Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass
Zechariah 9:9-13; Matthew 21:1-11
In the Old Testament book of Zechariah there are two commands to rejoice. Once it says:
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” (Zechariah 2:10-12)
Very clearly we see two Persons called the LORD here. The Speaker who says “lo, I come” is called the LORD. And this LORD is also sent by the LORD of hosts.
He is LORD from LORD. Light from Light. Very God from Very God, as the creed would put it. Here is the LORD Christ speaking of how He would dwell in the midst of His people and join them to His Father, the LORD of Hosts.
In Zechariah 9 we get the second command to rejoice – and again it is about the coming of Christ to His people:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9)
Here is the kind of LORD He is: Christ is the lowly King. Can you fathom this? The King who is LORD, the Sent One from the Most High, the Christ, the Son of God – He is lowly. He rides not in a chariot, not on a stallion, not on a white charger, but on an ass.
Rejoice greatly O people of God! Here is the humble-hearted LORD Almighty.
They didn’t know it, but the people of Zechariah’s day would have to wait 500 years for this coming. But when it happened on that Psalm Sunday, it unfolded exactly as written. The LORD Jesus makes His travel arrangements and Matthew comments:
“All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet [Zechariah], saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matthew 21:4-9)
This coming to Jerusalem is often called “The Triumphal Entry”. To call it such makes the comparison with the Roman Triumph ceremonies where conquering commanders and kings returned from battle to receive glory and honour.
Christ’s “triumphal entry” is different. For a start, His choice of transport is a deliberate subversion of kingly expectation. He does ride into town. He is a king. But He’s not that kind of king.
He is the lowly King. And He doesn’t come returning from battle – He’s heading for His death. In five days He would be strung up on a Roman cross. And the crowd that sings Hosanna will soon cry “Crucify Him!”
No-one has captured the irony better than Samuel Crossman in My Song is Love Unknown.
Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.
Jesus knows that this is their destiny. And His. Yet He rides on.
And perhaps the deepest irony comes when we consider their benediction: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The saying is from Psalm 118. As we turn to the original context, notice where the blessed recipient of these hosannas ends up…
“Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. 27 God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118:26-27)
The Blessed One is the Coming One. He comes in the name of the LORD. But where does He come to?
There is a welcoming committee who greet Him “out of the house of the LORD” – that is, the temple. And when they eventually get hold of Him, what do they say? “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.”
This Coming LORD is the Blessed One, but as He’s received by the people He becomes a Human Sacrifice! The King is bound upon the altar.
What kind of triumphal entry is this? It is a procession which leads not to a stage, not to a throne, but to a cross. This is the meekness of our LORD and King, whose glory is His sacrifice. This is truly love unknown.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
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