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 the Messiah. 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.' '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.
It was a bright day in early spring when the festive procession set out from the home at Bethany. There can be no reasonable doubt as to the locality of that hamlet, 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, while at others it is described as, for ecclesiastical purposes, part of the City itself. 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.
For, Matthew and Mark relate Christ's brief stay at Bethany and His anointing by Mary not in chronological order, but introduce it at a later period, as it were, in contrast to the betrayal of Judas. 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 hamlet.
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 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 John - 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 Jehovah - 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.
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 ' 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 Perea, 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 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 the Feast. ' With these went also a number of 'Pharisees,' their hearts filled with bitterest thoughts of jealousy and hatred. And, as we shall presently see, it is of great importance to keep in mind this composition of 'the multitude.'
If such were the circumstances, all is natural. We can understand, how eager questioners would gather about the owners of the colt ( 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,' 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.
Meantime Christ and those who followed Him from Bethany had slowly entered on 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.
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 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.
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, 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 pitch 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.
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. And now they must have questioned them which came from Bethany, who in turn related that of which themselves had been eyewitnesses.
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! 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, David's Greater Son wakened the echoes of old Davidic Psalms in the morning-light of their fulfilment.
They were but broken utterances, partly based upon Psalm 118., partly taken from it - the 'Hosanna,' or 'Save now,' and the "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel" forming part of the responses by the people with which this Psalm was chanted on certain of the most solemn festivals. 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, Psalm 118:25-28, 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 Psalm was reached, which was sung by both parties in unison, Psalm 103:17 being added by way of conclusion.
The Pharisees, who had mingled with the crowd, turned to one another with angry frowns:
"Do you see that we are not gaining in any way? Look! The world has 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. 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.
'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 Spirit 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
"And when He came near and saw the city, He wept over it" (Luke 19:41, HBFV)
Not with still weeping , as at the grave of Lazarus, but with loud and deep lamentation. 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; 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 promise.
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.
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 Savior, 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 the Christ. Nor was it quoted by Matthew and John in the stiffness and deadness of the letter. On the contrary (as so often in Jewish writings, two prophets - Isaiah 62:11, and Zechariah 9:9 - 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 Septuagint 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 recognize in the one the real fulfilment of the other?
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 favor. 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.
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, 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 Psalm 118., which formed part of what was known as the (Egyptian) Hallel, 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 Passover 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, 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 Psalm 118. were (as already stated) those with which on solemn occasions the people also greeted the arrival of festive pilgrims, 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.
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 Bethany.
Jesus curses barren Fig Tree, Cleanses temple
Friday, March 31st
"And in the morning, after they left Bethany, He became hungry. Then, seeing a fig tree afar off that had leaves, He went to it to see if He might possibly find something on it. But after coming to it, He found nothing except leaves because it was not yet the season for figs. And Jesus responded by saying to it, "Let no one eat fruit from you any more forever!" And His disciples heard it.
"Then they came into Jerusalem; and after entering the temple, Jesus began to cast out those who were buying and selling in the temple; and He overthrew the tables of the money exchangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. Moreover, He did not allow anyone to carry a vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."
"Now the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the multitudes marveled at His teaching. And when evening came, He went out of the city." (Mark 11:12-19, HBFV)
How the King of Israel spent the night after the triumphal Entry into His City and Temple, we may venture reverently to infer. His royal banquet would be fellowship with the disciples. We know how often His nights had been spent in lonely prayer, and surely it is not too bold to associate such thoughts with the first night in Passion week. Thus, also, we can most readily account for that exhaustion and faintness of hunger, which next morning made Him seek fruit on the fig-tree on His way to the City.
It was very early on the morning of Friday, March 31st when Jesus, with his disciples, left Bethany. In the fresh, crisp, spring air, after the exhaustion of that night, ' He hungered. ' By the roadside, as so often in the East, a solitary tree grew in the rocky soil. It must have stood on an eminence, where it caught the sunshine and warmth, for He saw it ' afar off, ' and though spring had but lately wooed nature into life, it stood out, with its wide-spreading mantle of green, against the sky. 'It was not the season of figs,' but the tree, covered with leaves, attracted His attention.
