Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion - See this prophecy explained on Matthew 21:5; (note).
Behold, thy King cometh - Not Zerubbabel, for he was never king; nor have they had a king, except Jesus the Christ, from the days of Zedekiah to the present time.
He is just - The righteous One, and the Fountain of righteousness.
Having salvation - He alone can save from sin, Satan, death, and hell.
Lowly - Without worldly pomp or splendor; for neither his kingdom, nor that of his followers, is of this world.
Riding upon an ass - God had commanded the kings of Israel not to multiply horses. The kings who broke this command were miserable themselves, and scourgers to their people. Jesus came to fulfill the law. Had he in his title of king rode upon a horse, it would have been a breach of a positive command of God; therefore, he rode upon an ass, and thus fulfilled the prophecy, and kept the precept unbroken. Hence it is immediately added: -
From the protection, which God promised to His people and to His House, the prophet passes on to Him who was ever in his thoughts, and for whose sake that people and temple were preserved. He had described the great conqueror of this world, sweeping along in his course of victory. In contrast with such as he, he now exhibits to his people the character and procession of their king. “Rejoice greatly.” Not with this world‘s joy. God never exhorts man to “rejoice greatly” in this world‘s fleeting joys. He allows us to be glad, as children, before Him; He permits such buoyancy of heart, if innocent; but He does not command it. “Now” He commands His people to burst out into a jubilee of rejoicing: they were to dance and shout for gladness of spirit; “despising the poor exultation of this world and exulting with that exceeding” yet chaste joy, which befits the true bliss to be brought by their King and Saviour. Rup.: “This word, ‹greatly,‘ means that there should be no measure whatever in their exultation; for the exultation of the children of the bridegroom is far unlike to the exultation of the children of this world.” Cyril: “He biddeth the spiritual Zion rejoice, inasmuch as dejection was removed. For what cause of sorrow is there, when sin has been removed, death trampled under foot, and human nature called to the dignity of freedom, and crowned with the grace of adoption and illumined with the heavenly gift?”
Behold, thy king cometh unto thee - He does not say “a king,” but “‹thy‘ king;” thy king, thine own, the long-promised, the long-expected; He who, when they had kings of their own, given them by God, had been promised as “the” king; “the righteous Ruler among men” 2 Samuel 23:3, of the seed of David; He who, above all other kings, was “their” King and Savior; whose kingdom was to absorb in itself all kingdoms of the earth; “the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Her king was to come “to her.” He was in a manner then “of her,” and “not of her;” “of her,” since He was to be “her king,” “not of her,” since He was to “come to her.” As Man, He was born of her: as God, the Word made flesh, He “came to” her. “‹To thee,‘ to be manifest unto thee; ‹to be thine by communion of nature‘ 1 Timothy 3:16; ‹as He is thine, by the earnest of the Eternal Spirit and the gift of the Father, to procure thy good‘ Hebrews 2:14. ‹Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given‘ Isaiah 9:6.” Of this, His entry into Jerusalem was an image. But how should he come? “He shall come to thee,” says an old Jewish writing,, “to atone thee; He shall come to thee, to upraise thee; He shall come to thee, to raise thee up to His temple, and to espouse thee with an everlasting espousal.”
He is just and having salvation - Just or righteous, and the Fountain of justice or righteousness. For what He is, “that” He diffuseth. Righteousness which God “Is,” and righteousness which God, made Man, imparts, are often blended in Holy Scripture. Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Malachi 4:2. This is also the source of the exceeding joy. For the coming of their king in righteousness would be, to sinful man, a cause, not of joy but of fear. This was the source of the Angel‘s message of joy; “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour” Luke 2:10-11.
