Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey — even on a donkey’s colt.
Zechariah 9:9 NLT
The kings of the earth are called by many names, such as pharaohs, monarchs, emperors, czars, sultans and chiefs.
Kings of the earth are born in palaces, castles, tents and fortresses.
Kings of the earth are described as authoritative, wealthy, forceful, powerful, self-centered, arrogant and even boastful.
On this Palm Sunday, we see a different kind of king entering Jerusalem. This king comes with a different pedigree, persona and purpose.
This king is righteous. He is “morally right” or “justifiable.” He has lived his short life on earth of 33 years, being known for always doing the right thing, for doing good.
What is the right thing? Is it just what you do or is it who you are? The righteous works that you do spring from the right heart that you possess.
This king’s righteousness far exceeded any character-trait ever known. This king is righteous not just because he is morally right but because he is perfect in his love.
This king exemplifies all that God the Creator is in two active principles: Love God and love others like you love yourself. He demonstrated this in every turn from healing the blind, lame and deaf to contending with and correcting the religious establishment.
He even extended his righteous activity to the Roman oppressors, Greeks and others outside of his ethnic band. This was not the kind of king I had in mind. Neither did the people of that day.
This king is victorious. He is triumphant and a winner. As he enters the city, people are waving palm branches — the symbol of victory used when a king returns home from a triumphant battle.
This king was not seeking victory over the Roman empire, as some had hoped for. This king was not seeking victory to reassert Israel’s self-rule under his monarchy.
This king testified to Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. This king rode victoriously into Jerusalem to claim victory over a foe so feared and an enemy so dreaded that even the strongest king cowered as a child.
This king wrought victory over death, hell and the grave.
The apostle Paul from the other side of an empty tomb celebrates this king’s eternal victory with a taunt-like as from one who’s team remains undefeated: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV
Finally, this king is humble. He shows a “modest or low estimate of his own importance.” In the times of his day, and indeed in our own, this is an infrequently seen character quality.
This humble king rode victoriously into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a royal steed. He came with a purpose: to submit to and fulfill the will of his heavenly Father. Life has a way of bringing us some amazing and unexpected things. We didn’t expect our King to be born in a manger.
We didn’t expect our King to be a bi-vocational carpenter and itinerant preacher.
We didn’t expect our King to ride in on a donkey.
We didn’t expect our King to be arrested on false charges.
We didn’t expect our King to be mocked and spat on.
We didn’t expect our King to be whipped and beaten.
We really didn’t expect our King to rise from the dead.
But then, Jesus is no ordinary king! Ride on, King Jesus!
William M. Campbell Jr. is pastor of Anderson Chapel AME Church in Killeen.