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Lesson 12: Rejoice! Your King is Coming! (Zechariah 9:9-10 and Matthew 21:1-11)

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You have probably had the experience that I have often had, where you are looking for something in the closet or garage, but you couldn’t find it because you had the wrong concept of what you were looking for. You thought that it was in a square brown box, but it really was in an oblong yellow box. So you stared right at it, and perhaps even moved it out of the way, but you missed it because your mental picture of it was wrong.

Most Jews in Jesus’ day missed Him as their Messiah and King because they were expecting a different kind of Savior. They thought that Messiah would be a mighty political deliverer, who would lead Israel to military victory over Rome. They were not looking for a lowly Savior, riding on the foal of a donkey. They could not conceive of a suffering Savior, who offered Himself as the sacrifice for sinners. And so, tragically, they missed the coming of their King!

Many people still miss Jesus because of wrong expectations. They’re looking for a Savior like Aladdin’s Genie, who will grant their every wish, but it hasn’t happened. They want a Savior who will instantly solve their deepest problems, but those problems have not gone away. Or, they expect a church where everyone always loves one another. But a church member treated them wrongly, so they dropped out in bitter disappointment.

In order joyously to welcome Jesus as our King, we need to understand properly who He is. Our text is one of the great Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. Even most Jewish commentators down through the centuries have agreed that this is a prophecy about Messiah (Charles Feinberg, God Remembers [American Board of Mission to the Jews], pp. 167-168). Zechariah 9:9-10 teaches us that…

Because Jesus Christ is King and He is coming to reign, we who are subject to Him should rejoice greatly.

The news that a king is coming is not necessarily a cause for great joy. The first part of this chapter predicts the coming of Alexander the Great, who ruthlessly conquered Israel’s neighbors. The news of his coming would have struck terror into the hearts of those in his path. He often slaughtered all the men in a city and sold the women and children into slavery. He was not concerned about the well-being of his subjects, but only about his own power and dominion.

It is also difficult to accept the news of a coming king because there is a sense in which all of us want to rule our own lives. We can accept governmental interference to a limited degree, as long as it doesn’t get too close. But if a king started trying to control every aspect of our lives—how we do business, how we relate to others, including our families, and even how we speak and think—we resist the very thought! We certainly would not rejoice at the news of the coming of that kind of king!

But that is precisely the kind of King that Jesus is! He is rightfully Lord of all people and of all aspects of all people’s lives. Regarding this King, Zechariah exhorts, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you.” The rest of verses 9 & 10 describe this King and explain why His coming gives cause for great joy. If we understand who this King is and what His coming will mean for all the earth, we will rejoice greatly at the news of His coming.

1. Jesus Christ is King.

The phrase translated, “your king is coming to you” can also be translated, “your king is coming for you,” that is, “for your benefit” (Kenneth Barker, Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan], 7:662). To receive the benefits that this King brings, we need to recognize our need. Israel was under the domination of powerful foreign rulers. They were incapable of freeing themselves. But this King had the power to deliver them and He had their best interests at heart. Spiritually, we must admit that we are under the domination of sin that will destroy us and that we are unable to free ourselves. Then we will welcome the promised King and the benefits that He offers. He comes for you! But who is He?

(1) Jesus Christ is the King of authority.

Authority is bound up with the idea of kings, at least in the ancient world. Today, some monarchs, such as the Queen of England, have almost no authority. They function as official state dignitaries. Their wishes may have some weight with those who run the government. But they don’t have much authority.

But even in His first coming when He came as the humble, suffering Servant, Jesus Christ possessed a quiet but total authority over all people and events. Although the Jewish leaders hated Him because He threatened their authority, they could not lay hands on Him until His time had come (John 7:30; 8:20).