He is just - Dionysius: “Because in the Divine Nature, He is the Fountain of all holiness and justice.” “As Thou art righteous Thyself, Thou orderest all things righteously. For Thy power is the beginning of righteousness”. According to the nature which He took, He was also most just; for He ever sought the glory of the Father, and “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His Mouth” 1 Peter 2:22. In the way also of justice He satisfied for people, delivering Himself for their faults to the pain of the most bitter death, to satisfy the honor of the Divine Majesty, so that sin should not remain unpunished. Hence, He saith of Himself; “He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” John 7:18. Of whom also Stephen said to the Jews, “Your fathers slew them which showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers” Acts 7:52.
Righteousness is an awful attribute of God. It is a glory and perfection of His Being, for the perfect to gaze on and adore. Mercy, issuing in our salvation, is the attribute which draws us sinners. And this lies in the promise that He should “come to them,” however the one word נושׁע nôsha‛ be rendered. The meaning of such a prophecy as this is secure, independent of single words. The whole context implies, that He should come as a ruler and deliverer, whether the word נושׁע nôsha‛ signify “endued with salvation” (whereas the old versions rendered it, “Saviour”), or whether it be, “saved.” For as He came, not for Himself but for us, so, in as far as He could be said to be saved, He was “saved,” not for Himself but for us. Of our Lord, as Man, it is, in like way, said, “Thou shalt not leave His soul in Hell” Psalm 16:10, or, “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” Acts 2:24.
As Man, He was raised from the dead; as God, He raised Himself from the dead, for our sakes, for whom He died. For us, He was born a Saviour; for us, He was endued with salvation; for us, He was saved from being held of death; in like way as, of His Human Nature, the Apostle says, “He was heard, in that He feared” Hebrews 5:7. To us, as sinners, it is happiest to hear of the Saviour; but the most literal meaning “saved” has its own proper comfort: for it implies the Sufferings, by which that salvation was procured, and so it contains a hint of the teaching by Isaiah, “He was taken from oppression and from judgment;” upon which that same wide reign follows, of which David, in his picture of the Passion Psalm 22:27-28, and Isaiah Isaiah 53:10-12 prophesy. Osorius: “This ‹saved‘ does not imply, that He obtained salvation for His own otherwise than from Himself. “Mine own arm,” He saith in Isaiah, “brought salvation unto Me” Isaiah 63:5. But its Man, He obtained salvation from the indwelling Godhead. For when He destroyed the might of death, when, rising from the dead, He ascended into heaven, when He took on Him the everlasting kingdom of heaven and earth, He obtained salvation from the glory of the Father, that is, from His own Divinity, to impart it to all His. The Hebrew word then in no way diminishes the amplitude of His dignity. For we confess, that the Human Nature of Christ had that everlasting glory added to It from His Divine Nature, so that He should not only be Himself adorned with those everlasting gifts, but should became the cause of everlasting salvation to all who obey Him.”
Lowly - Outward lowliness of condition, is, through the grace of God, the best fosterer of the inward. The word “lowly” wonderfully expresses the union of both; lowness of outward state with lowliness of soul. The Hebrew word expresses the condition of one, who is bowed down, brought low through oppression, affliction, desolation, poverty, persecution, bereavement; but only if at the same time, he had in him the fruit of all these, in lowliness of mind, submission to God, piety. Thus, our Lord pronounces the blessedness of “the poor” and “the poor in spirit,” that is, poor in estate, who are poor in soul also. But in no case does it express lowliness of mind without lowness of condition. One lowly, who was not afflicted, would never be so called. The prophet then declares that their king should come to them in a poor condition, “stricken, smitten, and afflicted” Isaiah 53:4, and with the special grace of that condition, meekness, gentleness and lowliness of soul; and our Lord bids us, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart” Matthew 11:29. Dionysius: “He saith of Himself in the Gospel, ‹The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head‘ Matthew 8:20. ‹For though He was rich, He for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich‘ 2 Corinthians 8:9.”
