Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’
Zechariah began to prophesy at the end of the exile, as God was preparing His people to return to their land and rebuild the temple. He called them to return to faithfulness and righteousness in the covenant that God had made with their fathers. At the beginning of chapter 9, Zechariah takes up the burden of the word of the Lord against the land of Hadrach, or Syria, and Damascus, it’s capital. The judgment of God was to fall heavily on Syria and the other surrounding nations who had oppressed and persecuted Israel.
He brings hope to Israel in the judgment of her enemies and in the hope of the coming king. He is a humble king, a king of peace who brings healing to His land and sets prisoners free. But He is also a king of the sword, flashing against His enemies like lightning, marching over them like a storm. The enemies become like the sacrificial offerings that were burned and eaten and whose blood covered the horns of the altar. God saves His people, regathers them as His flock and again pours out His blessing on them, nourishing them with bread and wine.
Mathew 21 shows the fulfillment of this coming king who rides into the city mounted on a donkey. There is a link between the leafy branches that the people cut and spread and the leafy branches of the fig tree that Jesus later curses. The people look like healthy trees, full of leaves, and from a distance seeming to carry much fruit with their crying out of praise and blessing. But, as with the fig tree, the people are nothing but leaves. They do not recognize Him as king, but only a prophet from Galilee, a wonder-worker. They put on a great show of religion but have no faith, as is shown by the practices going on in the temple when He went in and cleared out the thieves’ den. The fig tree stands in as “this mountain”, the mountain on which Jerusalem stood, which He told his disciples to pray would “be taken up and thrown into the sea.” The city of Jerusalem became the persecutors on whom the judgment would fall.
The chief priests and elders, the leaders and representatives of the city, questioned the authority of Jesus in their unbelief. He questioned them about John the baptist to show their lack of faithfulness to God and their fear of man. He gave them two parables that laid out their end, which, in their blindness, they fail to see and pronounce their own judgment. Because they were a fruitless show of leaves, Jesus warned them, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”