“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.” ~ Zechariah 9:9
Prophecy: Jerusalem will rejoice as the Messiah comes to her upon a donkey, yet he will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
Zechariah’s prophecy, written almost 600 years before the earthly ministry of Jesus, contains at least two distinct prophecies which are fulfilled dramatically during the Passion Week recorded in the New Testament. Meanwhile the latter portion of Psalm 118, known as a Hallel psalm, includes a prophetic scene that was fulfilled almost 900 years later! What are we to make of these prophecies and why do they matter? In order to answer these questions, let me invite you to consider the following three categories: prophetic accuracy, prophetic affirmation, and prophetic application.
Simply put, the prophecies in these passages are stunning in terms of their specificity and accuracy. In Zechariah 9:9, we read of a coming righteous King who brings salvation. Specifically, He is described as One who is humble and who rides on a donkey, even more specifically, the foal of a donkey. When we fast-forward to the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 21:1-10, we discover that Jesus requisitioned a donkey (verses 1-4). Then, Matthew proceeded to quote Zechariah 9:9 directly in order to emphasize that such a requisition is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Reading further in Matthew 21, we may observe how verses 8-9 reflect a remarkable similarity to Psalm 118:25-26, where the psalmist declared, “Save us, we pray,” (Hosanna) and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”
Additionally, in Zechariah 11:12-13, we find references to “thirty pieces of silver” and “the potter,” which foreshadow and find their fulfillment in Judas’ betrayal of our Lord. Following the demise of Judas, Matthew 27:6-10 details the deliberations of the chief priests and their decision to purchase, with Judas’ thirty pieces of returned silver, the “potter’s field.”
Such prophetic accuracy establishes a basis for some profound prophetic affirmations. First, we can affirm that these biblical prophecies and, in fact, all of Scripture, function to prove the claims of Jesus and reveal His person and work. Scripture is truly Christ-centered. Through it, we may begin to understand Jesus as He wants us to understand Him!
Secondly, these prophecies affirm that Jesus does not conform to human expectations. Generally, the people of Israel expected their Messiah to be a conquering military king riding on a white horse who would rid them of an oppressive Roman yoke. Instead, what they got was a peaceful, humble, and gentle servant riding on a beast of burden.
Two more affirmations may be discerned from the aftermath of Judas’ betrayal and the actions of the chief priests regarding the thirty pieces of silver. These events underscore the reality that Jesus was innocent and condemned unjustly. However, at the same time, while not excusing the culpability of plotting religious leaders, the same events affirm that the circumstances surrounding the persecution and crucifixion of Jesus were all under the sovereign control of God. One commentator astutely observes that what happened was “God’s stratagem against Satan for the saving of your souls.”
Finally, it is appropriate that we ask the “so what” questions. How should these prophecies influence our lives? How may they enhance our understanding and appreciation of the crucified and risen Son of God?
First, we should prize all of Scripture as accurate, compelling, and transforming. In contrast to the heretical idea of “unhitching” ourselves from the Old Testament, treat all of your Bible as the treasure it is and which certifies the testimony of King Jesus. Augustine, the early church Father, wisely observed the distinct connection between the Old and New Testaments. He wrote: “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.”
A second application from these prophecies is simply that people need more than positive thoughts about Jesus. During His prophesied Triumphal Entry, there were people there who, no doubt, had positive thoughts regarding Jesus and were curious about his ministry. They were not entirely ignorant of Him and neither were they openly opposed to Him. What we must understand is that, in light of the clear testimony of Scripture, Jesus is the crucified and risen Son of God. He is the sole focus of saving faith. Therefore, positive thoughts are insufficient by themselves. His conquest and preeminence call for the worshipful bowing and bending of knees!
Finally, in terms of applications, these prophecies indicate in a profound manner the fact the God is in control. As a wise veteran pastor once reminded me: “God is never the victim of circumstances.” Armed with that reality, we can be assured that, even in the darkest of our circumstances, God will never abandon us and that He will not fail to accomplish His purposes in our lives.
Questions for Thought
- What expectations or conceptions of Jesus do you have that may need to be corrected by Scripture?
- Why is the biblical emphasis on the absolute innocence of Jesus significant for all believers?
Because of the accuracy and affirmation of biblical prophecies, treasure the Lord Jesus Christ to which they testify by thanking Him in prayer.
Dr. Matthew McKellar
After serving as a pastor in Texas churches for 28 years, Matthew McKellar joined the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009, where he currently serves as Professor of Preaching and George W. Truett Chair of Ministry. Matthew and his wife, Jennifer, are members of First Baptist and he is also the teacher of the Sonburst Class. They are the parents of three daughters and have nine grandchildren.