“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; he is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Yesterday we talked about the fact that a persecuted people rejoice at the notion of their enemies being conquered more and in ways that a people who have not known persecution don’t. God understands this and gave Israel a picture of His commitment to stand against their enemies. What we see here is the other side of the picture–the victory that will come. But, while the first part of chapter 9 may have been more for them than for us, the second half matters a whole lot more to us. Let’s talk about it.
This is fairly fresh for me because I just walked through Matthew 21 with my congregation this week in Bible study. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He self-consciously fulfilled these very words. Matthew tells the story for us:
“When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her foal. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.’ This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: ‘Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”‘”
Jesus wanted to send a message to the people that many understood. A people well-versed in the Old Testament immediately recognized that Jesus was claiming a messianic identity. That’s likely why so many lined the road and celebrated with such enthusiasm when He came riding into town. If only they understood what kind of a Messiah He really was.
The image that Zechariah paints here is one of a king riding into a town that his forces had recently conquered. He is riding in as a victorious conqueror. The city which had opposed his rule has been overthrown and any seeds of rebellion have been completely quelled. The rest of the chapter sees the out-working and extension of this victory. For a people who had been conquered, this was an image of potent hopefulness.
Think with me here for a minute, though. If Jesus fulfilled v. 9 with His life and ministry (and not just with His ride into Jerusalem), where is the peace and further conquest the rest of the chapter proclaims? Was Jesus just cherry-picking convenient prophecies to lend some extra credibility to His ministry?
No, rather, what Jesus did was to inaugurate a new season of conquest. He came bringing with Him the kingdom of God, but it did not come in its final fullness then. Instead, it was the beginning of God’s plan to take back His world. Jesus established the firm beachhead and left it to His followers to expand His work throughout the world. And, while we’re not all the way there yet by any means, we are a whole lot further along than we were 2,000 years ago. Zechariah here, like John would in Revelation many years later, is pointing forward to a time when the victory of God and His people against the forces of this world will be brought to completion.
What this means for us is that we can have hope. In fact, as Peter would later talk about, we have a living hope. Jesus came and conquered even death. He is alive forever and is calling us forward to advance His kingdom into the world around us and into the lives of those who are in it. We do that when we stand against sin and injustice and all their ugly fruits. We do that when we love like He did and let the transformation only the Gospel brings accomplish its good work. Bottom line: We are on the winning team. Let us move forward with confidence even when things seem bleak. Our victory is assured. The darkness has already lost. Light is on the horizon.