Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)
When I was eight years old I remember watching King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu’s coronation. The occasion began with troupes of dancers swaying and singing to the rhythm of the drums. Zulu warriors arrived, touting large cowhide shields and heavy broad bladed stabbing spears. Then Goodwill Zwelithini, bedecked in a leopard skin, made his appearance. Songs of praise swelled in volume as sweat-glistened dancers multiplied their efforts. Finally, after much pomp and ceremony, he was crowned. It was a magnificent spectacle accompanied by thousands of Zulus rising up and bellowing thunderous cries of “Bayeti, Nkosi!” (“We honour you king”).
Christ’s inauguration (if we might call it such), compared to those of modern day monarchs, was a simple affair. The courtiers and leading citizens of Israel didn’t lead the parade. He wore no fine robes and had none of the accoutrements of an Eastern monarch. Dressed in the garb of a priest, and in accordance with what was spoken through the prophets, He came, not on a fine horse or in a chariot, but “on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). Yet even though Christ’s inauguration was a modest affair, it was no less a royal affair. In choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, rather than on foot as He usually travelled, Jesus symbolically presented Himself as the “gentle” (Matthew 21:5) King, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Christ’s entry into the Holy City, coming as it did on the day appointed to bring peace to the nation, was celebrated by tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands according to the 1st Century Jewish historian, Yosef Ben Matityahu, i.e. the Roman citizen, Titus Flavius Josephus) of Jews from Judea and Galilee who were camped outside Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. The “very large crowd . . . cut branches from the trees,” and along with their cloaks, joyfully spread them on the road (Matthew 21:8). The red carpet treatment was accompanied with cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) … shouts of praise that reverberated through the hills and valleys.
Having crossed the Kidron Valley, Jesus entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate. “The whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:10-11). “Who is this?” It would seem from the crowd’s answer that although Christ presented Himself as the Prince of Peace; it was hidden from their eyes . . . for sadly and tragically, the Gentile writer, Doctor Luke, notes that they “did not recognize the time of God’s coming” (Luke 19:44).