It might have been, that they hid some of the fruit which hung through the winter, or else the springing fruits of the new crop. For it is a well-known fact, that in Palestine 'the fruit appears before the leaves,' and that this fig-tree, whether from its exposure or soil, was precocious, is evident from the fact that it was in leaf, which is quite unusual at that season on the Mount of Olives, The old fruit would, of course, have been edible, and in regard to the unripe fruit we have the distinct evidence of the Mishnah, confirmed by the Talmud, that the unripe fruit was eaten, so soon as it began to assume a red color - as it is expressed, 'in the field, with bread,' or, as we understand it, by those whom hunger overtook in the fields, whether working or travelling. But in the present case there was neither old nor new fruit, 'but leaves only.'
It was evidently a barren fig-tree, cumbering the ground, and to be hewn down. Our mind almost instinctively reverts to the Parable of the Barren Fig-tree, which He had so lately spoken. To Him, Who but yesterday had wept over the Jerusalem that knew not the day of its visitation, and over which the sharp axe of judgment was already lifted, this fig-tree, with its luxuriant mantle of leaves, must have recalled, with pictorial vividness, the scene of the previous day. Israel was that barren fig-tree; and the leaves only covered their nakedness, as erst they had that of our first parents after their Fall. And the judgment, symbolically spoken in the Parable, must be symbolically executed in this leafy fig-tree, barren when searched for fruit by the Master.
It seems almost an inward necessity, not only symbolically but really also, that Christ's Word should have laid it low. We cannot conceive that any other should have eaten of it after the hungering Christ had in vain sought fruit thereon. We cannot conceive that anything should resist Christ, and not be swept away. We cannot conceive, that the reality of what He had taught should not, when occasion came, be visibly placed before the eyes of the disciples. Lastly, we seem to feel (with Bengel) that, as always, the manifestation of His true Humanity, in hunger, should be accompanied by that of His Divinity, in the power of His Word of judgment.
Peter notices cursed Fig Tree dried up
Saturday, April 1st (weekly Sabbath), Morning
"And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. Then Peter remembered and said to Him, "Look, Master! The fig tree that You cursed has dried up."
"And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have faith from God. For truly I say to you, whoever shall say to this mountain, 'Be taken away and be cast into the sea,' and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he said will take place, he shall have whatever he shall say. For this reason I say to you, all the things that you ask when you are praying, believe that you will receive them, and they shall be given to you. But when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive, so that your Father Who is in heaven may forgive you your offenses. For if you do not forgive, neither will your Father Who is in heaven forgive you your offenses.'" (Mark 11:20-26, HBFV)
With Matthew, who, for the sake of continuity, relates this incident after the events of that day and immediately before those of the next, we anticipate what was only witnessed on the morrow. As Matthew has it: on Christ's Word the fig-tree immediately withered away. But according to the more detailed account of Mark, it was only next morning, when they again passed by, that they noticed the fig-tree had withered from its very roots. The spectacle attracted their attention, and vividly recalled the Words of Christ, to which, on the previous day, they had, perhaps, scarcely attached sufficient importance. And it was the suddenness and completeness of the judgment that had been denounced, which now struck Peter, rather than its symbolic meaning. It was rather the Miracle than its moral and spiritual import - the storm and earthquake rather than the still small Voice - which impressed the disciples. Besides, the words of Peter are at least capable of this interpretation, that the fig-tree had withered in consequence of, rather than by the Word of Christ. But He ever leads His own from mere wonderment at the Miraculous up to that which is higher. His answer now combined all that they needed to learn.
It pointed to the typical lesson of what had taken place: the need of Realizing, simple faith, the absence of which was the cause of Israel's leafy barrenness, and which, if present and active, could accomplish all, however impossible it might seem by outward means. And yet it was only to ' have faith in God; ' such faith as becomes those who know God; a faith in God, which seeks not and has not its foundation in anything outward, but rests on Him alone. And this general principle of the Kingdom, which to the devout and reverent believer needs neither explanation nor limitation, received its further application, specially to the Apostles in their coming need.