On Palm Sunday, to fulfill this prophecy, Jesus staged a public demonstration to show the Jewish people and their rulers that He is the Messiah, but not the kind of Messiah they were expecting. The chief priests and the Sanhedrin had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, they should inform them so that He could be arrested (John 11:57). Jesus’ bold action of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, to the cries of “Hosanna” led to His arrest and crucifixion at the very moment that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in Jerusalem, in fulfillment of Scripture.

The uniform picture of all four gospels is that Jesus was firmly in charge of all these events. Jesus was not a helpless victim. No one took His life from Him. He laid it down on His own initiative (John 10:17-18). We cannot say for certain whether Jesus had prearranged for the colt to be loaned or if He simply knew in advance what would take place. Since He had clear foreknowledge of the specifics of His crucifixion and resurrection (Mark 10:33-34), I think that Jesus simply knew what would happen concerning the donkey. He told the disciples where to find it, what to say to the owner, and how the owner would respond.

The point is, Jesus was clearly in charge of the events surrounding His death, including the triumphal entry, the betrayal by Judas and the death plots of the Jewish leaders. None of it took Him by surprise. He is the King of authority who controls all things according to His purpose, even the events of His death (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).

Before we move on, we need to personalize it: Is Jesus the King your King? Does He rule in your heart and life? The idea that you can choose Jesus as your Savior now and consider whether you want Him to be your lord later if you wish, is nonsense! While submitting to His lordship is a lifelong process, it begins at salvation, and if it has not begun in your life, you have reason to question whether you are truly saved.

(2) Jesus Christ is the King of justice.

Zechariah says that Israel’s king is just (some translate “righteous,” but the sense is justice). The primary reference in this context is to a king who administers justice in his kingdom. He is not corrupt, like so many world rulers. I recently read a news article of a former president of a Central American country who siphoned off over $100 million into personal and family bank accounts. That story could probably be repeated in dozens of countries. Much of the poverty and suffering around the globe stems from corrupt leaders who have no regard for justice. But Jesus Christ will be just in the administration of His kingdom because He is righteous in His person. He is not out to take advantage of His subjects for personal gain. He has their best interests at heart.

(3) Jesus Christ is the King of salvation.

He is “endowed with salvation” (NASB). Scholars debate whether the nuance of the verb here is passive or reflexive (it can be either, depending on the context). If it is passive, the meaning is either that Jesus was endued, endowed, or clothed with salvation; or that He was saved through some ordeal, namely, the cross and resurrection. If the verb is reflexive, it means that He shows Himself to be the Savior. But the difference does not affect the meaning, that Jesus came to bring salvation to His people.

For the Jews, the salvation that Messiah would bring had national political overtones. For centuries, the Jews have been threatened by hostile nations that have sought to annihilate or enslave them (Ps. 129). Thus when God promised them a deliverer, they thought of one who would reign on David’s throne and bring “salvation from all our enemies, and from the hand of those who hate us” (see Luke 1:69-71).

Yet at the same time, salvation for the Jew also had a personal dimension related to the individual’s deliverance from God’s judgment on his sins. Thus the father of John the Baptist prophesied that he would go before the Lord’s coming “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77). Or, as the angel told Joseph, “you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Zechariah 9:10 refers to Messiah’s second coming, when He will fulfill the national sense of salvation by ruling over all the nations. But the New Testament makes clear (in conjunction with several OT prophecies) that in His first coming, Messiah came to bring spiritual salvation by offering Himself as the sacrifice to satisfy God’s justice against sinners. If God dismissed our sin without the penalty being imposed, He would not be just. God has declared that the penalty for sin is death, not only physical death, but also spiritual death, eternal separation from the holy God (Rom. 6:23). Through Jesus’ death as the perfect substitute, He paid the penalty we deserved, which allows God to be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

There are two wrong notions that will keep many people out of heaven, and they usually go together. First, people wrongly believe that God is too loving to send decent, moral people to hell. But that kind of thinking grossly underestimates the serious nature of our sin. A single sin in thought, word, or deed is enough to condemn a person to hell! And it compromises God’s justice in favor of His love, which compromises His holiness.

