““Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”” (John 12:15, ESV)
John cites Zechariah 9.9 here when Jesus enters Jerusalem, pointing out that he fulfilled the Scriptures in the process [“just as it is written”]. Zechariah 9.9 reads:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem!
Look, your King is coming to you;
He is righteous and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (HCSB)
Jesus enters unexpectedly. The people culturally expected that a king would enter in triumph on something that demonstrated power and might like a war stallion. Jesus shows up on a young donkey. He is the gentle king.
Don Carson looks at the context of the prophesy of the gentle king in Zech 9.9 and points out three aspects of this gentle king:
- “ The coming of the gentle king is associated with the cessation of war: this, too, was understood by John as defining the work of Jesus in such a way that he could never be reduced to an enthusiastic Zealot. “
- “The coming of the gentle king is associated with the proclamation of peace to the nations, extending his reign to the ends of the earth. The latter half of Zechariah 9:10 is itself a quotation from Psalm 72:8, which promises a world-wide reign for Zion’s king, a son of David.”
- “The coming of the gentle king is associated with the blood of God’s covenant that spells release for prisoners—themes already precious to John (cf. 1:29, 34; 3:5; 6:35–58; 8:31–34), and associated with Passover and with the death of the servant-king that lies immediately ahead.” [emphasis added]
King Jesus’ coming meant that he would bring the beginning of the end for war; that he would proclaim peace to all the nations; and that the blood that would be soon shed spelled release for people from the imprisonment of their sins. This was only the beginning, true and lasting fulfillment awaits the second coming of King Jesus, but it was the beginning of the end for war, for conflict, for sin itself.