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JESUS APPEARS AT JERUSALEM.
MATTHEW XXI. 1-16.1
ARDLY had the traveller to the City of the Temple left
Jericho a league behind, when he found he had passed from one of the loveliest spots upon earth into an ill-favored and dismal waste. The whole distance was six leagues, and in spite of undulations the journey was on the whole an ascent, for Jerusalem was three thousand feet above the Jordan valley. It was these barren rocks, these narrow passes, these rock-bound defiles, thinly covered with brushwood, that formed the background upon which the picture of the Good Samaritan,” already known to us, was painted. But as bands of pilgrims passed along the road, drawing nearer with every step to the goal of their journey, for which they had longed with such eager expectation, we may be sure that they seldom or never allowed themselves to be appalled, or even depressed, by the scenery through which they passerl ; and least of all would it disturb the high-wrought enthusiasm and joyous expectations of the caravan we are now accompanying in fancy. How many a heart leaped up in transport ; how many a bosom panted with impatience; how many a straining eye saw nothing of precipitous cliffs or barren gorges, but was filled by the dazzling vision of a splendid coronation and the glorious dominion it would inaugurate ! Can we not picture the companions of Jesus on this last day of the journey? some of them quiet, as if plunged in tl ought; some of them engaged in animated conversation ; yet others with joyous cries from sacred songs upon their lips; but almost all in growing tension of excitement.
And Jesus himself? It is extremely difficult to pierce the veil of his thoughts. One thing, however, is certain : that Luke is mistaken in making him bewail the impenitence of the city, and foretell its future destruction by the Romans in minute delail? as soon as he approaches and beholds it; for the city's impenitence had not as yet appeared, and Luke is
1 Mark xi. 1-11, 15-18; Luke xix. 28-40, 45-48.
evidently confounding the feelings which inspired Jesus a week or two later, after the failure of his efforts, with those of his first approach to the city. We shall be nearer the truth in thinking of Jesus as suspended between hope and fear, alternately contemplating the possibility of success and failure during these last hours; but the fact that he did nothing to check the enthusiasm of his followers, and presently entered upon the contest in such a lofty mood himself, appears to indicate that for the time hope, if not supreme, was at least predominant in his mind, — which is indeed no more than we should expect. Here again Luke has confounded the expectation with the result; for he has put into the mouth of Jesus, a few hours before, a parable expressly designed to correct the impression that, since he had now almost reached Jerusalem, the kingdom of God would immediately come. In spite of its inappositeness, however, we will give this parable here. It is that of the minæ, or pounds. A mina represents about 3£ 6s.; and to understand the story we must further note that in those times there was nothing strange in the idea of a man's going to Rome to receive at the Emperor's hands the appointment to the vacant throne of some tributary state. Thirty years before Archelaus had done this very thing, and had been appointed ruler of Judæa and the two neighboring districts in spite of the opposition of the Jews, who had sent ambassadors to implore Augustus to spare them the imposition of a Herod. There is an obvious reference to all this in the parable, which runs as follows: 2
A certain man of noble birth set out for a distant land, to be invested with the regal dignity and then return. But first he summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them each a mina to trade with during his absence. It was only a trifle ; but his object was simply to make a trial of their fidelity, zeal, and ability, since he would soon be wanting faithful servants as governors. Now, when he had set out, his fellow-citizens sent an embassy after him to inform his suzerain that they did not want him as their prince, for they hated him; but their protest was in vain. So when the nobleman returned as king, he summoned the ten slaves to see what they had accomplished. The first had increased his stock by ten minæ, the second by five, and so on ; for which they were all rewarded by the warm approval of their master, and by appointments to governorships of ten, five, or such other num ber of cities as corresponded with their deserts. Then he 1 Luke xix. 11.
2 Luke xix. 12-37.
ordered the enemies who had tried to prevent his becoming king to be brought into his presence and cut down before his
The meaning evidently is that Jesus was not going to ascend the Messianic throne in Jerusalem at once, but must first go up to heaven, there to receive the kingship from God, – for such was the faith of the apostolic age, 2 — and that on his return he would reward his faithful servants and inflict a fearful punishment upon the rebellious Jews. The story was certainly never told by Jesus. It is an imitation (and not a very successful one) of the parable of the talents ; 8 and this accounts for the introduction of an episode which so disturbs the progress of the narrative that we designedly omitted it. It is this : One of the slaves came with his mina and said that he had wrapped it in a cloth and hidden it, because he knew bis master was a hard and unjust man. His master there. fore punished him, and rebuked him for not having put his money in the bank; after which he astonished all present by ordering the mina to be given to the most enterprising of the other servants, who had gained ten extra minæ already. Now all this was well enough in the parable of the talents, for there the master gave his servants charge of all his possessions, and even the least favored of them had to manage a considerable sum; but here the smallness of the amount in question makes the whole proceeding inappropriate, and it would simply be ridiculous to show additional respect for the governor of ten cities by a present of three guineas !
