tions of these statements are frequently overlooked because of the remarkable precision of the New Testament’s applica­tion of the verse to Christ’s riding a borrowed donkey into Jerusalem. We certainly do not want to ignore the obvious, specific fulfillment, but neither do we want to ignore the whole message, all of which applies to Christ.

First, He is the promised King. Zechariah’s announcement, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee” went to the heart of the Davidic covenant promise. When Zechariah preached, David’s throne was vacant. But the prophet aimed the eye of faith beyond the empty throne to the sure promise. That the prophet referred to “thy” king, using the second person singular pronoun, individualized the promise. Christ’s coming would indeed have national and even worldwide relevance, but it had personal application to each believer. This was the long-awaited King of promise. The prospect of seeing that King warranted the admonition to rejoice:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem.

Although both of the imperatives carry the idea of shrieking loudly, one with joy and the other with triumph, they express the inner celebration as well as any outward evidence of it. Nothing can bring greater joy to a saint’s heart than the personal Christ. Whether then or now, it is a believing sight of Christ that satisfies the heart.

Second, He is the righteous King. Zechariah marked as one of the perfections of the promised King that “he is just.” This is one of the essential features of the Messiah. Not only is Christ eternally and perfectly righteous by vir­tue of His deity, but He was animated with righteousness throughout His earthly mission and He will forever execute righteousness in His royal authority. It was part of the mes­sianic ideal that the Davidic king would judge His people with righteousness and that righteousness would flourish in His days (Ps. 72:2, 7; see especially 2 Sam. 23:3). Righteousness will burgeon during the entire kingdom reign of Christ; however, since this verse refers specifically to details of Christ’s first advent, this righteousness most likely designates the positive and active obedience that the Lord performed during His earthly life. In every way the Lord Jesus satisfied the expectations and demands of the ideal King.

Third, He is the victorious King. This coming King is “hav­ing salvation.” The meaning of this statement is disputed. The Hebrew text has a form of the verb “to save” which can convey either a passive sense of “being saved or delivered” or a stative sense of “being victorious.” The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and other ancient versions suggest the active sense of “one who saves,” a Sav­ior. Although either the active or the passive sense would accurately apply to the Messiah, the Hebrew text is pref­erable. That God’s Messiah King is the object of divine help and deliverance is a recurring theme both in messianic prophecy (see Pss. 18:50; 20:6; 21:1, 4-5; 22:8) and in the earthly experience of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. From His deliverance as an infant from the plot of Herod to His preservation in Gethsemane from Satan’s last attempt to prevent the crucifixion, God saved the King from premature death. The greatest deliverance of all was His deliverance from the grave by the power of God in approval and vindica­tion of His perfect life and atoning death. This marked His victory over every enemy and His ability and right to subdue every foe. His deliverance guarantees the salvation of all His people. Because He has been delivered, He is victorious and He delivers and saves His people.


Fourth, He is the humble King. Finally, Zechariah describes the coming King as being “lowly.” This word refers to more than the Messiah’s poverty and meekness of spirit; it has the idea of being afflicted or oppressed and encompasses the whole suffering life of Christ. Zechariah’s use of this word for the King closely parallels Isaiah’s earlier descrip­tion of the Servant as being void of majesty, despised, and rejected (Isaiah 53:2-5). Although Jesus was King, in His first incarnate appearance only the eye of faith could dis­cern His royalty. That unbelief failed to see His kingship condemns the blindness of the heart; it does not alter the truth that Christ came as the King of kings.

Messiah’s riding “upon an ass, even upon the colt the foal of an ass,” further defines His humble obedience. Note, by the way, my translation of “even” rather than “and.” This explicative or explanatory use of the conjunc­tion is common and here is necessary to avoid the notion that Christ was riding two animals. The specific idea is that He was riding a young donkey, and this is the specific element of the prophecy that was fulfilled at the Trium­phal Entry. The significance is not that the donkey was a lowly creature in contrast to the stately horse. Indeed, both the Old Testament and documents from the ancient Near East demonstrate that donkeys were often mounts for royalty and rulers (see Judg. 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; and 2 Sam. 16:1-2). The people’s response when they saw Christ riding into Jerusalem on the donkey was not surprise as to why a king would be on a donkey. Rather, when they saw Him they immediately cried,

Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.John 12:13

For a king to ride a donkey was not contrary to expectation. The significance rests, rather, in the fact that the Old Testament associated horses, war machines, with self-reliance and distrust of God (see Pss. 20:7; 33:16-17; Isa. 33:1). If anything characterized Messiah’s first coming, it was His faithful, unwavering dependence on God. Furthermore, God’s initial instructions concerning kings prohibited their multiplying horses (Deut. 17:16). It would be aberrant for the ideal King, who was righteous in every other way, to associate Himself with that which marked kingly disobedience. Even in the detail of the donkey, Christ fulfilled all righteousness.

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