By Sam E. Stone
Continuing this quarter’s study, “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Scripture,” we come to the Triumphal Entry. It marks the beginning of the end of our Savior’s earthly life. The event had been foretold centuries before by the prophet Zechariah. He served as a priest along with Haggai, urging the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 5:1, 2).
James E. Smith pointed out four important facts found in Zechariah 9 concerning the coming Prince of Peace:
1. The promise of his coming (v. 9)
2. The character of the ruler (v. 9)
3. The nature of the kingdom (v. 10)
4. The redemption of the coming ruler (v. 11)
These predictions all find their fulfillment in the coming of Jesus.
The King Is Coming
Zechariah 9:9, 10
Upon returning to their native land, the Israelites worked to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, renew the observance of special days, and offer the appropriate sacrifices. Zechariah’s message to the nation reminded them of the promised ruler, whom God would send one day.
The Messiah is pictured coming as a victorious king, having defeated all his enemies. As he approaches, the people shout his praise. He is not only victorious but also righteous. His humility is also described by the prophet, who calls him lowly. He was to enter the city riding on a donkey. The donkey is seen as an animal representing peace, while a horse would suggest warfare. The conquering hero will proclaim peace to the nations.
The King Has Come
Jesus knew that he was nearing the end of his earthly ministry. He instructed his disciples to go and secure a young donkey on which he could ride into the city. R. V. G. Tasker wrote, “He was . . . coming to Zion to claim the city as his own. He was coming to make Jerusalem what God had intended it to be, but what it had never yet been, ‘the joy of the whole earth,’ from which streams of mercy and salvation would flow for all mankind.” His coming on a donkey fit exactly with what Zechariah had foretold.
The Gospel accounts make it clear that the procession into Jerusalem began in the nearby village of Bethany. Jesus had evidently made private arrangements with one of his followers there to use an animal that day. He sent two disciples ahead. They found the donkey exactly where Jesus told them. As they prepared to take it, the owner confronted them. He quickly gave them permission, however, when they told him, “The Lord needs it” (Mark 11:3).
As they moved into Jerusalem, the reaction by the crowd was astonishing. They received him like a king. J. W. McGarvey contrasted the event with the way in which a Roman general might have been treated: “There were no hired multitudes to applaud Jesus. There is nothing here but the lusty, honest shout of the common people. . . . The rich in purse, the learned in schoolcraft, and the high in office were, as usual, not there (1 Corinthians 1:26).”
Bible scholars note that when the people spread their cloaks in front of him, this was the very thing that the friends of Jehu had done years before when he was proclaimed king (2 Kings 9:13).
The greeting which the people called out, Hosanna, can mean, “Save now,” or “Save, I pray.” The two Hebrew words that are combined in the word Hosanna are the same used in Psalm 118:25, a messianic psalm. R. C. Foster suggested that here the word Hosanna is primarily a prayer rather than an acclamation: “Save now.” It came to mean an expression of praise, “Hail.” Hosanna in the highest may mean a prayer that God will save them and bring them into the blessings of Heaven; or if the word is used as an acclamation, it may mean, “Let those in highest heaven rejoice!”
In the earlier months of his ministry, Jesus would not allow his followers to offer such praise publicly. He deliberately worked so as not to precipitate a premature crisis since the religious leaders continually watched him, seeking a reason to arrest him. Only when the time for confrontation and crucifixion had finally come did Jesus accept the unprecedented praise of the people. Jesus came triumphant and victorious!
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.