Book IV | Table
of Contents | Chapter 2
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
THE FIRST DAY IN PASSION-WEEK
THE ROYAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
(St. Matthew 21:1-11; St. Mark 11:1-11; St.
Luke 19:29-44; St. John 12:12-19.)
At length the time of the end had come. Jesus was about to make
Entry into Jerusalem as King: King of the Jews, as Heir of David's royal line,
with all of symbolic, typic, and prophetic import attaching to it. Yet not as
Israel after the flesh expected its Messiah was the Son of David to make
triumphal entrance, but as deeply and significantly expressive of His Mission
and Work, and as of old the rapt seer had beheld afar off the outlined picture
of the Messiah-King: not in the proud triumph of war-conquests, but in the
'meek' rule of peace.
It is surely one of the strangest mistakes of modern criticism
to regard this Entry of Christ into Jerusalem as implying that, fired by
enthusiasm, He had for the moment expected that the people would receive Him as
And it seems little, if at all better, when this Entry is described as 'an
apparent concession to the fevered expectations of His disciples and the
multitude . . . the grave, sad accommodation to thoughts other than His own to
which the Teacher of new truths must often have recourse when He finds Himself
misinterpreted by those who stand together on a lower level.'2
'Apologies' are the weakness of 'Apologetics' - and any 'accommodation' theory
can have no place in the history of the Christ. On the contrary, we regard His
Royal Entry into the Jerusalem of Prophecy and of the Crucifixion as an
integral part of the history of Christ, which would not be complete, nor
thoroughly consistent, without it. It behoved Him so to enter Jerusalem,
because He was a King; and as King to enter it in such manner, because He was
such a King - and both the one and the other were in accordance with the
prophecy of old.
notably Keim. Of course, the theory proceeds on the assumption
that the Discourses reported by St. Luke are spurious.
Plumptre on St. Matt. xxi. 5.
It was a bright day in early spring of the year 29, when the
festive procession set out from the home at Bethany. There can be no reasonable
doubt as to the locality of that hamlet (the modern El-'Azariye, 'of
Lazarus'), perched on a broken rocky plateau on the other side of Olivet. More
difficulty attaches to the identification of Bethphage, which is
associated with it, the place not being mentioned in the Old Testament, though
repeatedly in Jewish writings. But, even so, there is a curious contradiction,
since Bethphage is sometimes spoken of as distinct from Jerusalem,3
while at others it is described as, for ecclesiastical purposes, part of the
Perhaps the name Bethphage - 'house of figs' - was given alike to that district
generally, and to a little village close to Jerusalem where the district began.5
And this may explain the peculiar reference, in the Synoptic Gospels, to
Bethphage (St. Matthew), and again to 'Bethphage and Bethany.'6
For, St. Matthew and St. Mark relate Christ's brief stay at Bethany and His
anointing by Mary not in chronological order,7 but introduce it at a later period, as
it were, in contrast to the betrayal of Judas.8
Accordingly, they pass from the Miracles at Jericho immediately to the Royal
Entry into Jerusalem - from Jericho to 'Bethphage,' or, more exactly, to 'Bethphage
and Bethany,' leaving for the present unnoticed what had occurred in the latter
ed. Friedm. p. 55 a, last lines; Sot. 45 a; Tos. Pes.
63 b; 91 a; Menach. 78 b; Babha Mets. 90 a.
also Caspari, Chron. Geogr. Einl. p. 161. The question as to the
proposed identification (by some) of Bethany with the Beth Hini, or Beth
Hanioth, where the Sanhedrin (apparently of Sadducees) sat after leaving
the Temple and which was destroyed three years before the City, must be left
Mark and St. Luke.
Augustine has it, recapitulando dixerunt.
Matt. xxvi. 6-13; St. Mark xiv. 3-9.
