It was but proper that the Lord should die in Jerusalem. He could not have died in Galilee, or in any other part of Canaan. Jerusalem was the proper scene of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, for it was the heart of the Old Testament church. It was the institute of the old dispensation church. There was the temple, the house of God. There was the altar, the sacrifice, and the priesthood. And there was what remained of the authority of the throne of David. And besides, it was Jerusalem that had always killed the prophets, and stoned them which were sent unto her. If then it is to be proven that Christ came to his own and his own received him not, it stands to reason that this Jerusalem that killed the prophets and stoned them which was sent unto her must also kill the Son and crucify the last of the prophets. So it was undoubtedly in God's counsel; and so Jesus turned his face to Jerusalem.
For six days before the Passover He made Jerusalem the scene of his final labors. As He must be killed by Jerusalem, so it is to that Jerusalem that He gives a last testimony. Jesus comes to Jerusalem six days before the Passover, and it is astonishing how much work, how much preaching, how much rebuking, He accomplished in those six days. And all that work and preaching and speaking, had but one central theme, namely, "I am the one that was to come."
Jerusalem now must give its final answer to the question, What think ye of Christ? For that reason Lazarus had been raised. For that reason Jesus now enters Jerusalem, and in the temple performs miracles as never before. Once more He drives out those that make of his Father's house a den of robbers. And, in it all of this, He give one answer, "I am the one that was to come."
All this we must see in order to understand Jesus' triumphant
entry into Jerusalem. All his labors are introduced by his coming
as pictured in the text. Sitting on an ass, hailed by the disciples
shouting, Hosanna, blessed be the king that cometh in the name
of the Lord, that is his introduction. It must serve as a
testimony to wicked Jerusalem and to the daughter of Sion that,
no matter what happens, He is the Christ.
The text speaks of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem; we read that wicked Jerusalem tries to rebuke the disciples; and Jesus answers, "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." In a sense, this contains a figure; but one which is nevertheless true in the sense that there was at this time a power of God working in Jerusalem causing the disciples to speak. And, if it were possible that they should not so speak, the stones would have cried out.
The Lord had come six days before the feast to Bethany; and there He had celebrated the Sabbath. For Jesus, it must have been refreshing. It must have been refreshing that for a day He could rest in the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. The strain was lifted.
It is the next day that the Lord prepares to meet the enemy. He is about to go to Jerusalem, which at the time is crowded because of the approaching feast. It is crowded with guests to the point, I would imagine, that hundreds had pitched tents around the city. The result was that there was a multitude in and all around it; including a multitude of them who knew Jesus, who had heard him speak, and had seen his works. These are things we must bear in mind if we are to understand how what we have in our text took place.
This multitude expected Jesus. His fame had spread through the raising of Lazarus and similar demonstrations. In Capernaum they had wanted to crown Jesus king, and He simply sent them away and retreated alone into a mountain. In this way Jesus had always avoided public demonstrations in his favor. Now, however, He initiates one. Why?
In the second place, it is also evident that the central idea
of this demonstration is that Jesus here comes to Jerusalem as
its King. That the multitude understands; and also, according
to the gospel of Matthew and John, it is done for that
purpose. In Matthew we read, "All this was done, that
it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee,
meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."
And so we read also in John, "...as it is written, Fear
not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an
ass's colt." Thus there can be no question but that the
central idea of this demonstration is that Jesus comes to Jerusalem,
that Jerusalem which killed the prophets, as its king.
The question is, why does Jesus initiate this demonstration, and what is the meaning? It is evident that it is not merely a fulfillment of prophecy. That is not the meaning. The meaning is not merely this, that the prophet had foretold it and Jesus now fulfills it, for this demonstration in itself is not the complete fulfillment of that prophecy. Although it was done in order that prophecy might be fulfilled, yet this demonstration is not its complete fulfillment. Was it done then to give Jerusalem a last chance to accept its king? Many explain it that way; but that cannot be. Jesus does not come to give Jerusalem a last offer to accept him as her king. In the first place, that is exactly what Jesus had always refused to be; and that was just what He had always rebuked in his disciples. And not only that, but Jesus had repeatedly foretold that, if ever He was to become the King of Jerusalem in the true sense, it was necessary that the Jerusalem which killed the prophets would first kill him. He can only become the king of Jerusalem by way of the cross.
What we have here in the royal entry, occurring at the beginning of Jesus last labors in Jerusalem, is an enactment of prophecy in order that Jerusalem may see that He is the one foretold. He enacts this prophecy; and that enactment itself was a prophecy. In it there is a prophecy of the fact that He is indeed the King of the daughter of Sion; and for that purpose Jesus now comes to Jerusalem.