Lowly and riding upon an ass - Kings of the earth ride in state. The days were long since by, when the sons of the judges rode on asses Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14. Even then the more distinguished rode on “white” (that is, roan) Judges 5:10 asses. The mule, as a taller animal, was used by David 1 Kings 1:33, 1 Kings 1:38, 1 Kings 1:44 and his sons 2 Samuel 13:29; 2 Samuel 18:9, while asses were used for his household 2 Samuel 16:2, and by Ziba, Shimei, Mephibosheth, Ahitophel, 2 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 19:26; 1 Kings 2:40, and, later, by the old prophet of Bethel 1 Kings 13:13, 1 Kings 13:23, 1 Kings 13:27. David had reserved horses for 100 chariots, 2 Samuel 8:4, after the defeat of the Syrians, but he himself did not use them. Absalom employed “chariots and horses” 2 Samuel 15:1 as part of his pomp, when preparing to displace his father; and Solomon multiplied them 1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chronicles 1:14; 2 Chronicles 9:25. He speaks of it as an indignity or reverse; “I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking, as servants, upon the earth” Ecclesiastes 10:7.
The burial of an ass became a proverb for a disgraced end Jeremiah 22:19. There is no instance in which a king rode on an ass, save He whose kingdom was not of this world. The prophecy, then, was framed to prepare the Jews to expect a prophet-king, not a king of this world. Their eyes were fixed on this passage. In the Talmud, in their traditional interpretations, and in their mystical books, they dwelt on these words. The mention of the ass, elsewhere, seemed to them typical of this ass, on which their Messiah should ride. “If a man in a dream seeth an ass,” says the Talmud, “he shall see salvation.” It is an instance of prophecy which, humanly speaking, a false Messiah could have fulfilled, but which, from its nature, none would fulfill, save the True. For “their” minds were set on earthly glory and worldly greatness: it would have been inconsistent with the claims of one, whose kingdom was of this world.
It belonged to the character of Him, who was buffeted, mocked, scourged, spit upon, crucified, died for us, and rose again. It was divine humiliation, which in the purpose of God, was to be compensated by divine power. In itself it would, if insulated, have been unmeaning. The Holy Spirit prophesied it, Jesus fulfilled it, to show the Jews, of what nature His kingdom was. Hence, the challenge;, “Let us look at the prophecy, that in words, and that in act. What is the prophecy? “Lo, thy king cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and upon a colt;” not driving chariots as other kings, not in pomp nor attended by guards, but showing herein also all gentleness. Ask the Jew then, What king, riding on an ass, came to Jerusalem? He could name none, save this One alone.” An ancient writer says,, “The Greeks too” (not the Jews only) “will laugh at us, saying, that ‹The God of the Christians, who is called Christ, sat upon an ass.‘” The same mockery was probably intended by Sapor king of Persia, which the Jews met with equal pride.
The taunt continues until now.: “It is not hid from you, O congregation of Christians, that ‹rider upon an ass‘ indicates Christ.” The Mohammedans appropriate the title “rider upon a camel” to Mohammad, as the grander animal. The taunt of worshiping “Him who sat upon an ass” was of the same class as those of the worship of the Crucified;, “one dead and crucified, who could not save himself;” “a crucified Man,” “that great Man,” or (if it suited them so to speak) “that great sophist who was crucified,” but who now, for above 1800 years, reigns, “to all, the King; to all, the Judge; to all, Lord and God.” “Christ did not only fulfill prophecies or plant the doctrines of truth, but did thereby also order our life for us, everywhere laying down for us rules of necessary use and, by all, correcting our life.” Even Jews, having rejected our Lord, saw this. “Not from poverty,” says one, (Kimchi), “for behold the whole world shall be in his power - but from humility he will ride upon an ass; and further to show that Israel (namely, the establishment of His kingdom or Church) shall not lack horse nor chariot: therefore it is added, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem.” And another;, “He, that is, thy true king David, shall come to thee; and he mentions of his qualities that he shall be “righteous and נושׁע nôsha‛ in his wars; but his salvation shall not be from strength of his wars, for he shall come “lowly” and “riding upon an ass.” “And riding on an ass,” this is not on account of his want, but to show that peace and truth shall be in his days; and therefore he says immediately, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem;” namely, that such shall be the peace and stillness in the world, that in Ephraim (that is, the tribes) and in Jerusalem (that is, the kingdom of Judah) they shall “trust” no more in horse and in rider, but “in the name of God.” And because it is the way of princes and chiefs to take example from the life of their kings, and to do as they, therefore he saith, that when the king Messiah rideth upon an ass, and “has no pleasure in the strength of a horse,” there will be no other in Jerusalem or the lands of the tribes, who will have pleasure in riding on a horse. And therefore he says, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem;” and he assigns the reason for this, when he says, “And the battlebow shall be cut off and he shall speak peace among the nations,” that is, there shall be no more war in the world, because he shall “speak peace unto the nations, and by the word of his lips he shall dispose peace unto them.” Isaiah 26:12.