Although all the four Evangelists relate Christ's Entry into
Jerusalem, they seem to do so from different standpoints. The Synoptists
accompany Him from Bethany, while St. John, in accordance with the general
scheme of his narrative, seems to follow from Jerusalem that multitude which,
on tidings of His approach, hastened to meet Him. Even this circumstance, as
also the paucity of events recorded on that day, proves that it could not have
been at early morning that Jesus left Bethany. Remembering, that it was the
last morning of rest before the great contest, we may reverently think of much
that may have passed in the Soul of Jesus and in the home of Bethany. And now
He has left that peaceful resting-place. It was probably soon after His outset,
that He sent the 'two disciples' - possibly Peter and John9
- into 'the village over against' them - presumably Bethphage. There they would
find by the side of the road an ass's colt tied, whereon never man had sat. We
mark the significant symbolism of the latter, in connection with the general
conditions of consecration to Jehovah10
- and note in it, as also in the Mission of the Apostles, that this was
intended by Christ to be His Royal and Messianic Entry. This colt they were to
loose and to bring to Him.
St. Luke xxii. 8.
xix. 2; Deut. xxi. 3.
The disciples found all as He had said. When they reached
Bethphage, they saw, by a doorway where two roads met, the colt tied by its
mother. As they loosed it, 'the owners' and 'certain of them that stood by'11 asked their purpose, to which, as
directed by the Master, they answered: 'The Lord [the Master, Christ] hath need
of him,' when, as predicted, no further hindrance was offered. In explanation
of this we need not resort to the theory of a miraculous influence, nor even
suppose that the owners of the colt were themselves 'disciples.' Their
challenge to 'the two,' and the little more than permission which they gave,
seem to forbid this idea. Nor is such explanation requisite. From the
pilgrim-band which had accompanied Jesus from Galilee and Peræa, and preceded
Him to Jerusalem, from the guests at the Sabbath-feast in Bethany, and from the
people who had gone out to see both Jesus and Lazarus, the tidings of the
proximity of Jesus and of His approaching arrival must have spread in the City.
Perhaps that very morning some had come from Bethany, and told it in the
Temple, among the festive bands - specially among his own Galileans, and
generally in Jerusalem, that on that very day - in a few hours - Jesus might be
expected to enter the City. Such, indeed, must have been the case, since, from
St. John's account, 'a great multitude' 'went forth to meet Him.' The latter,
we can have little doubt, must have mostly consisted, not of citizens of
Jerusalem, whose enmity to Christ was settled, but of those 'that had come to
With these went also a number of 'Pharisees,' their hearts filled with
bitterest thoughts of jealousy and hatred.13
And, as we shall presently see, it is of great importance to keep in mind this
composition of 'the multitude.'
Mark; comp. also St. Matthew.
John xii. 12.
Luke xix. 39; St. John xii. 19.
If such were the circumstances, all is natural. We can
understand, how eager questioners would gather about the owners of the colt
(St. Mark), there at the cross-roads at Bethphage, just outside Jerusalem; and
how, so soon as from the bearing and the peculiar words of the disciples they
understood their purpose, the owners of the ass and colt would grant its use
for the solemn Entry into the City of the 'Teacher of Nazareth,'14
Whom the multitude was so eagerly expecting; and, lastly, how, as from the
gates of Jerusalem tidings spread of what had passed in Bethphage, the
multitude would stream forth to meet Jesus.
is surely one of those instances in which the supposed authority of MSS. should
not be implicitly followed, when in St. Mark xi. 3, the R.V. adopts what
we must regard as a very jejune gloss: 'and straightway He [viz. Christ] will
send him back hither' - as if the disciples had obtained the colt by pledging
the Master to its immediate restoration. The gloss is the more inapt as it does
not occur in the parallel passages in St. Matthew and St. Luke.
Meantime Christ and those who followed Him from Bethany had
slowly entered on15 the well-known caravan-road from
Jericho to Jerusalem. It is the most southern of three, which converge close to
the City, perhaps at the very place where the colt had stood tied. 'The road
soon loses sight of Bethany. It is now a rough, but still broad and
well-defined mountain-track, winding over rock and loose stones; a steep
declivity on the left; the sloping shoulder of Olivet above on the right;
fig-trees below and above, here and there growing out of the rocky soil.'16
Somewhere here the disciples who brought 'the colt' must have met Him. They
were accompanied by many, and immediately followed by more. For, as already
stated, Bethphage - we presume the village - formed almost part of Jerusalem,
and during Easter-week must have been crowded by pilgrims, who could not find
accommodation within the City walls. And the announcement, that disciples of
Jesus had just fetched the beast of burden on which Jesus was about to enter
Jerusalem, must have quickly spread among the crowds which thronged the Temple
and the City.
may have awaited in Bethany the return of the two, but the succession
followed in the text seems to me by far the most probable.
quotations are from the well-known and classical passage in Dean Stanley's
Sinai and Palestine, pp. 189 &c.