These two things follow: faith gives absolute power in prayer, but it is also its moral condition. None other than this is faith; and none other than faith - absolute, simple, trustful - gives glory to God, or has the promise. This is, so to speak, the New Testament application of the first Table of the Law, summed up in the commandment to love God. But there is yet another moral condition of prayer closely connected with the first - a New Testament application of the second Table of the Law, summed up in the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
If the first moral condition was God-ward, the second is man-ward; if the first bound us to faith, the second binds us to charity, while hope, the expectancy of answered prayer, is the link connecting the two. Prayer, unlimited in its possibilities, stands midway between heaven and earth; with one hand it reaches up to heaven, with the other down to earth; in it, faith prepares to receive, what charity is ready to dispense. He who so prays believes in God and loves man; such prayer is not selfish, self-seeking, self-conscious; least of all, is it compatible with mindfulness of wrongs, or an unforgiving spirit. This, then, is the second condition of prayer, and not only of such all-prevailing prayer, but even of personal acceptance in prayer. We can, therefore, have no doubt that Mark correctly reports in this connection this as the condition which the Lord attaches to acceptance, that we previously put away all uncharitableness. We remember, that the promise had a special application to the Apostles and early disciples; we also remember, how difficult to them was the thought of full forgiveness of offenders and persecutors; and again, how great the temptation to avenge wrongs and to wield miraculous power in the vindication of their authority.
In these circumstances Peter and his fellow-disciples, when assured of the unlimited power of the prayer of faith, required all the more to be both reminded and warned of this as its second moral condition: the need of hearty forgiveness, if they had aught against any.
From this digression we return to the events of that second day in Passion-week, which began with the symbolic judgment on the leafy, barren fig-tree. The same symbolism of judgment was to be immediately set forth still more clearly, and that in the Temple itself. On the previous afternoon, when Christ had come to it, the services were probably over, and the Sanctuary comparatively empty of worshippers and of those who there carried on their traffic. When treating of the first cleansing of the Temple, at the beginning of Christ's Ministry, sufficient has been said to explain the character and mode of that nefarious traffic, the profits of which went to the leaders of the priesthood, as also how popular indignation was roused alike against this trade and the traders.
We need not here recall the words of Christ; Jewish authorities sufficiently describe, in even stronger terms, this transformation of 'the House of Prayer' into 'a den of robbers.' If, when beginning to do the 'business' of His Father, and for the first time publicly presenting Himself with Messianic claim, it was fitting He should take such authority, and first 'cleanse the Temple' of the nefarious intruders who, under the guise of being God's chief priests, made His House one of traffic, much more was this appropriate now, at the close of His Work, when, as King, He had entered His City, and publicly claimed authority. At the first it had been for teaching and warning, now it was in symbolic judgment; what and as He then began, that and so He now finished. Accordingly, as we compare the words, and even some of the acts, of the first 'cleansing' with those accompanying and explaining the second, we find the latter, we shall not say, much more severe, but bearing a different character - that of final judicial sentence.
Nor did the Temple-authorities now, as on the former occasion, seek to raise the populace against Him, or challenge His authority by demanding the warrant of 'a sign.' The contest had reached quite another stage. They heard what He said in their condemnation, and with bitter hatred in their hearts sought for some means to destroy Him. But fear of the people restrained their violence. For, marvellous indeed was the power which He wielded. With rapt attention the people hung entranced on his lips, 'astonished' at those new and blessed truths which dropped from them. All was so other than it had been! By His authority the Temple was cleansed of the unholy, thievish traffic which a corrupt priesthood carried on, and so, for the time, restored to the solemn Service of God; and that purified House now became the scene of Christ's teaching, when He spake those words of blessed truth and of comfort concerning the Father - thus realizing the prophetic promise of a house of prayer for all nations.
And as those traffickers were driven from the Temple, and He spake, there flocked in from porches and Temple-Mount the poor sufferers - the blind and the lame - to get healing to body and soul. It was truly spring-time in that Temple, and the boys that gathered about their fathers and looked in turn from their faces of rapt wonderment and enthusiasm to the Godlike Face of the Christ, and then on those healed sufferers, took up the echoes of the welcome at His entrance into Jerusalem - in their simplicity understanding and applying them better - as they burst into ' Hosanna to the Son of David. '
It rang through the courts and porches of the Temple, this Children's Hosanna. They heard it, whom the wonders He had spoken and done, so far from leading to repentance and faith, had only filled with indignation. Once more in their impotent anger they sought, as the Pharisees had done on the day of His Entry, by a hypocritical appeal to His reverence for God, not only to mislead, and so to use His very love of the truth against the truth, but to betray Him into silencing those Children's Voices. But the undimmed mirror of His soul only reflected the light. These Children's Voices were Angels' Echoes, echoes of the far-off praises of heaven, which children's souls had caught and children's lips welled forth. Not from the great, the wise, nor the learned, but 'out of the mouth of babes and sucklings' has He 'perfected praise.' And this, also, is the Music of the Gospel.
