The Prophecy - Messiah's Triumphal Entry On A Donkey:
Old Testament Prophecy
New Testament Fulfillment
...your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
This is the (first) arrival of the Messiah as King of Israel. This king was recognized by some as the Messiah. He will be righteous and offer His Kingdom to Israel and the world along with salvation. The King will be gentle and humble (reflected by His choice of a donkey instead of a horse). His arrival will be a reason for rejoicing.
After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. "If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say, 'The Lord has need of it.'"So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord has need of it."They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. "For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."(Luke 19:28-44)
It was close to Passover and Jesus was to arrive soon at Jerusalem. Although He had been there many times before, this time was different. This time He was living out the final days of His life and He knew it.
Jesus being who He was (God, man and Messiah) could have arrived in Jerusalem in a number of different manners including being carried or on a horse and buggy set up for a king. Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem in a way that fulfilled Messianic prophecy. He entered on a donkey.
Jerusalem in a way that fulfilled Messianic prophecy. He entered on a donkey.
There was a question asked of Rabbi Joshua concerning the coming of the Messiah. It was asked of him whether the Messiah would come "with the clouds of heaven" as Daniel said (Dan. 7:13), or "Lowly and riding upon the ass" as Zechariah said (Zech 9:9). Rabbi Joshua responded, "If they are meritorious, he will come with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass" (Talmud San. 98a).
"Rabbi Hillel said, 'there shall be no Messiah for Israel, because they have already enjoyed him in the days of Hezekiah.' Rabbi Joseph said, 'may G~d forgive him (Hillel) for saying so. Now, when did Hezekiah flourish? During the First Temple. Yet Zechariah, prophesying in the days of the second, proclaimed, 'rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion. Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, thy King cometh unto thee! He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)'" (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 99a)
This is significant for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, Jesus was fulfilling prophecy. One must understand that since the Bible is from God, all Messianic prophecies will come to be. Most occurred during Jesus first coming. The rest will occur when He comes back a second time. None will be left unfulfilled in the end. God makes all His promises come true.
Choosing a donkey also accomplished something else. If Jesus would have chosen a horse, usually associated with horses and chariots at war time, then people would have been looking for some type of military deliverance. By choosing the donkey, Jesus was coming both in kingship and humility. Many times if someone was a prince in the far east, they would ride a donkey. It is also interesting that the person in the blessing given to the line of Judah in Genesis 49:10-11, will come riding on a donkey. Jesus knew He would come twice. The first time was to be as a suffering servant.(1)
The King is described as "having salvation." The form of the word "salvation" is either a passive one or reflexive one. If it is passive, then the Messiah will "be saved"- that is, he will be delivered from the power of death. If it is reflexive, as the ancient versions such as the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Targum took it, then Messiah will show himself to be the Savior. Both ideas may be intended.(1)
Even though it was Passover time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, He was treated as if He was the long awaited King from this prophecy in Zechariah. When the people threw the Palm branches down, they were saying that they were aware of the Messianic traditions of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. In Mark 11:18 the Greek says these branches came from the fields. This is significant because they were branches that according to Rabbinical law were acceptable for the wave offering of the lulav, which is one of the appropriate customs of worship unto the Lord during the Feast of Tabernacles.
Learn more about Messiah In The Feast Of Tabernacles.
The words that were coming out of the mouths of the people surrounding Jesus showed they recognized Him as the Messiah and King making His triumphant entry into Jerusalem as foretold in Zechariah 9:9. (There were many other Jews who recognized Jesus for who He really was during this time. Consider the Apostles who became authors of the New Testament. God has always kept a remnant of these Jewish believers alive). As the crowds gathered around Jesus to cry out Hosanna which was the first word of Psalm 118:25, they were crying out unto their Lord and Messiah to save them now. This is also the same Psalm recited during the Water Libation Ceremony. This is the same liturgy that is said on Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
The term "Son of David" is a messianic name and is another proof that recognition of Jesus as Messiah was taking place as He fulfilled the prophecy of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
For more on our Messiah being the Suffering Servant please read the Isaiah 53 Suffering Servant Prophecy.
When the Messiah comes the second time He will fulfill the promises of peace found in the next verse of Zechariah's prophecy.
Zechariah 9:10: I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Jesus came as a humble king serving man with His death the first time. He is coming back again as King of Kings to set up His Millennial Kingdom. Read more about Zechariah's prophecy concerning the Second Coming Of The King.
Daniel predicted the timing of the coming of Israel's King in his Prophecy of 70 Prophetic Weeks (Dan. 9:24-27).
Read More From The Prophet Zechariah:
1). The Messiah in the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.