“See, your king comes to you… riding on a donkey.” Zechariah 9: 9
In ancient days after winning a war, the victorious king would often take a procession in the capital city of the defeated nation. This is to proclaim the defeat of the incumbent king and to establish and install the new king over the kingdom. Looking at the jubilant procession, people would know that this is their new king.
This custom is practiced when a prince succeeds his father as the next king. King David while making his son, Solomon, king over Israel, tells the priest, “have Solomon my son, mount my own mule, and take him down to Gihon… [and] anoint him king over Israel” (1 Kings 1: 33 & 34). A procession on the royal mule surrounded by the priest, prophet and other trusted aides of the king, was a sign to the people that it was king David who made his heir, Solomon, the new king.
We see the same phenomenon when Joseph was installed as the second-in-command of Egypt. “Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger… He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command” (Gen 41: 42 & 43). When Mordecai was honoured by the king, he was taken in a similar procession in the king’s horse around the city (Esther 6: 8).
A royal procession is a sign of authority and is done with the intent to establish authority.
Jesus seems to be doing the same thing on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He had been to Jerusalem before, but this time He had a decisive plan – a plan to fulfil the purpose for which He came to earth. He purposively travels to Jerusalem and asks His disciples to find a donkey (Matt 21: 2). He rides on the donkey surrounded by the disciples. Then the crowd which accepted His proclamation as King, joined Him in the chorus to sing – “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt 21: 9).
But sadly, this proclamation elicited a mute response from those who were in power. They plotted to kill Him and rebelled against His kingship.
His disciples were not very far from misunderstanding Jesus’ kingship. They failed to understand the true nature of His kingship. They were expecting Jesus to overpower the Romans. But Jesus was on a kingly procession only to be crucified, so that He could save mankind from the clutches of sin.