With our lesson to-day we begin to learn of the events of "Holy Week" or the last week of the Lord's life upon earth. And first let us get a little idea of where the week was spent.
You know the great city of Jerusalem, set on its hills, with the beautiful temple all of shining white marble and bright yellow gold, standing like a beautiful jewel to the east, and to the west the magnificent palace of Herod. On the east of the temple hill is a deep valley called the Kidron valley. The valley of Hinnom runs along the west and south sides, joining the Kidron valley below the southeast corner of the city. These valleys make the city seem to stand up very high and grand with the beautiful temple crowning all. Across the Kidron valley rises the Mount of Olives whose gentle slopes were covered with olive orchards. Over the top of the Mount of Olives, in a little valley on its southeastern slope rested the little town of Bethany. Here Mary and Martha lived, and their brother Lazarus whom the Lord raised from the dead. And here the Lord found a resting place three or four nights of this last week. Another place mentioned in our story today is Bethphage, a little town very near to Bethany on the Mount of Olives.
Our story is of the Sunday when the Lord and His disciples entered Jerusalem, a large multitude with them, all on their way to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. As they came to Bethphage the Lord called two of His disciples and told them to go into the village near by (perhaps Bethphage, perhaps a neighboring hamlet), and that there they would find a colt tied. It was an ass's colt which had never yet been ridden, but was still running with its mother. The Lord told the disciples to loose the colt and bring it to Him, and said if any man asked them why they were taking the colt, to say that the Lord had need of him, and they would let him go.
So the two disciples went to the village, and there in a lane that went round a house they found the mother ass and her colt tied, and they began to loose them, when the owners who stood by asked, "What do ye, loosing the colt?" And they said as the Lord had told them, "The Lord has need of him," and they let them go. They brought them to the Lord and put their garments upon the colt, and the Lord sat upon him; and others laid their garments in the path to carpet the way for the Lord, as they might do for a king; and some took branches from the trees and strewed them in the path. As they came down the hillside they looked and saw another multitude come out of one of the city gates with palm branches in their hands to meet the Lord, having heard of the wonderful things He had done, and that He was coming up to the city. And as they come near we can hear them shout, "Hosanna;" "Save now;" "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord:" and the multitude with the Lord answering, "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest." So on Palm Sunday the Lord rode as a King into Jerusalem.
It was the early spring, when companies of pilgrims from all parts of Palestine and from distant countries were going to Jerusalem to the Passover. Many pilgrims were among the multitudes who were with the Lord as He entered and passed through Jericho, and climbed the rough way toward Jerusalem. They had probably rested in Bethany on the Sabbath. Now on the morning which we remember as Palm Sunday the Lord sent for a young ass, and rode as a king into Jerusalem. Imagine the thoughts that filled these people's minds. He was riding on an ass, as kings and judges in the days of David used to ride. (Judges 5:10; 10:3, 4; 12:14; 1 Kings 1:33-45) The disciples and all the people thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. (Luke 19:11) Read what the prophet Zechariah had said. (9:9) Though it was not till afterwards that the disciples remembered this prophecy and saw how it had been fulfilled. (John 12:16)
Now they rounded the shoulder of the Mount of Olives, and Jerusalem lay before them on its hills. Remember how the pilgrims used to sing, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, 0 Jerusalem" (Psalm 122), and other Psalms of rejoicing. So the company passed down the hill across the Kidron and up into the city. "And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth in Galilee." (Matthew 21:10, 11)
"And Jesus entered into Jerusalem into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, He went out unto Bethany with the twelve."
1. What journey ended with the events of Palm Sunday? What week of sacred events began with that day?
2. From what hill did the Lord ride into Jerusalem? In what ways was it like the welcome of a king?
3. How did the multitude show their gladness?
4. Where did the Lord go as evening fell?
Palms. Tell me about date palms, their shape, their leaves, their fruit. They grow in the hottest desert, wherever there is a stream or spring to give them water. Trees represent growing intelligence of different kinds. What is the one supreme subject of knowledge? The Lord. And this lofty, straight, unbranching tree of the desert represents such knowledge of the Lord-as springs up in times of temptations and trial, when we find refreshment and strength in the water of His commandments. The palm is the knowledge of His power to conquer in temptation and to save. Remember how in ancient times the palm was an emblem of victory; and we still speak of "the victor's palm," and of "yielding the palm" to one who excels. The hosannas of the people, and the palm leaves in their hands had the same meaning, expressions of gratitude for His saving power. See also Revelation 7:9, 10. (E. 458; R. 367; A. 8369)
The ass. Animals represent human affections. The animals of work, especially the horse and ass, represent affections for intellectual labor, thinking and understanding. The horse, the noblest of all animals of work, represents the affection for understanding spiritually. The less noble and more willful ass represents the affection for reasoning and understanding naturally. Which kind of understanding was needed by the kings and judges who heard and settled questions of natural right and wrong? Therefore they rode on asses and mules. (A. 2761, 2762, 2781) The Lord's loosing the ass and riding on him, was a sign that He came down to meet men on the plane of natural understanding; to loose that faculty from bondage and to teach men to rule their lives by His Divine natural precepts. (A. 2781) Contrast the appearance of the Lord in the Revelation, when He came to open men's spiritual understanding to the spiritual truth of the Word. (Revelation 19:11-14; 6:2; E. 355; R. 298)
The Mount of Olives above Jerusalem is a symbol of the Lord's love guarding His church. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even forever." (Psalm 125:2; A. 10261; R. 336, 493) The Lord's coming down from the hill into the city is a picture of His coming to His church from the heights of His love. From the Mount of Olives He looked upon the city and wept over it, so soon to be destroyed. (A. 5480)
How can we make the Lord our king? Should we do it sadly and reluctantly, or with rejoicing? With enthusiasm?