“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.” – Zechariah 9:9
Today, Palm Sunday, is one of the traditional festivals of the church. The first record of its celebration appears to have come from Jerusalem, where it was observed with a procession and special liturgy in the fourth century, A.D., but it probably was of long establishment even then.
The Lord entered Jerusalem as its King, took possession of the temple, cast out the money changers and venders of doves, and healed the lame and the blind.
The Lord came into the world to bear witness to the truth. His truth is the King that should rule in our lives. When Pilate asked Him “Art thou a king then?” Jesus answered, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” Previously He had told them, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” There is no freedom but in the truth; yet there is much that lies behind this simple statement. Some truth may be a simple intellectual concept; other truth may involve moral obligation. Some truth comes easily and gladly to the mind; for other truth one must labor and sacrifice not only ease but also many deeply ingrained prejudices. The truth is not always what we should like it to be.
Freedom is also of many kinds. It is proclaimed today that Africa will be free; but the road to its freedom is a long and hard one. Governments must first learn wisdom. Then there is freedom from poverty, freedom from ignorance, and above all freedom from selfishness. Truth to be effective must reach not merely the minds of men but their hearts.
And the promise of knowing the truth is not an unconditional promise. It is dependent upon a mighty “if.” The words of Jesus are, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” The truth that makes men free is truth that includes acknowledgment of the obligation of obedience to the Divine will and purpose, which will finally decide the outcome of the whole human adventure.
The advantage that truth gives is recognized. This is the reason for the present-day race to acquire knowledge. Today emphasis is put on secular knowledge. But Palm Sunday should recall to our minds that it is the truth which the Lord came to reveal to the world that is what is needed, the only truth that will save. Jerusalem represents the church and heaven, and the Lord’s entering the Holy City as king means His ruling in His spiritual kingdom by His Divine truth.
Jerusalem was situated in the middle of the Holy Land. Within its walls were two mounts, Mount Zion – the higher of the two, where the tabernacle was set up – representing the abiding place of the Lord’s love, and Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built, representing the affection for the Divine wisdom. Of Jerusalem it is written:
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
“Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
“God is known in her palaces for a refuge.”
When the Israelites came into the Holy Land from Egypt, they entered by the way of Jericho, and Jerusalem was the last city to fall before them. It was not taken until the reign of David, and we recall that the Lord as the incarnate truth is called the son of David. His coming to Jerusalem over this same route that Israel took is not accidental. It represents the spiritual journey from the lowest to the highest in the last degree of regeneration in men and of glorification in the Lord.
The disciples did as the Lord commanded them and brought an ass with her colt, put on them their clothes and set the Lord thereon, to represent that the natural reason is to be liberated and brought to the Lord by the instrumentality of the spiritual, and that spiritual truths are necessary to connect the natural and rational truths with the Divine. And we read further that “a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.” The multitude here represent all our natural affections and thoughts, the branches particular knowledges of good and truth, thus picturing the idea of all the affections and thoughts of the natural mind uniting with those of the spiritual mind and rejoicing in the entrance of the Lord into the heart to set up His kingdom in the soul. And the song “Hosanna in the highest” represents the exaltation of the Divine good and truth above every other good and truth that the mind is capable of receiving. The songs of the children represent the fact that true praise is from innocence and a pure heart in confession of the Lord as the Divine truth itself.
The words “Thy king cometh unto thee” are addressed to Jerusalem and Zion – the heart of the city. Jerusalem was a material city, but it is primarily the people who compose a city, including every age, every occupation, every kind of man, woman, and child, of every social status. The announcement is so worded that it applies directly to every single member of that complex community, to each man, woman, and child.
The more we know of the world the more will we realize that the Lord has put many things into it which speak to us in His name. By His redemption of the world, by the revelation of His love for all mankind, the King of kings has made Himself King to each one of us. So it is written, “Thy King cometh unto thee.” By His life on earth He revealed a love that is infinite and yet is given to each one of us. By His life on earth and by His victory over all sin and evil, all falsity and darkness, He gave to all people that freedom which enables them to choose the way of life.
Those who were made glad by His presence were not the proud Pharisees and scribes but just the ordinary people of the town and countryside. Some of them were His disciples. Others had heard of His teachings and wondered. Some brought to Him their sick, their blind, their lame, their halt, their dumb, their afflicted, and He healed them all. They knew Him for what He did, for what He was.
It is so that we must know Him, not only for His words of life, but for what He does for us and in our souls and lives. It is one thing for the Lord to come to us. It is quite another thing for us to know it in the right way. It is not sufficient for us to know that He has come to our fathers and mothers, our friends and teachers. The Lord created the sun to give light and warmth to every person and every thing on earth. We do not see the sunlight through the eyes of another, but through our own power of vision, as a special revelation to ourself. Knowledge about the Lord is in the third person. Knowledge of the Lord is in the first person. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” “Thy King cometh unto thee.”
The Lord comes to the whole world and gives to it a revelation of Himself, first by coming in the flesh, and now in a revelation of Himself in the inner spiritual teachings of the Word. He wishes to speak directly to each one of us, and to lead us each by the hand. The time has now come when He can do this. The one essential knowledge for each of us is the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one eternal God, our Redeemer and Savior, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
When He entered Jerusalem, Jesus cast out of the temple the money changers and venders of doves. They are those who seek to make use of holy things for their own profit. So they are likened to thieves who steal truths from the Word and pervert them, thus destroying them by applying them to selfish purposes.
We keep this day of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem as its King because it stands for His entry into the soul with heavenly love, beauty, and power. Let us so think of it and open our minds and hearts to let Him in. The prophet Isaiah tells us of the transformation which will surely take place:
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”