And upon a colt, the foal of an ass - The word rendered “colt,” as with us, signifies the young, as yet unbroken animal. In the fulfillment, our Lord directed His disciples to find “an ass tied, and a colt with her, whereon never man sat” Matthew 21:2; Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30. The prophet foretold that He would ride on both animals; our Lord, by commanding both to be brought, showed that the prophet had a special meaning in naming both. Matthew relates that both were employed. “They brought the ass and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon.” The untrained colt, an appendage to its mother, was a yet humbler animal. But as the whole action was a picture of our Lord‘s humility and of the unearthliness of His kingdom, so, doubtless, His riding upon the two animals was a part of that picture. There was no need of two animals to bear our Lord for that short distance. John notices especially, “These things understood not His disciples at the first” John 12:16. The ass, an unclean stupid debased ignoble drudge, was in itself a picture of unregenerate man, a slave to his passions and to devils, toiling under the load of ever-increasing sin. But, of man, the Jew had been under the yoke and was broken; the Gentiles were the wild unbroken colt. Both were to be brought under obedience to Christ.
I was shown the disappointment of the disciples as they came to the sepulcher and found not the body of Jesus. Mary said, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” Angels told the sorrowing disciples that their Lord had risen, and would go before them into Galilee. EW 244.1
In like manner I saw that Jesus regarded with the deepest compassion the disappointed ones who had waited for His coming; and He sent His angels to direct their minds that they might follow Him where He was. He showed them that this earth is not the sanctuary, but that He must enter the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to make an atonement for His people and to receive the kingdom from His Father, and that He would then return to the earth and take them to dwell with Him forever. The disappointment of the first disciples well represents the disappointment of those who expected their Lord in 1844. EW 244.2
I was carried back to the time when Christ rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. The joyful disciples believed that He was then to take the kingdom and reign a temporal prince. They followed their King with high hopes. They cut down the beautiful palm branches, and took off their outer garments, and with enthusiastic zeal spread them in the way; and some went before, and others followed, crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” The excitement disturbed the Pharisees, and they wished Jesus to rebuke His disciples. But He said unto them, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” The prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 must be fulfilled; yet the disciples were doomed to a bitter disappointment. In a few days they followed Jesus to Calvary, and beheld Him bleeding and mangled upon the cruel cross. They witnessed His agonizing death and laid Him in the tomb. Their hearts sank with grief; their expectations were not realized in a single particular, and their hopes died with Jesus. But as He arose from the dead and appeared to His sorrowing disciples, their hopes revived. They had found Him again. EW 244.3Read in context »
On the way from the temple they were met by a throng who came with their sick inquiring for the Great Healer. The report given by the fleeing people caused some of these to turn back. They feared to meet One so powerful, whose very look had driven the priests and rulers from His presence. But a large number pressed through the hurrying crowd, eager to reach Him who was their only hope. When the multitude fled from the temple, many had remained behind. These were now joined by the newcomers. Again the temple court was filled by the sick and the dying, and once more Jesus ministered to them. DA 592.1