The second wrong notion is that most of us are good enough to qualify for heaven. Sure, we all have our faults, but we’re not like murderers, terrorists, and child molesters. So we figure that the scales will tip our way when we stand before God because we were sincere and we meant well. Many Jews made this mistake. They thought that since they were descendants of Abraham, they observed the ritual law as prescribed by Moses, and they were better than the Gentiles, that God would not judge them. But their error was that it requires perfect righteousness to get into heaven.

That’s where Christ and the cross come in. On the cross, the perfect Son of God offered Himself as the substitute for sinners. He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Some day you will stand before God either clothed in your own goodness, which will condemn you, or clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. God credits that righteousness to you the instant you renounce all trust in your own righteousness and put your trust in Jesus as your sin-bearer (see Rom. 3 & 4).

Jesus came the first time bringing salvation, but He will come the second time as the judge of all the earth. If you have trusted Him as your personal Savior, then you can rejoice at the thought of His coming as the judge, because He has borne your sins.

(4) Jesus Christ is the King of humility.

“King of humility” sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Perhaps we should say that He is the humble King. In contrast to the proud Alexander on his war horse, Jesus came as a servant on not only a donkey, but the foal of a donkey. As we saw last week, after Solomon’s time, kings and warriors rode horses, not donkeys. The donkey was a lowly animal, used for peaceable purposes by those who were of no rank or position. By riding the foal of a donkey, Jesus was showing Himself to be the King, in fulfillment of our text, but not the exalted political king that the people expected. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Messiah who offered salvation and peace with God through His death.

The Hebrew word for “humble” can also mean poor or needy in an economic sense, and that was also true of Jesus, who had no earthly wealth or possessions (Luke 9:58). The word also includes the meaning of a righteous man afflicted by evil men. Thus many commentators say that the word pictures the suffering of the righteous servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). (Merrill Unger, Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah’s Glory [Zondervan], p. 163). Jesus willingly laid aside His rights and took the form of a servant, becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

Charles Spurgeon pointed out that no false Messiah has ever copied Jesus in this taking the low place of a servant (Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia [Baker], 3:129). But our Savior commanded us to follow Him in this regard. After He took the towel and basin and washed the disciples’ feet, He said, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15). There are numerous commands in Scripture warning us not to think too highly of ourselves and to think more lowly of ourselves (Rom. 12:3, 16; Phil. 2:3). I cannot find any verses that tell us to build our self-esteem. In the same sermon (pp. 136-137), Spurgeon applies the need to imitate Jesus in His lowliness:

“But, then, persons have spoken evil of me. I do not deserve to be treated thus.” Clearly it is specially wrong for any one to speak amiss of such an excellent being as you are. There lies the grievance…. You reply, “But, really, it was so malicious, and the charge was so absurd and unreasonable.” Just so. People ought to be peculiarly careful not to hurt your feelings, for you are so deserving and praiseworthy. Is not self-esteem the spring of half our sorrow? … If we were really lowly of heart, we should say, “I have been treated very badly, but when I think of how my Lord was treated, I cannot dream of complaining. This … critic … has been finding fault with me, and his charges were not true; but, if he had known me better, he might have found more fault with me, and have been nearer the truth.

So we should learn humility from our Savior. He is the King of authority, justice, salvation, and humility. Finally,

(5) Jesus Christ is King of creation.

This is evident from the fact that He rode into Jerusalem on an unbroken colt. I am no expert on horses, but I know enough not to climb onto an unbroken colt! Jesus’ riding on this colt shows His miraculous power over the creation that He spoke into existence by the word of His power.

There was also a spiritual significance in the fact that the colt was unbroken. In the Old Testament, when an animal was put to sacred use, it had to be one which had not already been used for common purposes (Num. 19:2; Deut. 21:3). Since this animal was now to be used for the Messiah, it had to be an animal that had never been ridden by man. Only the Lord of creation could do what Jesus did.

