These were indeed eventful hours on which they had now entered. The stir through Palestine of the thousands congregating in the earthly Jerusalem to the great Paschal Feast, was but a feeble type of the profound interest with which myriad angel-worshippers in the Jerusalem above were gathering to witness the offering of the True Paschal Sacrifice, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
On the morning after the supper at Bethany (probably that of our Sabbath), the Saviour rose from His couch of needed rest to approach Jerusalem. The reserve hitherto maintained as to His kingly power is now to be set aside. "The hour is come in which the Son of man is to be glorified." BETHANY is one of the few places associated with recollections of the Redeemer's royalty. The "despised and rejected" is, for once, the honoured and exalted. It is a glimpse of the crown before He ascends the cross; a foreshadowing of that blessed period when He shall be hailed by the loud acclaim of earth's nations -- the Gentile hosannah mingling with the Hebrew hallelujah in welcoming Him to the throne of universal empire.
Multitudes of the assembled pilgrims in the city, who had heard of His arrival, crowded out to Bethany to witness the mysterious Being, whose deeds of mercy and miracle had now become the universal theme of converse. His mightiest prodigy of power in the resurrection of Lazarus had invested His name and person with surpassing interest. We need not wonder, therefore, that "the town of Mary and her sister Martha" should attract many worshippers from Jerusalem, to behold with their own eyes at once the restored villager and his Divine Deliverer! In fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy, the meek and lowly Nazarene, seated on no caparisoned war-horse, but on an unbroken colt, and surrounded with the multitude, sets forth on His journey. "The village and the desert were then all alive (as they still are once every year at the Greek Easter) with the crowd of Paschal pilgrims moving to and fro between Bethany and Jerusalem. ... Three pathways lead, and probably always led, from Bethany; ... one a long circuit over the northern shoulder of Mount Olivet, down the valley which parts it from Scopus; another, a steep footpath over the summit; the third, the natural continuation of the road by which mounted travellers always approach the city from Jericho, over the southern shoulder between the summit which contains the Tombs of the Prophets, and that called the 'Mount of Offence.' There can be no doubt that this last is the road of the entry of Christ, not only because, as just stated, it is, and must always have been, the usual approach for horsemen and for large caravans such as then were concerned, but also because this is the only one of the three approaches which meets the requirements of the narrative which follows. ... This is the only one approach which is really grand. It is the approach by which the army of Pompey advanced, the first European army that ever confronted it. Probably the first impression of every one coming from the north-west and the south may be summed up in the simple expression used by one of the modern travellers -- 'I am strangely affected, but greatly disappointed!' But no human being could be disappointed who first saw Jerusalem from the east. The beauty consists in this, that you then burst at once on the two great ravines which cut the city off from the surrounding table-land.
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"Two vast streams of people met on that day. The one poured out from the city, and as they came through the gardens whose clusters of palms rose on the south-eastern corner of Olivet, they cut down the long branches, as was their wont at the Feast of Tabernacles, and moved upwards towards Bethany with loud shouts of welcome. From Bethany streamed forth the crowds who had assembled there on the previous night, and who came testifying to the great event at the sepulchre of Lazarus. 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 below on the left; the sloping shoulder of Olivet above on the right. Along this road the multitudes threw down the branches which they cut as they went along, or spread out a rude matting formed of the palm branches they had already cut as they came out. The larger portion (those perhaps who escorted Him from Bethany) unwrapped their loose cloaks from their shoulders, and stretched them along the rough path, to form a momentary carpet as he approached. The two streams met midway. Half of the vast mass, turning round, preceded; the other half followed. 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, covered with houses to its base, surmounted by the castle of Herod on the supposed site of the palace of David, from which that portion of Jerusalem, emphatically 'The City of David,' derived its name. It was at this precise point, as he drew near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, (may it not have been from the sight thus opening upon them?) that the shout of triumph burst forth from the multitude -- 'Hosannah to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom that cometh of our father David. Hosannah -- Peace -- Glory in the highest!' There was a pause as the shout rang through the long defile; and as the Pharisees who stood by in the crowd complained, He pointed to the 'stones,' which, strewn beneath their feet, would immediately 'cry out' if 'these were to hold their peace.' 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 instant 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 gray 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 below 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.' ... Here the Lord stayed His onward march, and here His eyes beheld what is still the most impressive view which the neighbourhood of Jerusalem furnishes -- and the tears rushed forth at the sight."
