Ride on to Die: Iain M. Duguid on Zechariah 9 and Palm Sunday

In my last post, I noted Iain M. Duguid’s erudite description of the procession of the Messianic king in Zechariah 9.  Since, however, the format of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi in the EP Study Commentary Series devotes a separate section entirely to “application” of text, I thought it beneficial to devote a separate post to Duguid’s application of this passage.

I’ve always noted that the “Triumphal Entry” of our Lord Jesus Christ is quite paradoxical.  This paradox is well summed up in the hymn:

Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die.

Christ does indeed enter Jerusalem as the victor, but he does not come as one who has already achieved this victory, but as one who is about to wage the war that will result in victory.  He enters to make peace even though there is still a final battle to fight.  Christ enters Jerusalem not to be lifted up in glory, but to be lifted up in shame.

How does this fit with Zechariah’s portrayal of a Messianic king who forgoes an entrance in battle array?  Duguid explains:

The coming king is a king of peace for his people: he has come to take away the chariots and war horses, break the battle bow, proclaim peace to the nations and salvation to his own.  Yet for their oppressors he would not be a king of peace.  Instead, the Lord would appear as the divine Warrior, sounding the bugle to advance against them, shooting his deadly arrows, destroying and pouring out blood in abundance.  By destroying their enemies, he will redeem and shepherd his people. (pg. 152)

Indeed, though Zech 9.10 states, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem,” the Messiah does come for battle: “For I will surely bend Judah as my bow and fill it with Ephraim” (Zech 9.13; Note – translations are Duguid’s).  The Messianic entrance does not mean there is smooth sailing ahead.

Duguid does a fine job of tying Zechariah 9 to Palm Sunday:

This passage forms the background to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The crowds and the disciples saw the coming king and thought that there would be a straightforward road to victory.  Jesus knew how that mission would be accomplished, though.  On the night before his death, as they sat down to the Passover meal, he said to his disciples, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for may for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matt. 26:28).  The blood that would be shed to bring us peace was his blood.  The righteous King had to die in place of his unrighteous followers, the Good Shepherd in place of his unfaithful flock, so that God could accomplish his eternal purposes.  (pg. 153)

Though one day there will be a triumphal entry, Palm Sunday is not that day.  The good news of Easter Sunday will arrive, but Good Friday comes first.  Indeed, Easter itself is not the consummation of Christ’s victory.  Christ will one day process in victory, welcomed into the city by his saints who will go out to meet him “in the clouds” (1 Thess 4.17) and wave palm branches while crying out: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7.9-10).  Duguid writes:

There is another day coming, when the same King will return – no longer seated on a donkey, but on the white warhorse (Rev. 19:11-16).  He will come to smash his enemies once and for all, including the last enemy, death itself.  On that day, he will crush all those who oppose him and set all his prisoners of hope free.  The king is coming!  Blessed indeed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  (pg. 153)

Duguid reminds us of the comfort we can have as we await that day in hope:

In the meantime, as we experience a world of waterless pits and hostile foes, we care called to wait for this return with hope, confident that our King will come in victory to bring about our full salvation and the final establishment of his kingdom in all its glory. (pg. 153)

What more can we say?  Amen – come quickly Lord Jesus!