Exodus 13:13, "And every
firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem
it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy
children shalt thou redeem."
Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."
This morning, the beautiful pictures of the Lord of glory abound, and His own words to the Pharisees point out the manner and method we should have in studying the Old Testament. (John 5:39) The words of that testament cannot give us eternal life (just as the new is unable to do), but they testify of Him, and the new shows us the fulfillment of them in the Person of our Saviour. As we read the Old Testament, there is an amazing contrast brought forth that would be difficult to reconcile without the knowledge of Christ's work and its manifestation in the New Testament. At times, the promised Messiah is shown forth in victorious and powerful tones from the old book, but at other times, He is shown forth as a servant in suffering tones. However, the New Testament shows us that Jesus Christ fulfilled both of the contrasting prophecies as He is not just the Lamb of God (suffering for us), but He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (conquered for us). His
work not only shows us what it is like to bear reproaches, but He shows us the victory and authority that He has as our Redeemer to collect us (His ransom) from all the powers of darkness and the masters of iniquity.
Looking at the Mosaical law, there are many instances where things had to be redeemed or atoned. The day of atonement in Leviticus 16 required that the atonement be for the priest, people, holy place, tabernacle, etc. as the necessary blood was shed for all the particular portions of the service. The verse above from Exodus shows us how the firstborn of "service beasts" was to be redeemed. For a service beast (ass) to be redeemed, a lamb was needed. Examining our own lives, we find that our picture was not a pleasant one according to nature. We were the servants of sin, and death by sin reigned in us. Our members, mind, and affections were wholly given to that which is evil, and our thoughts were not inclined to goodness whatsoever. (Psalm 10:3) For us (service beasts) to be redeemed, a necessary lamb was the only thing that could fulfill the purpose.
Many times, people mistakenly think that something is going to redeem them, when a faithful examination of the redemption price shows the currency to be foreign. For example, if one believed that baptism gained redemption, the currency for baptism is obviously water. What good is water in the sight of God? What price does the God of heaven require for redemption? Paul says that almost all things in the law were purged by blood, and without the shedding of blood (death) there is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22) The only objects in the law that did not merit blood shedding for their purging were things that were not partakers of flesh and blood (such as crops). Crops could be offered as a firstfruits or wave offering for supplication to the Lord to bless the harvest. Crops are suitable currencies for other crops. Men are partakers of flesh and blood, so the suitable currency for us has to be flesh and blood. An ass could not be redeemed by something
other than blood as the beast is a partaker of flesh and blood.
Furthermore, the service beast had to be redeemed with the blood of something other than a service beast. The blood required must be that of a more noble stature. A lamb is looked upon in its beauty and character as being a more noble creature than an ass, ox, or cow. Looking beyond the type into the anti type, Jesus Christ, we find a similar comparison. While Christ was fully man and fully God, His blood is of more noble stature than ours. While our blood is full of the servitude of sin and wickedness, His blood is full of the precious mercy of God and His will. Our blood could do nothing as our parent's blood could do nothing to have any valuable currency in God's court, but the blood of His Son is the only thing that could merit such a magnanimous circumstance of vile sinners being redeemed to God. (Revelation 5:9)
Looking beyond the Mosaical command in Exodus, we see the picture of its beauty in Christ in Zechariah. Zechariah prophesies of Christ riding into Jerusalem on an ass. This literally happened as penned by the gospel writers, and notice the position of Christ. Just as the lamb would redeem the ass in the Exodus account, our Lamb was riding upon an ass showing the imminent fulfillment of our redemption by His hand. What was to happen if the ass was not redeemed? His neck was to be broken for being left unfulfilled. Christ, seated upon the ass, is a picture of our safety in Him and through Him. As one seated upon a beast, the neck is in the hand of the rider, and our neck will never be broken for being unredeemed as He protects and covers us. No one could have harmed the beast's neck without going through Christ, and no one can lay anything to our charge, as that would require going through Christ. (Romans 8:33)
Just as an ass is a service beast, we find from the language of Zechariah that Christ came in the form of service as well as victory. We need to shout that our Redeemer has come unto us. We need to joy in the fact that He has conquered and brought salvation unto His people. We need the peace that comes from the blessed heralded message, "It is finished." But, further still, we need to understand that even in victory, He came in lowly form. His victorious ride into Jerusalem may have been His biggest outward moment, according to natural perspective. While the redemption that occurred in His death is the greatest event that the history of the world has ever held in its pages, there is not a lot of great natural beauty in the scene. A poor (in wealth) man suffered a common criminal's death. He had no place to lay His head, and the tomb was borrowed from another man's generosity. These are natural perspectives that show lack of natural glory.
Yet, while all of those scenes bring us comfort and peace from a spiritual perspective, here we find a brilliant natural display. The masses sing and shout, "Hosannas" to His name. They call Him blessed, and they ring the song of a victorious King. Days removed from this scene, even His closest followers are no where to be found, much less ringing these grand and majestic tones. Even still, Zechariah calls this most glorious natural display unto Him a scene where He is still lowly. The lowliness here is the nature and mentality of our Master. Even though Lord of all, He came to minister and not be ministered unto. While owning the earth and the fulness thereof, He did not demand riches and earthly glory. Even though Creator of all, He did not command submission from His creatures. The foremost reason for this lowly attitude of meekness and service was to show us our example.
What man of us could claim innocence of our own accord and merit? He could and rather chose to not open His mouth to His accusers. What man of us could claim the right of Kingship and authority by our own strength? He could and chose rather to remove Himself from people that would try to make Him a King by force. His example of meek service is our example today. While we were before the servants of sin just as the ass was the service beast of his master, we have been redeemed by the Lamb that continues to cover and protect us here. His power could bend us to complete and total submission for the rest of our existence here, but His will for us to fulfill is to live the life that He has shown. Serve one another, and thereby serve Him. Remain lowly in heart in the form of adversity, and thereby show forth the light of His countenance in our walk.
During the glorious and suffering scenes of the Saviour's life, the fact never changed that He is the possessor of salvation. Outside of His blood, there is no plea to be made. Yet, this lowly man of Galilee is the King that we should rejoice in. He is the Redeeming Lamb of God that has taken away our sin from God's sight. What does He require of us in return? Be ye as I am, for as I have given you an example, so should we also do. Not a one of us by nature could claim the slightest portion of who He is in His Person, yet He fully partook of who we are (sin excepted) and bore our sins and transgressions for us. What great thing is it for us to remember Him, and show how great things He has done for us?