As the two disciples, accompanied, or immediately followed by
the multitude, brought 'the colt' to Christ, 'two streams of people met' - the
one coming from the City, the other from Bethany. The impression left on our
minds is, that what followed was unexpected by those who accompanied Christ,
that it took them by surprise. The disciples, who understood not,17
till the light of the Resurrection-glory had been poured on their minds, the
significance of 'these things,' even after they had occurred, seem not even to
have guessed, that it was of set purpose Jesus was about to make His Royal
Entry into Jerusalem. Their enthusiasm seems only to have been kindled when
they saw the procession from the town come to meet Jesus with palm-branches,
cut down by the way, and greeting Him with Hosanna-shouts of welcome. Then they
spread their garments on the colt, and set Jesus thereon - 'unwrapped their
loose cloaks from their shoulders and stretched them along the rough path, to
form a momentary carpet as He approached.' Then also in their turn they cut
down branches from the trees and gardens through which they passed, or plaited
and twisted palm-branches, and strewed them as a rude matting in His way, while
they joined in, and soon raised to a much higher pitch18
the Hosanna of welcoming praise. Nor need we wonder at their ignorance at first
of the meaning of that, in which themselves were chief actors. We are too apt
to judge them from our standpoint, eighteen centuries later, and after full
apprehension of the significance of the event. These men walked in the
procession almost as in a dream, or as dazzled by a brilliant light all around
- as if impelled by a necessity, and carried from event to event, which came
upon them in a succession of but partially understood surprises.
John xii. 16.
Luke xix. 37, 38.
They had now ranged themselves: the multitude which had come
from the City preceding, that which had come with Him from Bethany following
the triumphant progress of Israel's King, 'meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a
colt the foal of an ass.' 'Gradually the long procession swept up and over the
ridge where first begins "the descent of the Mount of Olives" towards
Jerusalem. At this point the first view is caught of the south-eastern corner
of the City. The Temple and the more northern portions are hid by the slope of
Olivet on the right; what is seen is only Mount Zion, now for the most part a
rough field.' But at that time it rose, terrace upon terrace, from the Palace
of the Maccabees and that of the High-Priest, a very city of palaces, till the
eye rested in the summit on that castle, city, and palace, with its frowning
towers and magnificent gardens, the royal abode of Herod, supposed to occupy
the very site of the Palace of David. They had been greeting Him with Hosannas!
But enthusiasm, especially in such a cause, is infectious. They were mostly
stranger-pilgrims that had come from the City, chiefly because they had heard
of the raising of Lazarus.19
And now they must have questioned them which came from Bethany, who in turn related
that of which themselves had been eyewitnesses.20
We can imagine it all - how the fire would leap from heart to heart. So He was
the promised Son of David - and the Kingdom was at hand! It may have been just
as the precise point of the road was reached, where 'the City of David' first
suddenly emerges into view, 'at the descent of the Mount of Olives,' 'that the
whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud
voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.'21
As the burning words of joy and praise, the record of what they had seen,
passed from mouth to mouth, and they caught their first sight of 'the City of
David,' adorned as a bride to welcome her King, Davidic praise to David's
Greater Son wakened the echoes of old Davidic Psalms in the morning-light of
their fulfilment. 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be He that cometh in
the Name of the Lord. . . . Blessed the Kingdom that cometh, the Kingdom of our
father David. . . . Blessed be He that cometh in the Name of the Lord. . . .
Hosanna . . . Hosanna in the highest . . .Peace in heaven, and glory in the
John xii. 18.
