Forming Faith Blog

Son of David (Matthew 21)

As Jesus triumphally enters Jerusalem, the people identify him as the Son of David, the promised Messiah. But Jesus might not have been the Messiah they expected.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Son of David.
“The Entry into Jerusalem” by Wilhelm Morgner

With this reading, set for Palm Sunday, we begin the climax of the Lenten season. Jesus enters Jerusalem and will not leave the vicinity until his resurrection. We have listened to Jesus’ teaching about the ways of the kingdom, now we will focus on God’s greatest promise fulfilled by the Son of David on the cross and out of the empty tomb this upcoming week.

Son of David: Messiah and King

Jesus is acclaimed as the Son of David in the shouts of the people (Matthew 21:9). As the messiah was to come from the line of David, calling Jesus the “Son of David” is to name Jesus as the Messiah. Matthew connects Jesus’ action of riding to Jerusalem on a donkey with Zechariah 9:9-10, a messianic prophecy. This prophecy refers to a king who will come to Jerusalem and free the people from war and military oppression.

The Humble King

I noticed that Matthew leaves out part of the verse when he quotes the prophet (Zechariah):

“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Matthew 21:5 (NRSV)

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.

Zechariah 9:9 (NRSV)

So, Matthew leaves out the phrase that the NRSV translates as “triumphant and victorious.” An interesting portion to leave out. Especially when my inexpert word study (thanks to’s Hebrew/Greek resources) indicates this phrase can be translated as “righteous” and “bearing salvation.” Another difference is that the Hebrew word translated “humble” means “poor, afflicted, needy” while the Greek is “gentle, meek.” Triumphant and victorious, righteous and savior, afflicted and gentle all fit our understanding of Jesus well.

Giver of Mercy

Just before this (Matthew 20:29-34), Matthew describes an event that happened on Jesus’ way out of Jericho. Two men who were blind called out to Jesus, begging mercy from the Son of David. The Greek word, “mercy” here is not leniency. Instead, it is connected to the Hebrew word “hesed,” God’s covenant-love or lovingkindness. The men were calling on the Son of David to show God’s love to them. In the temple (Matthew 21:14), Jesus again encounters men who were blind, as well as those who could not walk. Jesus healed them, as he had healed many throughout his ministry. He was indeed the Son of David, but one who shows his power in healing rather than violence.

Son of David, Savior

In v. 9, Jesus, the Son of David, is not only the gentle and loving king but also the representative of God who saves (the meaning of hosanna from the quoted Psalm 118). But, we know that Jesus does not save through military intervention, but through the mercy (love) we see as he hangs on the cross in less than a week.

May God continue to bless you this Lenten season.

In Christ,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Note: This blog post is edited from the original written for April 14, 2019.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free “Holy Week Home Devotional” from our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (NL) (Year 1, 2022-2023 and Year 2, 2023-2024) curriculum. This activity can be used by households of any size or type to assist them in doing home devotions this Holy Week.

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