Without dwelling longer on this splendid ovation, we may only further remark, that had the Redeemer's mission been on (the infidel theory) a successful imposture, what an opportunity now to have availed Himself of that outburst of popular fervour, and to have marched straight to take possession of the hereditary throne of David. The populace were evidently more than ready to second any such attempt; the Sanhedrim and Jewish authorities must have trembled for the result. The hosannas, borne on the breeze from the slope of Olivet, could not fail to sound ominous of coming disaster. So incontrovertible indeed had been the proof of Lazarus' resurrection, that only the most blinded bigotry could refuse to own in that marvellous act the divinity of Jesus. In addition, too, to this last crowning demonstration of omnipotence, there were hundreds, we may well believe, in that procession, who, in different parts of Palestine, had listened to His gracious words, and witnessed His gracious deeds. What other, what better Messiah could they wish than this -- combining the might of Godhead with the kindness and tenderness of a human philanthropist and friend? Is He to accept of the crown? Nay, by a lofty abnegation of self, and all selfish considerations, He illustrates the announcement made by Him, a few hours later, in Pilate's judgment-hall, as to the leading characteristic of that empire He is to set up in the hearts of men -- "My kingdom is not of this world." He was, indeed, one day to be hailed alike King of Zion and King of Nations, but a bitter baptism of blood and suffering had meanwhile to be undergone. No glitter of earthly honour -- no carnal dreams of earthly glory -- would divert Him from His divine and gracious undertaking. He would save others -- Himself He would not save.
Let us pause for a moment, and ponder that significant chorus of praise which on Olivet arose to the Lord of Glory. How interesting to think of the vast and varied multitude gathered around the Conqueror! Many, doubtless, assembled from curiosity, who had never seen Him before, and had only heard of His fame in their distant homes; others, from feelings of personal love and gratitude, were blending their voices in the shout of welcome. Think, it may be, of Bartimeus, now gazing with his unsealed eyes on his Divine Deliverer. Think of Mary Magdalene, her heart gushing at the remembrance of her own sin and shame, and her adorable Redeemer's pardoning and forgiving mercy! Nicodemus, perhaps, no longer seeking to repair by stealth, under the shadow of night, to hold a confidential meeting; but in the full blaze of day, and before assembled Israel, boldly recognising in "the Teacher sent from God" the promised Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer of Mankind. Shall we think of Lazarus too, fearless of his own personal safety, venturing to follow his guest with tearful eye, the multitude gazing with wonder on this living trophy of death? We may think of the very children, as He entered the temple, uplifting their infant voices in the general welcome -- pledges of the myriad little ones who, in future ages, were to have an interest in "the kingdom of God."
"Meanwhile He paces through th' adoring crowd,
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"Yet in the throng of selfish hearts untrue,
May not Olivet be regarded on this occasion as a type of the Church triumphant in Heaven -- Jesus enthroned in the affections of a mighty multitude which no man can number -- old and young, great and small, rich and poor -- casting their palms of victory at His feet, and ascribing to Him all the glory of their great salvation?
Let us ask, have we received Jesus as our King? -- have our palm branches been cast at His feet? Feeling that He is alike willing and mighty to save, have we joined in the rapture of praise -- "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord to save us?" Have our hearts become living temples thrown open for His reception? Is this the motto and superscription on their portals -- "This is the gate of the Lord, into which THE RIGHTEOUS ONE shall enter!" Jesus refused and disowned none of these gratulations -- He spurned no voice in all that motley Jerusalem throng. There were endless diversities and phases, doubtless, of human character and history there. The once proud formalist, the once greedy extortioner, the hated tax-gatherer, the rich nobleman, the child of penury, the Roman officer, the peasant or fisherman of Galilee, the humbled publican, the woman from the city, the reclaimed victim of misery and guilt! All were there as types and samples of that diversified multitude who, in every age, were to own Him as King, and receive His gracious benediction.
We have spoken of this incident as a glimpse of glory before His sufferings. Alas! it was but a glimpse. What a picture of the fickleness and treachery of the heart! -- That excited populace who are now shouting their hosannahs, are ere long to be raising the cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Four days hence we shall find the palm branches lying withered on the Bethany road, and the blazing torches of an assassin-band nigh the very spot where He is now passing with an applauding retinue! "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils."
It does not belong to our narrative to record the remaining transactions of this day in Jerusalem. The shades of evening find the Saviour once more repairing to Bethany. The evangelist Mark, in the course of his narrative, simply but touchingly says: -- "And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon all things" (the mitred priests, the bleeding victims, the costly buildings), "and now the eventide was come, he went out unto BETHANY with the twelve." (Mark xi.11.) As He returned to the sweet calm of that quiet home, if He could not fail to think of the hours of darkness and agony before Him, could He reap no joy or consolation in the thought, that that very day week the redemption of His people was to be consummated -- the glory that surrounded the grave and resurrection of Lazarus was to be eclipsed by the marvels of His own!