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John 12:9-15

9. Then a great multitude of the Jews knew that he was there, and came, not on account of Jesus only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10. Now the chief priests consulted, that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11. For many of the Jews on his account went away, and believed on Jesus. 12. next day, a great multitude, who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was come to Jerusalem, 13. Took branches of palm trees, trod went out to meet him, and shouted, Hosanna, Blessed be the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14. And Jesus, having found a young’ ass, sat upon it, as it is written, 15. Fear not, daughter of Zion, because thy King cometh sitting on the foal of an ass.


9. Then a great multitude of the Jews knew that he was there. The more nearly the time of the death of Christ approached, it became the more necessary that his name should be universally celebrated, in order that it might be a preparation for stronger faith after his death. More especially, the Evangelist relates that the recent miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus had acquired great celebrity: and as Christ showed in it a remarkable proof of his Divinity, God intended that it should have many witnesses. When he says that they came not on account of Jesus only, but also for the sake of Lazarus, he does not mean that they came out of regard to Lazarus, as if they bestowed this mark of honor on him in particular, but that they might behold the astonishing display of the power of Christ in Lazarus.

10. Now the chief priests consulted. It certainly was worse than insane fury to endeavor to put to death one who had manifestly been raised from the dead by divine power. But such is the spirit of giddiness with which Satan torments the wicked, so that there is no end of their madness, even though God should bring heaven, and earth, and sea, to oppose them. For this wicked consultation is thus described, for the purpose of informing us that the enemies of Christ were led to so great obstinacy, not by mistake or folly, but by furious wickedness, so that they did not even shrink from making war against God; and also for the purpose of informing us that the power of God was not dimly seen in the resurrection of Lazarus, since ungodliness could contrive no other method of banishing it from remembrance than by perpetrating a base and shocking murder on an innocent man. Besides, since Satan labors with his utmost strength utterly to bury, or at least in some measure to obscure, the works of God, it is our duty to devote ourselves diligently to continual meditation on them.

12. The next day, a great multitude. This entrance of Christ is more copiously related (Matthew 21:1; Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29) by the other Evangelists; but John here embraces the leading points. In the first place, we ought to remember Christ’s design, which was, that he came to Jerusalem of his own accord, to. offer himself to die; for it was necessary that his death should be voluntary, because the wrath of God could be appeased only by a sacrifice of obedience. And, indeed, he well knew what would be the result; but before he is dragged to the cross, he wishes to be solemnly acknowledged by the people as their King; nay, he openly declares that he commences his reign by advancing to death, but though his approach was celebrated by a vast crowd of people, still he remained unknown to his enemies until, by the fulfillment of prophecies, which we shall afterwards see in their own place, he proved that he was the true Messiah; for he wished to omit nothing that would contribute to the full confirmation of our faith.

A great multitude, which came to the feast. Thus strangers were more ready to discharge the duty of paying respect to the Son of God than the citizens of Jerusalem, who ought rather to have been all example to all others. For they had sacrifices daily; the temple was always before their eyes, which ought to have: kindled in their hearts the desire of seeking God; these too were the highest teachers of the Church, and there was the sanctuary of the divine light. It is therefore a manifestation of excessively base ingratitude in them that, after they have been trained to such exercise from their earliest years, they reject or despise the Redeemer who had been promised to them. But this fault has prevailed in almost every age, that the more nearly and the more familiarly God approached to men, the more daringly did men despise God.

In other men who, having left their homes, assembled to celebrate the feast, we observe much greater ardor, so that they eagerly inquire about Christ; and when they hear that he is coming into the city, they go out to meet and congratulate him. And yet it cannot be doubted that they were aroused by a secret movement of the Spirit to meet him. We do not read that this was done on any former occasion. But as earthly princes summon their subjects by the sound of a trumpet or by the public crier, when they go to take possession of their kingdom, so Christ, by a movement of his Spirit, assembled this people, that they might hail him as their king. When the multitudes wished to make him a king, while he was in the wilderness, (John 6:15,) he withdrew secretly into the mountain; for at that time they dreamed of no other kingdom than one under which they might be well fattened, in the same manner as cattle. Christ could not therefore grant and comply with their foolish and absurd wish, without denying himself, and renouncing the office which the Father had bestowed upon him. But now he claims for himself such a kingdom as he had received from the Father. I readily acknowledge that the people who went out to meet him were not well acquainted with the nature of this kingdom; but Christ looked to the future. Meanwhile, he permitted nothing to be done that was not suitable to his spiritual kingdom.

13. Took branches of palm-trees. The palm was the emblem of victory and peace among the ancients; but they were wont to employ branches of palm-trees, when they bestowed kingly power on any one, or when they humbly supplicated the favor of a conqueror. But those persons appear to have taken into their hands branches of palm-trees, as a token of gladness and rejoicing at receiving a new king.

