The nature of the king

Today’s joy reference is Zechariah 9:9. As the prophet takes up the subject of the coming Messiah, he calls on Israelites, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious.” And it makes sense. I mean, the word image which has just been painted for us is that of a victorious commander-in-chief arriving in a ticker-tape parade. Of course, it makes sense to rejoice on just such an occasion! But aside from the whole declaration that “He is righteous and victorious,” this is far from your average ticker-tape parade.

Indeed, rather than a spectacular display of pomp and circumstance or even polished military might in which the conqueror appears out of the confetti atop a valiant steed or awesome tank or even in a luxury limousine at the very climax of the ceremony, we have this: “He is righteous and victorious” – which you would expect, but then – “humble and riding on a donkey, on a cold, the foal of a donkey.”

If there were music playing, I imagine it would come to a screeching halt right about now.

Because while we get rejoicing in a righteous and victorious commander-in-chief, we simply don’t know what to do with the rest of this. Because great military commanders are supposed to ride stallions of unparalleled strength and grace. Instead, the Messiah is to be found riding a donkey.

In the prophet’s day, this was the difference between a Ferrari and a Model T, a Hummer and a Smart Car.

But then it’s not even a full donkey. Instead, we learn that it’s a colt, the foal of a donkey.

What a scandal! So we’re not even getting a Model T or a Smart Car, but a Segway scooter, if that!

Here’s the thing. The prophecy is talking about the Messiah, Jesus, who would enter Jerusalem a few centuries after Zechariah wrote, exactly as described here: on the back of a donkey’s colt. And the reason that’s so cool is that this Messiah, this Conqueror, this King is not some transcendent person that resides in glass towers and parades around, expecting His subjects to fawn all over Him. And Rather, He is the incarnate Lord, Emmanuel, who chose to come down from heaven to hang out and have a relationship with us. Indeed, far from the tyrannical Dictator or even condescending Judge that He could be, He chose to be the humble Savior or all.

Today, I take joy in the words of Zechariah 9:9, which remind me of all that Jesus gave for me (see Philippians 2 for just a short list). And He did it not so that I would be condemned or humiliated or anything like that, but so that I could be saved (see John 3:17). Joyful words indeed!

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