They were but broken utterances, partly based upon Ps. cvxiii.,
partly taken from it - the 'Hosanna,'22
or 'Save now,' and the 'Blessed be He that cometh in the Name of the Lord,'23
forming part of the responses by the people with which this Psalm was chanted
on certain of the most solemn festivals.24
Most truly did they thus interpret and apply the Psalm, old and new Davidic
praise mingling in their acclamations. At the same time it must be remembered
that, according to Jewish tradition, Ps. cxviii. vv. 25-28, was also chanted
antiphonally by the people of Jerusalem, as they went to welcome the festive
pilgrims on their arrival, the latter always responding in the second clause of
each verse, till the last verse of the Psalm25
was reached, which was sung by both parties in unison, Psalm ciii. 17 being
added by way of conclusion.26
But as 'the shout rang through the long defile,' carrying evidence far and
wide, that, so far from condemning and forsaking, more than the ordinary
pilgrim-welcome had been given to Jesus - the Pharisees, who had mingled with
the crowd, turned to one another with angry frowns: 'Behold [see intently], how
ye prevail nothing! See - the world27
is gone after Him!' It is always so, that, in the disappointment of malice, men
turn in impotent rage against each other with taunts and reproaches. Then,
psychologically true in this also, they made a desperate appeal to the Master
Himself, Whom they so bitterly hated, to check and rebuke the honest zeal of
His disciples. He had been silent hitherto - alone unmoved, or only deeply
moved inwardly - amidst this enthusiastic crowd. He could be silent no longer -
but, with a touch of quick and righteous indignation, pointed to the rocks and
stones, telling those leaders of Israel, that, if the people held their peace,
the very stones would cry out.2829
It would have been so in that day of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem. And it has
been so ever since. Silence has fallen these many centuries upon Israel; but
the very stones of Jerusalem's ruin and desolateness have cried out that He,
Whom in their silence they rejected, has come as King in the Name of the Lord.
can be no question that 'Wsanna
represents )n@af h(ay#@wh but probably in an abbreviated form of pronunciation
)n@af (#@awh (comp. Siegfried in Hilgenfeld's Zeitsch. f. wissensch.
Theol. for 1884, p. 385).
cxviii. 25, 26.
will be remembered, it formed the last Psalm in what was called the Hallel
(Ps. cxiii.-cxviii). For the mode in which, and the occasions on which it was
chanted, see 'Temple, &c.' pp. 191-193. The remarks of Godet on the
subject (Comm. on St. John xii.) are not accurate.
on Ps. cxviii., ed. Warsh., pp. 85 b, last 3 lines, and p. 86 a.
common Jewish expression, )ml(, Babha Mez. 85 a, line 3 from top, or
)ml( ylwk Ber. 58 a, about the middle.
expression: stones bearing witness when sin has been committed, is not uncommon
in Jewish writings. See Taan. 11 a; Chag. 16 a.
'Again the procession advanced. The road descends a slight
declivity, and the glimpse of the City is again withdrawn behind the
intervening ridge of Olivet. A few moments and the path mounts again, it climbs
a rugged ascent, it reaches a ledge of smooth rock, and in an instance the
whole City bursts into view. As now the dome of the Mosque El-Aksa rises like a
Ghost from the earth before the traveller stands on the ledge, so then must
have risen the Temple-tower; as now the vast enclosure of the Mussulman
sanctuary, so then must have spread the Temple courts; as now the grey town on
its broken hills, so then the magnificent City, with its background - long
since vanished away - of gardens and suburbs on the western plateau behind.
Immediately before was the Valley of the Kedron, here seen in its greatest depth
as it joins the Valley of Hinnom, and thus giving full effect to the great
peculiarity of Jerusalem, seen only on its eastern side - its situation as of a
City rising out of a deep abyss. It is hardly possible to doubt that this rise
and turn of the road - this rocky ledge - was the exact point where the
multitude paused again, and "He, when He beheld the City, wept over it."' Not
with still weeping (edakrusen),
as at the grave of Lazarus, but with loud and deep lamentation (eklausen). The contrast was, indeed,
terrible between the Jerusalem that rose before Him in all its beauty, glory,
and security, and the Jerusalem which He saw in vision dimly rising on the sky,
with the camp of the enemy around about it on every side, hugging it closer and
closer in deadly embrace, and the very 'stockade' which the Roman Legions
raised around it;30
then, another scene in the shifting panorama, and the city laid with the
ground, and the gory bodies of her children among her ruins; and yet another
scene: the silence and desolateness of death by the Hand of God - not one stone
left upon another! We know only too well how literally this vision has become
reality; and yet, though uttered as prophecy by Christ, and its reason so
clearly stated, Israel to this day knows not the things which belong unto its
peace, and the upturned scattered stones of its dispersion are crying out in
testimony against it. But to this day, also do the tears of Christ plead with
the Church on Israel's behalf, and His words bear within them precious seed of
War v. 6. 2; 12. 2.
