A reflection for Sunday 9th July 2023 by Canon Dean Fostekew

Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

   Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

   triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

   on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

That opening verse for Zachariah sounds very familiar to our ears as it echoes the readings we hear on Palm Sunday. Zachariah is predicting the coming of the promised Messiah centuries before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah also refers to the Messiah as ‘King’ - perhaps suggesting that the anointed one when he comes would be powerful and noticeably so.

I think reading Zechariah’s piece this morning I can see why many doubted who Jesus said he was. If you have grown up knowing Zechariah’s prophesy then Jesus was certainly not the type of messiah you might have been expecting. A Kingly Messiah sounds grand and imposing and one who would be able to sweep all things aside that stood in his way. Jesus didn’t conform to this expectation as God’s interpretation of what a Messiah is, is very different to what we humans might think he or she should be.

Jesus our Messiah is the ‘Servant King’ not the domineering dictator. Jesus came to serve and save us not to dominate and suppress our enemies. God’s ways are always far more subtle than humanity’s approach to things.

Zechariah predicted that the King, the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem as a victorious champion on a donkey. Riding on a donkey, a humble beast of burden seems a strange steed for the promised one to appear in Jerusalem on. However, in formal processions it was always the King who rode the donkey at the back of the procession in the place of honour. The most important person in the parade on the least important mount. In doing so attention was drawn to that person as being ‘man enough’ to ride the donkey in spite of that beast's humble origins. Only an all powerful man could seemingly debase himself without fear of being overthrown himself.

Jesus appeared in Jerusalem on a donkey echoing the kingly position he held but he rode the donkey as a true act of humility not dominance. He also rode the donkey alone and not in a might procession, a humble man on a humble beast. A servant entering the city to save his people from themselves if they could truly recognise who he was.

We all know how the story pans out from here on in, with Jesus dying on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for us, his friends and loved ones. He didn’t need any might fanfare or parade to win Jerusalem’s loyalty, it would be his life and his blood that would be gifted to us as an act of humble service in order to save us from ourselves.

The Gospel reading from Matthew this morning ends with the words:

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ ’’

in a way they tie today’s readings up very well. burdens are carried and rest promised in the love  of Jesus. Jesus from riding the beast of burden becomes the bearer of our burdens, the one who saves and helps us. His kingly yoke is freely offered and if accepted it will be found easy to bear because Jesus will always be there helping us carry our woes and sins, our suffering and our joys.

That’s the Messiah, the king I wish to follow and like St.Paul suggests, I will do it despite myself and my own failings because Jesus will help me. Just as he will help you too.