It is not to overcome Jerusalem's enemies. The enemies of Jerusalem were not the Romans, the enemies of Jerusalem are sin and guilt and corruption; and Jesus comes, not riding upon a war horse but an ass, to redeem the spiritual daughter of Sion. He came in the trust of Jehovah, in meekness, and in obedience; but that was a royal deed. It was the king coming to the daughter of Sion; but, when He came, the daughter of Sion did not understand. And He says, "Behold, I am thy king. I come to deliver thee. Fear not, O daughter of Sion, whatever may happen, not even when you see me die on the cross, I am thy king."
That is why there is the apparent contrast in his appearance. That He comes sitting on an ass expresses trust, humility, meekness. When Israel did not trust in the Lord, it had horses and chariots; but Jesus comes, sitting on an ass. He comes in meekness, in humility, as king of the daughter of Sion, to deliver her from the power of sin and corruption.
And the multitude shouts. Notice this multitude which praises does four things. In the first place, we read in the text, they praise God for all the mighty works they had seen, that is, the multitude of disciples had witnessed those works of Jesus which had climaxed in the raising of Lazarus. In the second place, this multitude confesses him. They confess that He is the Son of David, Sion's king; and that He comes in the name of the Lord. In the third place, they bless him. Such is the meaning of that Hosanna; they invoke the blessing of Jehovah upon him. In the fourth place, they rejoice, evidently because of the salvation that is to be wrought.
Who is this multitude?
They are usually pictured as being so fickle and blind that they are filled with a mob enthusiasm, the same multitude which shortly after would, before Pilate, cry, "Crucify him, crucify him." But I do not believe that to be true, nor is it in harmony with Scripture. Rather, we must say that, as far as the heart of the multitude is concerned, it is the true daughter of Sion that comes to meet her king. We read again and again that it was his disciples that came to meet him; and we must not forget that Jesus at this time had indeed a multitude of disciples. These were his disciples that came from Jerusalem to meet him. They were the disciples which had learned to believe in him, that He was the Messiah. In the second place, they not merely believed in him, but they certainly expected that the Messianic kingdom was presently to come through his work. Hundreds had learned to know these things; and these disciples were the heart of this crowd, and they are the ones that shout. Their shouting was a confession of the daughter of Sion, the king coming to the daughter of Sion. No doubt there were enough of them that would presently shout, "Crucify him." There were those that did not understand; and they would presently shout, "Crucify him." This is always the case; there is always some like that which always shout along with the church. But undoubtedly the heart of this crowd were the disciples of Jesus. Did they understand? They believed in Jesus. They expected salvation through him. But they did not understand the way; and there were dark moments coming for them. But those dark moments would be followed by joy when more than five hundred of them would witness the appearance of the risen Lord. That is the voice of the disciples.
The other is the voice of wicked Jerusalem. It is the voice of the Pharisees, of the leaders of Jerusalem, besides themselves with madness because of the popularity of Jesus. And because, as they said, the whole world was going after him, they say to Jesus, "Master, rebuke thy disciples." Notice, they say, thy disciples; and Jesus says, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Was it a mere form of speech? No, Jesus says here in direct language, if these be still - which is impossible - the result will be that you will hear the same voice from the stones. Jesus means to say, "Repress this voice of my disciples, and the stones will cry out this same praise." What does that mean?
It means, in the first place, that there is in this demonstration, in the hearts and minds and voices of these people, an almighty working of the Spirit making prophets out of the daughter of Sion. This is not the voice of man; it is the irresistible power of Jehovah that forces these voices from the children of Jerusalem. Repress that voice and the very stones will immediately take up their shout, which also would become evident from the following scene in the temple. Jesus heals the sick and does many works, and the children shout, "Hosanna to the Son of David."
Then the children echo this same testimony; and the Pharisees say to him, "Hearest thou what these say?"
And what does the Lord say? He says, "Have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" It is a God-inspired prophecy which we have here.
It the second place, there is in this demonstration also this thought, you cannot stop Sion from rejoicing when her king comes to her in glory. And what of it if they did not understand this way? They were the sons of them that had longed for the coming of salvation; and now He comes. It was a fulfillment of prophecy. What of it if they did not understand the way? He comes, and, when Sion's king comes, Sion's daughter must shout.
And how is that now? Irrepressible praise is in the heart of Sion. That is a fact. And so now that praise of Sion ought to appear on our lips and in our hearts. We who understand so much better what it meant when Jesus came to Jerusalem, we who have seen his battle, his deliverance in the power of his resurrection, we who have tasted him, how should we be silent? Irrepressible praise; it is so often repressed by the flesh. But listen, if the children of Sion should be still, the stones would cry out. Shall we not, realizing the salvation that has been wrought in the name of the Lord, praise God for the mighty work He has wrought? We shall. We shall when He comes again, not on an ass, but on a white horse as victor. He came in meekness; but it has been finished. That was the end of the ass. He will come again on a horse as victor; and then again it will be that the stones will cry out if the daughter of Sion be silent.
But that shall not be; for then the daughter of Sion will forever shout, "Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."