We turn once more to the scene just described. For, it was no
common pageantry; and Christ's public Entry into Jerusalem seems so altogether
different from - we had almost said, inconsistent with - His previous mode of
appearance. Evidently, the time for the silence so long enjoined had passed,
and that for public declaration had come. And such, indeed, this Entry was.
From the moment of His sending forth the two disciples to His acceptance of the
homage of the multitude, and His rebuke of the Pharisee's attempt to arrest it,
all must be regarded as designed or approved by Him: not only a public
assertion of His Messiahship, but a claim to its national acknowledgment. And
yet, even so, it was not to be the Messiah of Israel's conception, but He of
prophetic picture: 'just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.'31
It is foreign to our present purpose to discuss any general questions about
this prophecy, or even to vindicate its application to the Messiah. But, when
we brush aside all the trafficking and bargaining over words, that constitutes
so much of modern criticism, which in its care over the lesson so often loses
the spirit, there can, at least, be no question that this prophecy was intended
to introduce, in contrast to earthly warfare and kingly triumph, another
Kingdom, of which the just King would be the Prince of Peace, Who was meek and
lowly in His Advent, Who would speak peace to the heathen, and Whose sway would
yet extend to earth's utmost bounds. Thus much may be said, that if there ever
was true picture of the Messiah-King and His Kingdom, it is this, and that, if
ever Israel was to have a Messiah or the world a Saviour, He must be such as
described in this Prophecy - not merely in the letter, but in the spirit of it.
And as so often indicated, it was not the letter but the spirit of prophecy -
and of all prophecy - which the ancient Synagogue, and that rightly, saw
fulfilled in the Messiah and His Kingdom. Accordingly, with singular unanimity
the Talmud and the ancient Rabbinic authorities have applied this prophecy to
Nor was it quoted by St. Matthew and St. John in the stiffness and deadness of
the letter. On the contrary (as so often in Jewish writings, two prophets -
Isa. lxii. 11, and Zech. ix. 9 - are made to shed their blended light upon this
Entry of Christ, as exhibiting the reality, of which the prophetic vision had
been the reflex. Nor yet are the words of the Prophets given literally - as
modern criticism would have them weighed out in the critical balances - either
from the Hebrew text, or form the LXX. rendering; but their real meaning is
given, and they are 'Targumed' by the sacred writers. according to their wont.
Yet who that sets the prophetic picture by the side of the reality - the
description by the side of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem - can fail to
recognise in the one the real fulfilment of the other?
56 b; Sanh. 98 a; Pirké de R. El. 31; Ber. R. 75; 98; 99; Deb. R.
4; Midr. on Cant. i.4; Midr. on Cant. i. 4; Midr. on Eccles i. 9; Midr. Shemuel
Another point seems to require comment. We have seen reasons to
regard the bearing of the disciples as one of surprise, and that, all through
these last scenes, they seem to have been hurried from event to event. But the
enthusiasm of the people - their royal welcome of Christ - how is it to be
explained, and how reconciled with the speedy and terrible reaction of His
Betrayal and Crucifixion? Yet it is not so difficult to understand it; and, if
we only keep clear of unconscious exaggeration, we shall gain in truth and
reasonableness what we lose in dramatic effect. It has already been suggested,
that the multitude which went to meet Jesus must have consisted chiefly of
pilgrim-strangers. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of Jerusalem were
bitterly and determinately hostile to Christ. But we know that, even so, the
Pharisees dreaded to take the final steps against Christ during the presence of
these pilgrims at the Feast, apprehending a movement in His favour.33
It proved, indeed, otherwise; for these country-people were but ill-informed;
they dared not resist the combined authority of their own Sanhedrin and of the
Romans. Besides, the prejudices of the populace, and especially of an Eastern
populace, are easily raised, and they readily sway from one extreme to the
opposite. Lastly, the very suddenness and completeness of the blow, which the
Jewish authorities delivered, would have stunned even those who had deeper
knowledge, more cohesion, and greater independence than most of them who, on
that Palm-Sunday, had gone forth from the City.