Shouted, Hosanna. By this phrase they testified that they acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the Messiah, who had anciently been promised to the fathers, and from whom redemption and salvation were to be expected. For the Psalm 118:25 from which that exclamation is taken was composed in reference to the Messiah for this purpose, that all the saints might continually desire and ardently long for his coming, and might receive him with the utmost reverence, when he was manifested. It is therefore probable, or rather it may be inferred with certainty, that this prayer was frequently used by the Jews, and, consequently, was in every man’s mouth; so that the Spirit of God put words into the mouths, 55     “Et pourtant le Sainct Esprit mettoit les mots en la bouche des hommes, quand ils ont ainsi souhaitte heureuse venue au Seigneur Jesus.” of those men, when they wished a prosperous arrival to the Lord Jesus; and they were chosen by him as heralds to attest that Christ was come.

The word Hosanna is composed of two Hebrew words, and means, Save, I beseech you. The Hebrews, indeed, pronounce it differently, (הושיע-נא) Hoshianna; 66     See Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 2, p. 451. but it usually happens that the pronunciation of words is corrupted, when they are transferred to a foreign language. Yet the Evangelists, though they wrote in Greek, purposely retained the Hebrew word, in order to express more fully that the multitude employed the ordinary form of prayer, which was first employed by David, and afterwards throughout an uninterrupted succession of ages, received by the people of God, and peculiarly consecrated for the purpose of blessing the kingdom of the Messiah. 77     “Le royaume du Messias.” To the same purpose are the words which immediately follow, Blessed be the King of Israel, who cometh in the name of the Lord; for this is also a joyful prayer for the happy and prosperous success of that kingdom, on which the restoration and prosperity of the Church of God depended.

But as David appears to speak of himself rather than of Christ in that psalm, we must first of all solve this difficulty; nor will the task be hard. We know for what purpose the kingdom was established in the hand of David and of his posterity; and that purpose was, that it might be a sort of prelude of the everlasting kingdom which was to be manifested at the proper time. And, indeed, it was not necessary that David should confine his attention to himself; and the Lord, by the prophets, frequently commands all the godly to turn their eyes to a different person from David. 88     “De jetter leurs yeux ailleurs qu’a David.” So then all that David sung about himself is justly referred to that king who, according to the promise, was to arise from the seed of David to be the redeemer.

But we ought to derive from it a profitable admonition; for if we are members of the Church, the Lord calls upon us to cherish the same desire which he wished believers to cherish under the Law; that is, that we should wish with our whole heart that the kingdom of Christ should flourish and prosper; and not only so, but that we should demonstrate this by our prayers. In order To give us greater courage in prayer, we ought to observe that he prescribes to us the words. Woe then to our slothfulness, if we extinguish by our coldness, or quench by indifference, that ardor which God excites. Yet let us know that the prayers which we offer by the direction and authority of God will not be in vain. Provided that we be not indolent or grow weary in praying, He will be a faithful guardian of his kingdom, to defend it by his invincible power and protection. True, indeed, though we remain drowsy and inactive, 99     “Endormis et oisifs.” the majesty of his kingdom will be firm and sure; but when — as is frequently the ease — it is less prosperous than it ought to be, or rather falls into decay, as we perceive it to be, at the present day, fearfully scattered and wasted, this unquestionably arises through our fault. And when but a small restoration, or almost none, is to be seen, or when at least it advances slowly, let us ascribe it to our indifference. We daily ask from God that his kingdom may come, (Matthew 6:10,) but scarcely one man in a hundred earnestly desires it. Justly, therefore, are we deprived of the blessing of God, which we are weary of asking.

We are also taught by this expression, that it is God alone who preserves and defends the Church; for He does not claim for himself, or command us to give him, anything but what is his own. Since, therefore, while He guides our tongues, we pray that he may preserve the kingdom of Christ, we acknowledge that, in order that this kingdom may remain in a proper state, God himself is the only bestower of salvation. He employs, indeed, the labors of men for this purpose, but of men whom his own hand has prepared for the work. Besides, while he makes use of men for advancing, or maintaining the kingdom of Christ, still every thing is begun and completed, through their agency, by God alone through the power of his Spirit.

Who cometh in the name of the Lord. We must first understand what is meant by this phrase, to come in the name of the Lord. He who does not rashly put himself forward, or falsely assume the honor, but, being duly called, has the direction and authority of God for his actions, cometh in the name of God This title belongs to all the true servants of God. A Prophet who guided by the Holy Spirit, honestly delivers to men the doctrine which he has received from heaven, — cometh in the name of God. A King, by whose hand God governs his people cometh in the same name. But as the Spirit of the Lord rested on Christ, and he is the Head of all things, (Ephesians 1:22,) and all who have ever been ordained to rule over the Church are subject to his say, or rather, are streams flowing from him as the fountain, he is justly said to have come in the name of God. Nor is it only by the high rank of his authority that he surpasses others, but because God manifests himself to us fully in him; for in him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily, as Paul says, (Colossians 2:9,) and he is the lively image of God, (Hebrews 1:3,) and, in short, is the true lmmanuel, (Matthew 1:23.) It is therefore by a special right that he is said to have come in the name of the Lord, because by him God has manifested himself fully, and not partially, as he had formerly done by the Prophets. We ought therefore to begin with him as the Head, when we wish to bless the servants of God.