If Jesus is the Creator, then certainly we should obey Him. This colt, like Balaam’s donkey, was smarter than people are. The colt received Jesus on its back without bucking, but He came unto His own people, and they cast Him off. If we see Jesus correctly for who He is, we will submit to Him as the Almighty Creator.

If Jesus Christ is the King of authority, justice, salvation, humility, and creation, then it makes sense that …

2. Jesus Christ is coming to reign.

Verse 9 predicts Jesus’ first coming in lowliness to offer Himself as the substitute for sinners. Verse 10 predicts His second coming in power and glory, to reign over all the earth. Jesus will remove all weapons of war, both from Israel and from all of Israel’s enemies. When it says that He will speak peace to the nations, it implies more than mere words. The power of His person and presence will effect peace on earth (see Feinberg, p. 166 and Unger, p. 165). Zechariah then quotes from Psalm 72:8, about Messiah reigning “from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth,” which is poetic language for worldwide dominion.

Jesus Christ predicted His own return to earth in power and glory (Matt. 24:30; 26:64). The Book of Revelation (19:11-16) shows Jesus coming again, this time not on a foal of a donkey, but on a white charger of war, to slay His enemies, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At that time, every person will meet Jesus. If you yield to Him now, you will joyfully meet Him as Savior. If you reject Him now, you will meet Him as Judge, when “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15).

As believers, what should our response be to the fact that Jesus Christ is King and He is coming to reign?

3. Our response to Jesus the coming King should be to rejoice and shout in triumph.

The double commands, to rejoice greatly and to shout in triumph, emphasize exuberant joy. The commands are addressed to the daughters of Zion and Jerusalem, which means, those who are in a covenant relationship to God (Rom. 2:28-29, 9:8). If Jesus is your King, then lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28)!

Perhaps you wonder, “How can I rejoice greatly when there are so many overwhelming problems in the world and in my personal life? Jesus’ coming will be nice, but that seems like a long ways off. How can I rejoice now?”

The answer is the same for us as it was for Israel then: We rejoice by faith in our coming King. It would still be four long centuries from Zechariah’s prophecy before Messiah rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and even then, most of Israel missed Him! It has been twenty long centuries since then. Scoffers will taunt, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:4). The bottom line is, we either believe the Word of God or we don’t! When He came the first time, Jesus fulfilled not only this, but hundreds of Old Testament prophecies. It is not unreasonable to assume that the prophecies about His second coming will also literally be fulfilled. But, meanwhile, we must live by faith. Faith in the hope of His coming will fill us with great joy, even in the midst of difficult trials.

Conclusion

May I ask, “How’s your joy in Jesus?” I have to fight the flesh to gain this joy, just as you do. Remember, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Octavius Winslow wrote (“The Sympathy of Christ,” at http://www.gracegems.org/2/religion_of_joy.htm):

The religion of Christ is the religion of JOY. Christ came to take away our sins, to roll off our curse, to unbind our chains, to open our prison house, to cancel our debt; in a word, to give us the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Is not this joy? Where can we find a joy so real, so deep, so pure, so lasting? There is every element of joy; deep, ecstatic, satisfying, sanctifying joy in the gospel of Christ. The believer in Jesus is essentially a happy man. The child of God is, from necessity, a joyful man. His sins are forgiven, his soul is justified, his person is adopted, his trials are blessings, his conflicts are victories, his death is immortality, his future is a heaven of inconceivable, unthought of, untold, and endless blessedness. With such a God, such a Savior, and such a hope, is he not, ought he not, to be a joyful man?

Are you pursuing that kind of joy? You should be, because your King is coming!

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the truth about who Christ is essential for a faithful Christian walk?
  2. Why is the lordship of Jesus Christ not an optional matter for those pursuing salvation?
  3. How can we grow in humility? Is it sin to “take pride” in personal accomplishments?
  4. Is depression sin? How can a person inclined toward depression experience true joy?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2003, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Christology, Prophecy/Revelation