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Last updated March 17.

March 17, 2014 issue

Tags: Bible

A donkey, not a warhorse

March 30 — Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:1-11

By Patrick Nafziger

Zechariah offers good news for a people at war. Their deliverer has come! His feet have trod on the necks of his enemies, and his followers can rest in the knowledge that their world has been set right. God’s anointed one is for them, and he is victorious! God is on their side!

In ancient times, a king who rode a donkey was a king who came in peace. A king who rode a donkey had exchanged his war-horse for a beast of burden.

But when Jesus claimed this imagery, it was before, not after, a battle of great importance. He wasn’t interested in fighting battles (at least not physical ones). He was interested in reinterpreting what would have been a familiar narrative of Messianic salvation.

He came riding on a donkey, not a warhorse.

But that’s not exactly comforting to a people still oppressed by Roman occupation. I can imagine they would have preferred Zechariah’s version.

There are times I would, too.

But the truth of the matter is, enemies are destroyed more completely through the saving power of sacrificial love than through brute force. This is a truth that’s become so familiar to most of us that we lose track of its subversive nature. Jesus was victorious on his way to the cross!

It’s more than mere symbolism that he’s going to be a different kind of king with a different kind of kingdom. It’s a declaration that the battle is over, and he has won.

It’s subversive. It’s radical. The victorious Jesus stretches and frays the delicate fabric of our social and religious etiquette to the tearing point. But it seems that the message Jesus sends is clear.

The battle is over, and he is the victor.

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