Now since the false prophets arrogantly boast of the name of God, and shelter themselves under this false pretense, we ought to supply an opposite clause in the prayer, that the Lord may scatter and utterly destroy them. Thus we cannot bless Christ without cursing the Pope and that sacrilegious tyranny which he has raised up against the Son of God. 1010     “Contre le Fils de Dieu.” He huffs his excommunications against us, indeed, with great violence, as if they were thunderbolts, but they are mere air-bladders, 1111     “Vessies pleines de vent.” and therefore we ought boldly to despise them. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit here dictates to us an awful curse, that it may sink the Pope to the lowest hell, with all his pomp and splendor. Nor is it necessary that there should be any Bishop or Pontiff 1212     “Evesque ou Pontiffe.” to pronounce the curse against him, since Christ at one time bestowed this authority on children, when he approved of their crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, as the other Evangelists relate, (Matthew 21:15, 16.)

14. And Jesus having found a young ass. This part of the history is more minutely related by the other Evangelists, who tell us, that Christ sent two of his disciples to bring an ass, (Matthew 21:1; Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29.) John, who was the latest writer of all the Evangelists, reckoned it enough to notice briefly the substance of what had been stated by the rest; and, on this account, he leaves out many circumstances. An apparent contradiction, by which many persons are perplexed, is very easily removed. When Matthew says, that Christ sat upon a she-ass and her colt, we ought to view it as a synecdoche. 1313     “C’est une facon de parler qui comprend quelques fois le tout pour une partie, ou une partie pour le tout.” — “It is a mode of expression, which sometimes puts the whole for a part, or a part for the whole.” Some imagine that he sat first on the she-ass, and afterwards on her colt; and out of this conjecture they frame an allegory, that he first sat on the Jewish people, who had been long accustomed to bear the yoke of the Law, and afterwards. subdued the Gentiles, like an untrained young ass which had never carried a rider. 1414     See Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 2, p. 448. But the plain truth is, that Christ rode on an ass which had been brought along with its mother; and to this agree the words of the Prophet, who, by a repetition very frequent among the Hebrews, expresses the same thing twice by different words. On an ass, he says, and on the colt of an ass which was under the yoke, (ὑποζυγίου) Our Evangelist, who studies brevity, leaves out the former clause, and quotes only the latter.

The Jews themselves are constrained to expound the prediction of Zechariah 9:9, which was at that time fulfilled, as referring to the Messiah; but, at the same time, they ridiculed us for being led astray by the shadow of an ass, 1515     The shadow of an ass, ὄνου σκιὰ, asini umbra, was a proverbial phrase, among the Greeks and Romans. — Ed a so as to give the honor of the Messiah to the son of Mary. But far different are the testimonies on which our faith rests. And, indeed, when we say that Jesus is the Messiah, we do not begin by saying, that he entered into Jerusalem sitting on an ass; for there was displayed in him a glory, such as belonged to the Son of God, as we have seen under the first chapter of this Gospel; 1616     Vol. 1, p. 47. and it was chiefly in his resurrection that his Divine power was illustriously displayed. But we ought not to despise this confirmation, that God, by his wonderful Providence, exhibited on that entrance, as on a public stage, the fulfillment of that which Zechariah had foretold.

Fear not. In these words of the Prophet, as the Evangelist quotes them, we ought to observe, first, that never is tranquillity restored to our minds, or fear and trembling banished from them, except by knowing that Christ reigns amongst us. The words of the Prophet, indeed, are different; for he exhorts believers to gladness and rejoicing. But the Evangelist has here described the manner in which our hearts exult with true joy. It is, when that fear is removed, with which all must be tormented, until, being reconciled to God, they obtain that peace which springs from faith, (Romans 5:1.) This benefit, therefore, comes to us through Christ, that, freed from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin being broken, guilt canceled, and death abolished, we freely boast, relying on the protection of our King, since they who are placed under his guardianship ought not to fear any danger. Not that we are free From fear, so long as we live in the world, but because confidence, founded on Christ, rises superior to all than. Though Christ was still at a distance, yet the Prophet exhorted the godly men of that age to be glad and joyful, because Christ was to come. Behold, said he, thy King will come; therefore fear not. Now that he is come, in order that we may enjoy his presence, we ought more vigorously to contend with fear, that, freed from our enemies, we may peacefully and joyfully honor our King.

Daughter of Zion. The Prophet addressed Zion in his own time, because that was the habitation and abode of the Church. God has now, indeed, collected a Church for himself out of the whole world; but this promise is peculiarly addressed to believers, who submit to Christ, that he may reign in them. When he describes Christ as riding on an ass, the meaning is, that his kingdom will have nothing in common with the pomp, splendor, wealth, and power of the world; and it was proper that this should be made known by an outward manifestation, that all might be fully assured that it is spiritual.

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