“Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” – Matthew 21:9
Today is known as Palm Sunday and is celebrated throughout the Christian world in commemoration of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of his ministry on earth.
Jerusalem was situated in the middle of the Holy Land. Within its walls were the tops of two mountains, Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. Mount Zion was the higher of the two and represents the abiding place of the Lord’s love, and Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built, represents the affection for the Divine wisdom, or the Lord’s truth. So of Jerusalem it is written: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”
This prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord entered Jerusalem. He was welcomed by the multitudes as the Scriptures had promised. “A very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.”
In this story the Lord’s disciples represent our spiritual affections and thoughts, and the multitudes that followed after our natural affections and thoughts.
The people looked for a King who would sit upon the throne of David in Jerusalem, reign with glory and power, exalting them and making other nations serve them. They wanted a king, but they were thinking of a different kind of king. So it is even today. People may appear to worship the Lord when their only thought is that He may bring to pass what they desire. In the case of the multitude the words of Isaiah proved true: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” We hail the Lord truly as King only when we desire what He teaches is right.
“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 of Galilee.” The Lord came into the world as the truth, and He is called the “prophet of Nazareth” to teach us that the Lord is truth in its ultimates as well as in its source, the Word or the Divine truth brought down and applied to our everyday outward life. The twenty-fourth Psalm declares this in the words, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” And when it is demanded, “Who is this King of glory?” the answer is given, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”
The Lord’s entry into Jerusalem as King, His taking possession of the temple, casting out the money changers and vendors of doves and healing the lame and the blind, depicts His entry into the temple of our souls to take possession, casting evil loves out of the heart and falsities out of the mind, that the light of a true understanding may be given and the power to walk in the way of truth.
There are conditions which must be met before the Lord can enter into the temple of the soul. Glory, honor, power, and might belong to the Lord, but it is not the glory of self-exaltation or the might of self-seeking. It is rather the greater glory and beauty of the inner life of love which seeks to obliterate self in service to others. One of the lessons of this season is that the Lord is love, that He cares for all alike and is in the constant effort to heal and bless. Said Jesus, “I am among you as one that serves,” “I am meek and lowly of heart.” All the details of the story teach this lesson. In the Gospel of Luke it is recorded that the Lord told His disciples to go into a village where they would find a colt tied whereon never yet man sat, and that they should loose it and bring it to Him. The ass represents our natural reason. This self-assertive natural reason the Lord came to bring under control.
The Jews externally humbled themselves; they put on sack-cloth and ashes. But they did this for the sake of honor. They put on the outward semblance of humility, but it was merely of the mouth and of external gesture. At heart they regarded God from self, and inwardly were haughty and proud. Self was not humbled except to outward appearance, and the exaltation of self closes the interiors of the mind and turns all truth and good into evil and falsity. So when it was seen what sort of King the Lord really was, they despised and rejected Him. When the praises of the children reached their ears, they were sore displeased.
The children out of whose mouths the Lord perfects praise represent those who from innocence and purity of heart claim nothing for themselves, but look to the Lord as their Master and Guide, giving Him the praise. This is praise in which there is no boast of self-accomplishment but instead joyful recognition of the Lord as their King and Protector.
It is written concerning the Jews, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” Many believe in God but do not believe from Him. He is not in their belief as its Author and Object. Belief implies trust, and none truly believe in the Lord but those who love Him. Trust is the submission of the will.
There are certain obvious warnings in the Palm Sunday story, such as that against the use of the church to further our worldly ambitions. But it is not such superficial lessons with which the text is really concerned. The story is a revelation of what the Lord would like to do for us – to enter into our hearts and minds and cast out everything there that would make the mind not a temple of the Lord but a den of thieves. His outward cleansing of the temple was to show us how we can make ourselves ready to receive Him by performing a like work in our souls.
There are churches which seek to gain honor and position for themselves. They cater to what people want, to what is popular. They measure their success by numbers and by their many external activities. But the church which, measured by these prevailing statistical standards, is the most successful may be a colossal failure in the sight of the Lord. The church everywhere today has to struggle to keep itself from being suffocated by the spirit of worldliness, and our church is not an exception in this regard. Social activities sometimes crowd out the deeper purposes of the church.
The money changers and vendors of doves had only gradually moved into the courts of the temple itself. It is little by little that worldly interests make advance, but, if not resisted, they gradually take possession of the soul.
After the temple was cleansed, the blind and the lame came to the Lord to be healed. And more than that, they came and were healed. When worldly interests are put in their proper place, we shall be given spiritual sight, the power to see and understand spiritual things, and our lameness, our spiritual limping, our imperfect obedience to the truth, our stumbling and falling in the way, will be corrected.
We keep this day of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem because it stands for His entry into the church and into the soul with heavenly power, beauty, and love.
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
“Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”