At this time of the year, we often reflect on the events surrounding the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. One such event is Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:29–40; John 12:12–19). The gospel accounts of Christ’s triumphal entry point us back to the prophecy of Zechariah, a prophecy made hundreds of years before this event took place. In Zechariah 9:9–17, the prophet tells God’s people what to expect of their King when He comes.
Zechariah prophesied wonderful things about the character of this coming King. First, this King would be a righteous King, one who does God’s will as a faithful covenant keeper. Jesus comes as a perfectly righteous King, who serves His Father in heaven with absolute and perfect righteousness.
Second, Zechariah describes this coming King as having salvation. We could also translate this phrase to mean “showing himself a savior.” Jesus entered Jerusalem having already shown Himself a powerful Savior. In John’s account of the triumphal entry, we read: “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign” (12:17–18). Jesus showed Himself a Savior when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Christ comes as the King who can save His own even from the power of death. He enters Jerusalem as one who has salvation and has already shown Himself a powerful Savior.
Finally, for all His righteousness and saving power, Zechariah sees a King who is also humble. Here is a King who does not present Himself with all the worldly symbols of power such as the war horse, glittering armor, sword, and battle-bow. Rather, He rides a simple donkey, unadorned with any of the trappings of worldly might.
But the glory of Zechariah’s prophecy is the reminder to God’s people that this great King is their King: “Behold, your king is coming to you” (Zech. 9:9). In Zechariah’s day, God’s people had been subject to so many foreign kings for so many years that they could hardly remember what it was like to have a king of their own, a king who was truly sovereign over his kingdom and not just a weak servant of a stronger foreign power. Jesus comes not as a foreign king or a vassal-king subject to a greater kingdom. Christ comes as the true King of Israel, King of kings and Lord of lords. He comes for God’s people, righteous and showing Himself a Savior to humble Himself by suffering and dying on the cross for His own. Jesus is our King who came into the world to bring salvation to all who believe in Him.
Is it any wonder that God’s people should rejoice at this King’s coming? No wonder God’s people all these many years later continue to remember the events of that day with joy, praising Jesus and saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13).