After a season the priests and rulers ventured back to the temple. When the panic had abated, they were seized with anxiety to know what would be the next movement of Jesus. They expected Him to take the throne of David. Quietly returning to the temple, they heard the voices of men, women, and children praising God. Upon entering, they stood transfixed before the wonderful scene. They saw the sick healed, the blind restored to sight, and deaf receive their hearing, and the crippled leap for joy. The children were foremost in the rejoicing. Jesus had healed their maladies; He had clasped them in His arms, received their kisses of grateful affection, and some of them had fallen asleep upon His breast as He was teaching the people. Now with glad voices the children sounded His praise. They repeated the hosannas of the day before, and waved palm branches triumphantly before the Saviour. The temple echoed and re-echoed with their acclamations, “Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation!” Psalm 118:26; Zechariah 9:9. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” DA 592.2
The sound of these happy, unrestrained voices was an offense to the rulers of the temple. They set about putting a stop to such demonstrations. They represented to the people that the house of God was desecrated by the feet of the children and the shouts of rejoicing. Finding that their words made no impression on the people, the rulers appealed to Christ: “Hearest Thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” Prophecy had foretold that Christ should be proclaimed as king, and that word must be fulfilled. The priests and rulers of Israel refused to herald His glory, and God moved upon the children to be His witnesses. Had the voices of the children been silent, the very pillars of the temple would have sounded the Saviour's praise. DA 592.3Read in context »
When the procession reached the brow of the hill, and was about to descend into the city, Jesus halted, and all the multitude with Him. Before them lay Jerusalem in its glory, now bathed in the light of the declining sun. The temple attracted all eyes. In stately grandeur it towered above all else, seeming to point toward heaven as if directing the people to the only true and living God. The temple had long been the pride and glory of the Jewish nation. The Romans also prided themselves in its magnificence. A king appointed by the Romans had united with the Jews to rebuild and embellish it, and the emperor of Rome had enriched it with his gifts. Its strength, richness, and magnificence had made it one of the wonders of the world. DA 575.1
While the westering sun was tinting and gilding the heavens, its resplendent glory lighted up the pure white marble of the temple walls, and sparkled on its gold-capped pillars. From the crest of the hill where Jesus and His followers stood, it had the appearance of a massive structure of snow, set with golden pinnacles. At the entrance to the temple was a vine of gold and silver, with green leaves and massive clusters of grapes executed by the most skillful artists. This design represented Israel as a prosperous vine. The gold, silver, and living green were combined with rare taste and exquisite workmanship; as it twined gracefully about the white and glistening pillars, clinging with shining tendrils to their golden ornaments, it caught the splendor of the setting sun, shining as if with a glory borrowed from heaven. DA 575.2
Jesus gazes upon the scene, and the vast multitude hush their shouts, spellbound by the sudden vision of beauty. All eyes turn upon the Saviour, expecting to see in His countenance the admiration they themselves feel. But instead of this they behold a cloud of sorrow. They are surprised and disappointed to see His eyes fill with tears, and His body rock to and fro like a tree before the tempest, while a wail of anguish bursts from His quivering lips, as if from the depths of a broken heart. What a sight was this for angels to behold! their loved Commander in an agony of tears! What a sight was this for the glad throng that with shouts of triumph and the waving of palm branches were escorting Him to the glorious city, where they fondly hoped He was about to reign! Jesus had wept at the grave of Lazarus, but it was in a godlike grief in sympathy with human woe. But this sudden sorrow was like a note of wailing in a grand triumphal chorus. In the midst of a scene of rejoicing, where all were paying Him homage, Israel's King was in tears; not silent tears of gladness, but tears and groans of insuppressible agony. The multitude were struck with a sudden gloom. Their acclamations were silenced. Many wept in sympathy with a grief they could not comprehend. DA 575.3Read in context »