For much of Jesus’ public ministry, He withdrew Himself from the crowds. Indeed, He kept much of His work veiled. Bible teachers have considered the various reasons why He did this, but one of the central ideas was this: the people expected a militaristic national leader to lead them into a period of peace. Jesus is a king. And indeed, as Scripture has revealed, He is a valiant warrior. But the time was not ripe for such a king. Christ’s war-horse was not to be used in triumphal entry in Matthew 21:1-11. Instead, Jesus came into Jerusalem riding upon a colt.
We live in culture marked by various symbolic actions. If you were at a restaurant and you happened to behold a young man getting down on one knee, and he pulled out a little black box from his pocket, we would not assume that this was the bill. No, we recognize from his posture, and his actions that this is a wedding proposal. Cultures may be as varied as there are colors in a Crayola box, but every culture has symbolic actions, and this action of Christ from the text is saturated in symbolic meaning.
God’s mercy is revealed to us in our text. He does not leave us to our wits to figure the meanings behind these symbolic actions. In this story, God provides two points of encouragement. Firstly, we find that the disciples (as has become far too common) missed the significance of the event or symbolic action of Jesus riding on a colt. John writes in his gospel, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.” (John 12:16 ESV) Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, neither the Apostles, ourselves, or any other human being would ever catch the significance of any of God’s redemptive actions in the world. God provides redemptive words to accommodate His redemptive acts.
Secondly, Matthew tells us that Christ’s symbolic action, in riding this colt, was the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. He tells us in Matthew 21:4 we receive the phrase, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet…” (ESV) We are meant to think of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9. Both texts focus on God’s restoration of His broken and sinful people by His hand. Both texts elicit hope. But it is the passage of Zechariah 9 in particular, that God hones us in on a promise over five hundred years in the making, the promise of God’s coming king.
Our passage reminds us of this foundational truth: God is always faithful in keeping His promises. Jesus’ grand declaration to the world that He was the long-awaited king and Messiah did not begin on this day in Jerusalem. Nor did the promise begin back in Zechariah 9. But God’s promise went all the way back, thousands of years before Jesus, at God’s appearing before Abraham, the man of faith. Abraham, a former pagan, and 99 years old at the time, was promised these words, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” (Gen. 17:6 ESV) Christ’s momentous ride was the fulfillment of this grand covenantal promise (cf. Matt. 1:1). Christ Jesus is the long-awaited king. He’s my king. He’s your king. He is the king over every soul that lives. So let us live as those whose citizenship reflects our king. Our world needs to know this king today. Our hearts need to know that He reigns today. Reflect Him to those around you. Know your king in His splendor and rejoice by hoping in His holy name.
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