The King is Coming

And On A Ass?

Don’t be offended, I am not swearing but using the Old English word for donkey to highlight the humility and I am employing the use of alliteration. But we’ll get back to this.

Matthew 21 1:7, a very bad place to pause, however, we have to pause somewhere, it might as well be for dramatic effect along with time constraints. Remember the CAGED method; Context is king, Author’s aspiration, Genre, Examples​, Divide.

And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me. “And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’” “And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid on them their garments, on which He sat.

We can almost see the subversion settling and taste the tension to come. You certainly don’t get that from reading the owner’s manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla. Matthew however, paints the picture of the “new” Israel, marching up to Zion to face his fullness, future and fulfillment. We have to remember that the content builds upon itself and within the greater context, Jesus has proclamed his death and resurrection to his disciples as they ascend to Jerusalem.

“And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me.'”

A geography lesson is probably in order. Matthew’s first-century, Jewish audience would have known the lay of the land, being in the region and having pilgrimage festivals. Many of them probably paced this same path. Jericho lies low, about 850 feet below sea level. The mount of olives is to the west, 2,710 feet above sea level. It overlooks the temple mount to the west. After ascending the 3,560 feet, probably on foot, the caravan was face to face with the holiest place on the planet. And Jesus asks for a donkey.

It seems like a reasonable request after all that ascension, but Jesus has something much more grandiose in mind. Consider the context, what could be more grandiose than a homeless man on a donkey? That’s rhetorical overstatement for those keeping close record of my literary language. It’s also a bit of foreshadowing because this passage leads up to what we call, “The Triumphal Entry.” But that’s next time and of course, I will point out how untriumphal it was and yet, “Triumphal” is a also a gross under-exaggeration–we will see the irony. Lord willing, of course.

“Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me. And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

A few questions that can cause us confusion and loss of joy; which two disciples, how did the donkey’s owner know that he should give the disciples the donkey, and which village is it, exactly? Answers: we aren’t told, we aren’t told and we aren’t told but possibly Bethany or Bethphage, based on the context but we aren’t told, specifically. I doubt it was either because between the synoptic gospels both Bethany and Bethphage are mentioned as is the phrase, “the village opposite.” We are not told, don’t lose your joy. It all worked out according to the prophet, Zechariah. This should give us great joy, it’s in the greater context! Jesus continues to fulfill the Old Testament tutor.

Notice; “Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, “BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’”’

Another prophecy fulfilled by Jesus as recorded by Matthew. Expository Exegesis of Examples demands that we take our Vitamin E and explore Zechariah 9. “But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” Now that is a Triumphal Entry! But I am getting way ahead of myself, again.

We will, Lord willing, examine this context closer, in the near future. For now we see Jesus literally fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, or at least we’re about to. We are building here, on a contextual foundation found in Matthew and the prophets. The King is coming, and it just so happens that he’s homeless and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

“And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid on them their garments, on which He sat.” Kudos to those two disciples who did as Jesus said. I know I sound sarcastic but I am not. In their obedience, they were part of fulfilment of prophetic words. They could have lost their joy and thought to themselves, “the pressure has finally got to him, now he’s asking us to steal a donkey! We are supposed to say, ‘the Lord needs it’, and they’ll give it to us?” But they were humble and relied on the words of Jesus. For those that demand application, there it is. Simply, humbly remember, these two disciples (by two or three witnesses shall everything be confirmed), listened to the Lord and didn’t take what he said out of context. That’s what we call a “shameless plug” for context being king. But context isn’t literally king, Jesus is and he is about to enter Jerusalem, “MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.”

His time has come! Their Messiah was now in their midst, entering the holy city of Jerusalem; on an ass. Again, I am not swearing, I literally mean donkey. Get your mind out of the gutter. Actually, keep it there for a moment. Why has ass become a swearword? Because donkeys are dumb (not literally), stubborn and a pain in the you-know-what. Therefore, people would refer to each other as donkeys when they were stubborn and such. What does this have to do with the context? Grant me a little latitude and I think it will be made crystal clear.

We have to remember that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah as he enters the city and we must understand how humble he was. Here is a miracle maker, a great teacher, a sinless man who withstood the wiles of the devil in the wilderness, entering Jerusalem, the holy city, riding a donkey. It’s not grandiose at all. Nothing could be more humble than this. A king, and not just a king, but the God of all creation and salvation, the King of Kings, riding on a young donkey? He should have been on a chariot driven by at least two purebred horses. Walking would have been better. At minimum, if no horsedrawn chariots were available, he could have ridden on a camel.

But alas, the King of kings and Lord of lords is about to make his “Triumphal Entry” on the foal of a donkey. Yes, it’s to fulfill prophecy, but couldn’t the prophecy have said, ” behold, your King is coming to you, lofty and exalted, riding on a golden chariot, drawn by holy horses?” Notice what the context of the prophecy states; “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

We notice first, to rejoice greatly, a good reason not to lose one’s joy. We also notice that the prophecy states, the King of kings is coming in humility and on an unbroken donkey. A colt, a foal; both terms used to describe a very young, “beast of burden.” Foal is a yearling and a colt is a young male. It appears that even Jesus riding into Jerusalem is a miracle in and of itself. He’s hopping on an unbroken donkey, ready to ride into Jerusalem. Aslo notice, he is “just,” or more literally, he is “vindicated.” Sometimes things do get lost in translation. The meaning here is not necessarily that Jesus brings justice, although he does do that. In this particular context, Jesus is just, that is that he has fulfilled all that Israel couldn’t. I know what you are thinking; “that is a stretch.” But considering the context, Matthew’s aspiration and an expository exegesis of our example; Zechariah 9:9, we will see the sublime string by digging just a bit deeper.

Zechariah 9 states that Jesus is just, endowed with salvation and humble. Yet Matthew states that Jesus is gentle. How do we explain this change of words? Don’t lose your joy, rather, “rejoice greatly.” Matthew, with his aspirations, has the liberty through the Holy Spirit to write, “gentle,” rather than “just” and “humble.” Wait, it gets better! We will begin with Matthew and work backwards.

“Gentle,” in the context of Matthew, can mean; meek, mild, humble or without war. Jesus doesn’t come provoking anyone, pointing fingers at people. He comes not on a chariot or a horse, prepared for battle, but on an ass, the most looked down upon animal. He doesn’t come with a sword or bow to engage the enemy–he has the disciples clothes for a saddle.

Now consider the context of Zechariah 9; “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Matthew meticulously and masterfully condensed Zechariah 9 with the help of the Holy Spirit. In Zechariah 9, “just” literally means, “vindicated and victorious.” Jesus didn’t come to wage war on the nations but to wage war on sin. He has come humbly to Jerusalem to fulfill his destiny–that which Israel could not do–that which none of us can do–Jesus is doing, not on a horse, but on a donkey, just like Zechariah said he would.

 

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