Some Greeks desire to see Jesus
Saturday, April 1st, 30 A.D.
"Now there were certain Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. And these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee; and they asked him, saying, "Sir, we desire to see Jesus." Philip came and told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
"But Jesus answered them, saying, 'The time has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. The one who loves his life shall lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life. If anyone will serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant be also. And if anyone serves Me, him shall the Father honor. Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this very purpose I have come to this hour.'" (John 12:20-27, HBFV)
Precious as each part and verse here is, when taken by itself, there is some difficulty in combining them, and in showing their connection, and its meaning. But here we ought not to forget, that we have, in the Gospel-narrative, only the briefest account - as it were, headings, summaries, outlines, rather than a report. Nor do we know the surrounding circumstances. The words which Christ spoke after the request of the Greeks to be admitted to His Presence may bear some special reference also to the state of the disciples, and their unreadiness to enter into and share His predicted sufferings.
And in those Temple-porches they had been hearing Him - seeing Him in His wonder-working yesterday, hearing Him in His wonder-speaking that day - those 'men of other tongues.' They were 'Proselytes,' Greeks by birth. They must have been stirred in their inmost being; felt, that it was just for such as they, and to them that He spoke; that this was what in the Old Testament they had guessed, anticipated, dimly hoped for, if they had not seen it - its grand faith, its grander hope, its grandest reality.
As Proselytes they had come to Jerusalem to worship and they would learn to praise. Yet, in the simple self-unconscious modesty of their religious childhood, they dared not go to Jesus directly, but came with their request to Philip of Bethsaida. We know not why to him: whether from family connections, or that his education, or previous circumstances, connected Philip with these Greeks, or whether anything in his position in the Apostolic circle, or something that had just occurred, influenced their choice. And he also - such was the ignorance of the Apostles of the inmost meaning of their Master - dared not go directly to Jesus, but went to his own townsman, who had been his early friend and fellow-disciple, and now stood so close to the Person of the Master - Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Together the two came to Jesus, Andrew apparently foremost. Jesus' response regarding his impending death seems to indicate the Greeks were not able to speak to him face to face.
A voice thunders from heaven
Saturday, April 1st
"Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this very purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again."
"Then the people standing there, who heard it, said, "It thundered." Others said, "An angel spoke to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but because of you. Now is the judgment of this world. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself." But He said this to signify by what death He was about to die.
"The people answered Him, "We have heard out of the law that the Christ lives forever, and why do You say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?" Then Jesus said to them, 'Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness will not overtake you. For the one who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become the children of light.' Jesus spoke these things and then departed from them and was in hiding." (John 12:27-36, HBFV)
Words these, which carried the Divine seal of confirmation to all Christ's past work, and assured it for that which was to come. The words of confirmation could only be for Himself; 'the Voice' was for all. What mattered it, that some spoke of it as thunder on a spring-evening, while others, with more reason, thought of Angel-Voices? To him it bore the assurance, which had all along been the ground of His claims, as it was the comfort in His Sufferings, that, as God had in the past glorified Himself in the Son, so would it be in the future in the perfecting of the work given Him to do. And this He now spake, as, looking on those Greeks as the emblem and firstfruits of the work finished in His Passion, He saw of the travail of His Soul, and was satisfied. Of both He spake in the prophetic present. To His view judgement had already come to this world, as it lay in the power of the Evil One, since the Prince of it was cast out from his present rule. And, in place of it, the Crucified Christ.
The Jews who heard it, so far understood Him, that His words referred to His removal from earth, or His Death, since this was a common Jewish mode of expression . But they failed to understand His special reference to the manner of it. And yet, in view of the peculiarly shameful death to the cross, it was most important that He should ever point to it also. But, even in what they understood, they had a difficulty. They understood Him to imply that He would be taken from earth; and yet they had always been taught from the Scriptures that the Messiah was, when fully manifested, to abide for ever, or, as the Rabbis put it, that His Reign was to be followed by the Resurrection. Or did He refer to any other One by the expression, the 'Son of Man?'
Into the controversial part of the question the Lord did not enter; nor would it have been fitting to have so in that 'hour.' But to their inquiry He fully replied, and that with such earnest, loving admonition as became His ministry. But a little while would the Light be among them. Let them avail themselves of it, lest darkness overtake them - and he that walked in darkness knew not where he went.