But let us return to Jesus and his fellow-travellers. We have already said that the Master made no attempt to check the enthusiasm of his friends; and when they had exchanged the wilderness of Jericho for a less-forbidding district; when their eyes rested on the Mount of Olives, behind which they knew the Holy City lay; when they had passed through Bethany, on the eastern slope, half hidden among its noble trees and undulating verdure, - their excitement rose at last to its culminating point. Jesus had sent for an ass, on which to ride into the city; and, in lieu of a saddle, some of his disciples had folded their cloaks and laid them on the ass's back for him to sit on.
Then they ascended the ridge between the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Offence; and there the City of God, so loved, so praised in the songs of Israel, lay stretched before them in all its glory! What colossal walls See pp. 304, 305.
2 Compare Acts ii. 36, iii. 20, 21, et seq. See pp. 165, 166.
and mighty towers rising from the precipitous rock! What luxurious palaces and entrancing pleasure-grounds! But above and before all else the eye was dazzled and the heart enthralled by the Temple of the Lord: an imposing and marvellous erection even to the heathen, but to the Israelite the very consummation of holiness and glory upon earth, his greatest pride and his deepest joy. There was the temple area, with its noble colonnades; and on the highest terrace there stood the sanctuary itself, with its glittering parapets of snow-white marble, tipped with the tapering golden spikes and plated on all sides with sheets of gold, shining beneath the sunbeams, now like a mountain of snow, now like a sea of fire. How could such a sight fail to call forth a general outburst of enthusiasm? The sacred spot was reached where the kingdom of God would be established, and on the very instant honor and glory must be rendered to him who brought that kingdom! Most of the company threw off their upper garments and laid them in the way for the ass to step upon, while others strewed the path with leaves and branches from the neighboring fields ; and, as they waved the palm-branches in their hands, those who went before and those who followed him sang in alternation the song of praise,
Hosama in the highest! With such shouts of triumph they turned northwards along the slopes of the Mount of Olives, past Bethpbage that was reckoned part of the sacred ground of the City of the Temple, by the Garden of Gethsemane, then down across the bridge over the Kidron, and up the hill again, through the Sheep-gate into Jerusalem! It was no new thing at Jerusalem to see caravans of pilgrims drawing near with exuberant signs of delight; but such an entry as this must have caused no little commotion. " Who is it?” the people asked in curiosity and amazement as the procession, chiefly composed of Galilæans, passed them by, and the central figure drew all eyes upon him.
And the crowd of triumphant Galileans answered, “ It is the mighty prophet Jesus, froin Nazareth in Galilee !"
Before accompanying Jesus and his disciples through the streets of the city to the temple, we must make a few remarks in justification of the account we have given of their entry;
for it departs in several particulars from the narratives of the Gospels, which do not always agree with each other.
According to Luke the disciples of Jesus cry, “ Blessed be the king who comes in the name of the Lord ! Peace be in heaven, and glory in the highest ! upon which certain Pharisees who are present request the Master to forbid them ; but he replies, “ I tell you that if they held their peace the very stones would cry out!” One does not quite see what had brought the Pharisees thus early into the presence of Jesus, and his short and stern reply strikes us as an implied rebuke, and a kind of echo of the wail over Jerusalem's impenitence already mentioned. At any rate, this question and answer can hardly have been uttered upon this occasion.
A second point is of more importance. All the Gospels make Jesus, upon reaching the Mount of Olives, despatch two of his friends to the village that lies before them (presumably Bethphage) to fetch him an ass's colt which, he says, they will find at the entrance of the village, tied up. one asks them what they are doing, they are to answer, “The lord requires it,” and they will be no further molested. Now, this story implies either a previous arrangement with the owner of the colt, or divine foreknowledge on the part of Jesus; and when we consider all the circumstances, and remember that Jesus was a stranger in the village, the former supposition becomes alınost as unsatisfactory as the latter. Moreover, Mark and Luke not only add that the bystanders or the owners of the colt did actually challenge the arbitrary proceedings of the disciples, but also say that, according to Jesus himself, no one had ever ridden on the beast before. The idea is, of course, that it would not otherwise have been holy enough for him ; 2 but any one can see how ill-suited an unbroken colt would be for carrying Jesus in the midst of so excited a procession.
But Matthew's account is the most extraordinary of all ; for he makes Jesus send for two beasts, an ass and a colt, and ride upon them both! This is because he sees in the erent the literal fulfilment of a prophecy in Zechariah,' in which, by a curious blunder, he supposes that two animals are mentioned. He renders it : “ Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold! thy king is coming to thee, gentle, riding
Compare Luke ii. 14. 2 Compare Numbers xix. 2; Deuteronomy xxi. 3; 1 Samuel vi. 7; and Luke xxjü, 53, John xix. 41. 3 Zechariah ix. 9. See vol. ii. p. 255; compare Isaiah Ixii. 11.