Matt. xxvi. 3-6; St. Mark xiv. 2; St. Luke xxii 2.
Again, as regards their welcome of Christ, deeply significant
as it was, we must not attach to it deeper meaning than it possessed. Modern
writers have mostly seen in it the demonstrations of the Feast of Tabernacles,34
as if the homage of its services had been offered to Christ. It would, indeed,
have been symbolic of much about Israel if they had thus confounded the Second
with the First Advent of Christ, the Sacrifice of the Passover with the joy of
the Feast of Ingathering. But, in reality, their conduct bears not that
interpretation. It is true that these responses from Ps. cxviii., which formed
part of what was known as the (Egyptian) Hallel,35
were chanted by the people on the Feast of Tabernacles also, but the Hallel was
equally sung with responses during the offering of the Passover, at the Paschal
Supper, and on the Feasts of Pentecost and of the Dedication of the Temple. The
waving of the palm-branches was the welcome of visitors or kings,36
and not distinctive of the Feast of Tabernacles. At the latter, the worshippers
carried, not simple palm-branches, but the Lulabh, which consisted of
palm, myrtle, and willow branches intertwined. Lastly, the words of welcome
from Ps. cxviii. were (as already stated) those with which on solemn occasions
the people also greeted the arrival of festive pilgrims,37
although, as being offered to Christ alone, and as accompanied by such
demonstrations, they may have implied that they hailed Him as the promised
King, and have converted His Entry into a triumph in which the people did
homage. And, if proof were required of the more sober, and, may we not add,
rational view here advocated, it would be found in this, that not till after
His Resurrection did even His own disciples understand the significance of the
whole scene which they had witnessed, and in which they had borne such a part.
after Lightfoot. Wünsche (Erlaut. d. Evang. p. 241) goes so far
as to put this alternative, that either the Evangelists confounded the Passover
with the Feast of the Tabernacles, or that they purposely transferred to the
Passover a ceremony of the Feast of Tabernacles!
were, and even now are, common demonstrations in the East, to welcome a king, a
conqueror, or a deliverer. For a large number of heathen and Jewish instances
of the same time, comp. Wetstein, ad loc. (i. pp. 460, 461).
am aware, that so great an authority as Professor Delitzsch calls this
in question (Zeitschr. für Luther. Theol. for 1855, p. 653). But the testimony
of the Midrash is against him. Delitzsch regards it as the shout of the
Feast of Tabernacles. But how should that have been raised before the Feast of
Passover? Again, it does not seem reasonable to suppose, that the multitude had
with full consciousness proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, and intended to
celebrate there and then the fulfilment of the typical meaning of the Feast of
The anger and jealousy of the Pharisees understood it better,
and watched for the opportunity of revenge. But, for the present, on that
bright spring-day, the weak, excitable, fickle populace streamed before Him
through the City-gates, through the narrow streets, up the Temple-mount.
Everywhere the tramp of their feet, and the shout of their acclamations brought
men, women, and children into the streets and on the housetops. The City was
moved, and from mouth to mouth the question passed among the eager crowd of
curious onlookers: 'Who is He?' And the multitude answered - not, this is
Israel's Messiah-King, but: 'This is Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.'
And so up into the Temple!
He alone was silent and sad among this excited multitude, the
marks of the tears He had wept over Jerusalem still on His cheek. It is not so,
that an earthly King enters His City in triumph; not so, that the Messiah of
Israel's expectation would have gone into His Temple. He spake not, but only
looked round about upon all things, as if to view the field on which He was to
suffer and die. And now the shadows of evening were creeping up; and, weary and
sad, He once more returned with the twelve disciples to the shelter and rest of
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