The Meaning of the Triumphal Entry: Part 2
© 04.26.11 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the April 28 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
The primary obstacle to understanding biblical prophecy is a faulty interpretive presupposition; it is wrong to decide the meaning of a text before actually reading it. Believing we live in the last days, many Christians assume obscure prophetic passages always pertain to twenty-first century events. Such is often the case with the book of Zechariah.
However, Zechariah's goal is not to provide “history in advance” for the modern Christian, but to assure the covenant community that history is under God's control and that God arranges events on behalf of his people. Moreover, the prophet provides insight concerning the character of the messianic king. Lest the believing remnant lose hope in the covenant promises, Zechariah points out that all history is ordered in a way to bring forth the Son of David.
From a human perspective, there was every reason for Alexander the Great to replicate his treatment of Tyre and Gaza when dealing with recalcitrant Jerusalem. Under the influence of Jaddua the high priest, the Jews remained loyal to Darius and refused to submit to the the Macedonian upstart. Yet 200 years before, God had promised, I will surround my temple to protect it like a guard from anyone crossing back and forth; so no one will cross over against them anymore as an oppressor, for now I myself have seen it (Zechariah 9:8). Protection was given for a specific purpose. God intended to preserve a remnant from which the messianic king would come. Thus, Alexander crossed back and forth on the way to and from Egypt but did not cross over against them anymore as an oppressor.
The juxtaposition of this description of Alexander’s conquest of the Levant and God's shelter of Jerusalem, alongside a presentation of the Triumphal Entry, serves to highlight the infinite power of the Humble King. Zechariah 9:10 can be translated as, Daughter Zion, rejoice! Daughter Jerusalem, shout with joy! Look, your king is coming to you! He is the good king who won the victory, but he is humble. He is riding on a donkey, on a young donkey born from a work animal. Zechariah said Jesus “won the victory” but victory over what? After all, verse ten is a prophetic description of an event that took place prior to Christ’s death and resurrection.
We are often culpable of limiting Jesus' victory to his conquest of sin and death through his crucifixion and resurrection. Yet, to do so makes us guilty of diminishing the majesty of our Lord. In truth, Christ has been victorious throughout the ages. Indeed, he himself existed before anything else did, and he holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). This passage may also be translated to say, he existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. All things hold together and have their proper place in Jesus Christ. God the Eternal Son, controls the mind of a king as easily as he directs the course of a stream (Proverbs 21:1), and the behavior of Alexander in 333 B.C. was determined by God just as surely as the sun rises at his command (Matthew 5:45).
Therefore, the Triumphal Entry was an affirmation of the omnipotence of the carpenter from Nazareth. He had ordered history in such a way that it led to his coming to Jerusalem that day in fulfillment of prophecy. To those who understood Zechariah, the event would have been a source of strength in the dark days of Christ's death and sojourn in the tomb. It would have been a reminder that the one who controlled history would also conquer sin and death. The humble King had always overcome all opposition. The prophets foretold it. Jesus affirmed it. The empty tomb dispelled any lingering shadow of doubt.