In Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday (Matt 21:1-11), it says that the Lord Jesus directed two of his disciple to get the donkey He would sit on, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled. Then Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9, which says: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This is a prediction given 500 years before Palm Sunday, that was fulfilled that day. The people were told to “rejoice,” a word that means “twirling, or dancing” like at a wedding. Then they are told to “shout” a word used elsewhere of “loud shouting” (Mic 4:9) or “war cries” (Josh 4:9). In other words, this is not a simple command not to worry but be happy. Rather, the event is described as so vital, that Israel was told to “whoop it up” when the Messianic King arrived. Zechariah gave several reasons Israel was to rejoice at the presentation of the Messianic king, and we can still rejoice today, because the Messiah Jesus, our King, has come.
The first reason we can rejoice is because our King Jesus comes to us with fairness. It says He is “just, using” a word that means “righteous” or “fair.” It is crucial for rulers to be fair and only one King will be perfectly so. Too often, we think our lives are not fair, things aren’t going the way they ought. But ultimately, the Lord knows exactly what we need and what is best for us.
The second reason to rejoice is because the Lord Jesus comes to us with deliverance. That’s what the word “salvation” means. He delivers us from distress and also, more importantly, from our sin. In fact, we can rejoice that in addition to His fairness, the Lord Jesus shows grace and mercy. If we relied solely on His justice, who could stand? But we must celebrate that He comes to us as our Savior, our Deliverer, and our Forgiver.
Thirdly, we can rejoice that our King comes to us in humility. How different that is from the typical perspective of royalty—with their attitude of self importance and privilege? The humility of the Lord Jesus is evident in that though He was the eternally fully God, He didn’t consider that He needed to take advantage of it. Rather, He humbled Himself, emptying Himself, not of His deity, but of His privilege, becoming incarnate as a fully human being (Phil 2:6-9). The next time we think that God doesn’t understand our struggles or our sorrows, our problems or our pains, just remember that the Lord Jesus, the eternal God the Son, humbled Himself, taking on all the challenges of humanity.
Here’s a fourth reason we can rejoice—our King comes to us in peace. In the ancient world, when a king would go to war, he would ride a great horse, a powerful stallion. But when he would visit in peace, a king would arrive on a lowly donkey. When the Lord Jesus presented Himself as Israel’s king on that Palm Sunday, it was not as a conquering Lord, but as a kind and loving king. When He comes to us, He comes in peace. He wants to reconcile us to Himself.
The fifth reason to rejoice is that one day our King will return and establish His righteous rule over all the earth. That’s found in the next verse, Zechariah 9:10, which says He will put an end to war “And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” In typical prophetic fashion, Zechariah telescopes this messianic prophecy. Verse 9 was fulfilled two thousand years ago with the first appearance of the Lord Jesus. Verse 10 will be fulfilled after a long gap. Then the Lord Jesus will return, not on a donkey but on “a white horse.” The “rider is called Faithful and True and He judges and makes war in righteousness” (Rev 19:11). Then the Lord Jesus will defeat all those who oppose His rule and establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness over all the earth.
Ancient Rabbis saw Zechariah 9:9-10 as depicting one of two possible scenarios at the coming the Messiah. If Israel was unworthy, then He would come on a donkey. If worthy, then on a white horse (Sanhedrin 98b). They didn’t understand that the same Messiah would make two appearances—first as our Redeemer King, on a donkey and second, as our Warrior King, on a white horse.
Here’s the good news friends—We can still rejoice because He has come to us with fairness, redemption, humility and peacefulness. But that isn’t all. One day, the Lord Jesus will return in power and establish a kingdom of peace. When we look back at Palm Sunday we can celebrate His first coming but also look forward to His return. And that is reason to rejoice.