Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matthew 21:1–5 ESV)
When the New Testament authors quote prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, they are not doing so as a proof text. They are not plucking verses out of context and saying, “See Jesus did that.” Rather, the quote is intended to take our minds back to the original prophecy as a whole and understand that the whole prophetic message is being recalled and fulfilled. This action of Jesus is so important that all four gospels record this event. You will notice in your cross-references that this action that Jesus takes comes from Zechariah 9. The goal of the prophet Zechariah is to encourage the people to be faithful to the Lord and do the work because God has great things promised for their future. Zechariah gives another picture of what God is going to do for us and for the world when the Christ comes.
Judgment on Nations (9:1-8)
The first eight verses of Zechariah 9 reveal that God is ready to judge the nations. Syria, Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia are some of the powers that God says he will bring his judgment against. Now it is easy to quickly pass over these kinds of prophetic passages because we can mentally think that it is just another list of judgments. But these declarations hold important messages for us. First, are the powers of Syria, Tyre, Sidon, or Philistia still powers now? No, they are not. Jesus riding into Jerusalem was to show that he is in control and holds power over all nations. He will put an end to wicked nations on his time schedule. No nation is getting away with their sins. Jesus sees what all nations, powers, and peoples are doing. These verses show that the Lord sees every little thing they are doing. Powerful nations today are nothing before the Lord. Jesus will judge every nation, including our own.
Second, there is something amazing that is mentioned in this prophecy of judgment. God’s goal is not to judge a bunch of people. There is purpose in all that the Lord does. As the Lord describes these judgments, look at what he says at the end of verse 7. As Gentile nations are judged God says, “It too shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.” Listen to this. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the message is that the remnant is going to include the Gentiles, even the Philistines, which is staggering. But they are going to be like a clan in Judah. They are going to be like the Jebusites in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Samuel 24:18-24). The outsiders are going to belong as if they were born into the tribe of Judah. They are going to belong as natural Israelites. They are going to belong as the people of God. The fall of nations, wars, and difficulties are to get people to look to the Lord and belong to him.
The King Arrives (9:9-10)
This brings us to verse 9 which is quoted in Matthew 21, as we read at the beginning of the lesson. This moment where Jesus enters into Jerusalem is to tell everyone that we are witnesses a victory ride to take his seat on his throne. Your king comes to you, righteous and victorious. Your king comes to you, having salvation in his hand to give. But this king does not follow the behaviors of a proud military hero. Rather, our king rides into the city with humility. He does not ride in on a war horse, proclaiming his own greatness. Rather, he rides in with humility, righteous and having salvation.
Look at what this means in verse 10. He is coming to end the war and bring peace. He is going to rule not only the promised land, but the whole earth. Do we realize that this is what Jesus came to do and is doing? Jesus has taken his rightful place on the throne. He is speaking peace to the nation (9:10). But that peace comes by submitting to his will and rule. Otherwise, judgment comes. This is what the New Testament is constantly reminding us about.
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24–26 ESV)
He must reign until every rule, authority, and power is placed firmly under the feet of Jesus. His arrival into Jerusalem on a donkey is a pivotal moment because he is going to lay down his life in this city to destroy every power that exists.
He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way. (Ephesians 1:20–23 CSB)
Your Hope and Restoration (9:11-17)
So what does this mean for you and for me? The rest of this chapter details what we are to see in our lives because our king has come and has been enthroned. Look at verse 11. “Because of the blood of my covenant with you…” Hearing these words should click something within us. Jesus rode into Jerusalem in humility on a donkey. Days later he will gather his disciples together and established what we call the Lord’s Supper. Listen to the words of Jesus:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28 ESV)
The covenant has been established through the blood of his Son. Zechariah says that because of the blood of my covenant, I will set the prisoners free. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope, because God is announcing to you that he has restored double to you. The apostle Paul tells us that we are slaves to sin (cf. Romans 6). But through the blood of the covenant of Jesus, you are no longer enslaved to sin. You can be set free from the power of sin. You have been restored to rightful place before God. You have been restored to freedom. You have been restored in God’s kingdom and God’s house. You have been transformed from useless to the Lord to useful to him. God is restoring his image in you.
The rest of the chapter pictures God’s hope, peace, and victory for his people. God is going to fight for his people. God will defeat our enemies. God will protect his people. Listen to the words of verse 16. “On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.”
You have been saved from your prison to belong to God’s flock. Now we are shine on his land like jewels of a crown. When Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey, this action was declaring your purpose in life has been redeemed. Now you are not slaves to sin but you are his sheep and you are to shine in the world like jewels in a crown.
All of this imagery reminds us that we are engaged in a spiritual battle. The kingdom of Christ is standing against the kingdoms, nations, powers, and rulers of this world that do not submit to Christ’s authority.
For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3–5 CSB)
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:11–13 ESV)
We shine as the people of God against the present darkness. We are not accepting the arguments and strongholds of our culture but resisting them. We are demolishing those arguments with the armor God has given to us. The only weapon we use is the word of God made powerful by God himself. We use truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, and the gospel to repel these false narratives that the world gives for why we are here and how to live our lives. Their worldview and narrative are what puts us back into prison and removes our hope. Because of the blood of the covenant we have been set free from these false arguments and now can shine like jewels in the land, looking for the hope that is to be fully revealed when our king comes again.
Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:9–11 CSB)
This is us, the people of God, shining like a precious jewel, displaying the glory of God to the world. Shine to the world because God has redeemed you through the blood of the covenant.