"And when they draw nigh unto Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sendeth two of His disciples, and saith unto them, Go your way into the village that is over against you: and straightway as ye enter into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any one say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye, The Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him back hither. And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door without in the open street; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had said: and they let them go. And they bring the colt unto Jesus, and cast on him their garments; and others, branches, which they had cut from the fields. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest. And He entered into Jerusalem, into the temple; and when He had looked round about upon all things, it being now eventide, He went out unto Bethany with the twelve." MARK 11:1-11 (R.V.)
JESUS had now come near to Jerusalem, into what was possibly the sacred district of Bethphage, of which, in that case, Bethany was the border village. Not without pausing here (as we learn from the fourth Gospel), yet as the next step forward, He sent two of His disciples to untie and bring back an ass, which was fastened with her colt at a spot which He minutely described. Unless they were challenged they should simply bring the animals away; but if any one remonstrated, they should answer, "The Lord hath need of them," and thereupon the owner would not only acquiesce, but send them. In fact they are to make a requisition, such as the State often institutes for horses and cattle during a campaign, when private rights must give way to a national exigency. And this masterful demand, this abrupt and decisive rejoinder to a natural objection, not arguing nor requesting, but demanding, this title which they are bidden to give to Jesus, by which, standing thus alone, He is rarely described in Scripture (chiefly in the later Epistles, when the remembrance of His earthly style gave place to the influence of habitual adoration), all this preliminary arrangement makes us conscious of a change of tone, of royalty issuing its mandates, and claiming its rights. But what a claim, what a requisition, when He takes the title of Jehovah, and yet announces His need of the colt of an ass. It is indeed the lowliest of all memorable processions which He plans, and yet, in its very humility, it appeals to ancient prophecy, and says unto Zion that her King cometh unto her. The monarchs of the East and the captains of the West might ride upon horses as for war, but the King of Sion would come unto her meek, and sitting upon an ass, upon a colt, the foal of an ass. Yet there is fitness and dignity in the use of "a colt whereon never man sat," and it reminds us of other facts, such as that He was the firstborn of a virgin mother, and rested in a tomb which corruption had never soiled.
Thus He comes forth, the gentlest of the mighty, with no swords gleaming around to guard Him, or to smite the foreigner who tramples Israel, or the worse foes of her own household. Men who will follow such a King must lay aside their vain and earthly ambitions, and awake to the truth that spiritual powers are grander than any which violence ever grasped. But men who will not follow Him shall some day learn the same lesson, perhaps in the crash of their reeling commonwealth, perhaps not until the armies of heaven follow Him, as He goes forth, riding now upon a white horse, crowned with many diadems, smiting the nations with a sharp sword, and ruling them with an iron rod.
Lowly though His procession was, yet it was palpably a royal one. When Jehu was proclaimed king at Ramoth-Gilead, the captains hastened to make him sit upon the garments of every one of them, expressing by this national symbol their subjection. Somewhat the same feeling is in the famous anecdote of Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth. And thus the disciples who brought the ass cast on him their garments, and Jesus sat thereon, and many spread their garments in the way. Others strewed the road with branches; and as they went they cried aloud certain verses of that great song of triumph, which told how the nations, swarming like bees, were quenched like the light fire of thorns, how the right hand of the Lord did valiantly, how the gates of righteousness should be thrown open for the righteous, and, more significant still, how the stone which the builders rejected should become the headstone of the corner. Often had Jesus quoted this saying when reproached by the unbelief of the rulers, and now the people rejoiced and were glad in it, as they sang of His salvation, saying, "Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the Kingdom of our father David, Hosanna in the highest."
Such is the narrative as it impressed St. Mark. For his purpose it mattered nothing that Jerusalem took no part in the rejoicings, but was perplexed, and said, Who is this? or that, when confronted by this somewhat scornful and affected ignorance of the capital, the voice of Galilee grew weak, and proclaimed no longer the advent of the kingdom of David, but only Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth; or that the Pharisees in the temple avowed their disapproval, while contemptuously ignoring the Galilean multitude, by inviting Him to reprove some children. What concerned St. Mark was that now, at last, Jesus openly and practically assumed rank as a monarch, allowed men to proclaim the advent of His kingdom, and proceeded to exercise its rights by calling for the surrender of property, and by cleansing the temple with a scourge. The same avowal of kingship is almost all that he has cared to record of the remarkable scene before His Roman judge.
After this heroic fashion did Jesus present Himself to die. Without a misleading hope, conscious of the hollowness of His seeming popularity, weeping for the impending ruin of the glorious city whose walls were ringing with His praise, and predicting the murderous triumph of the crafty faction which appears so helpless, He not only refuses to recede or compromise, but does not hesitate to advance His claims in a manner entirely new, and to defy the utmost animosity of those who still rejected Him.
After such a scene there could be no middle course between crushing Him, and bowing to Him. He was no longer a Teacher of doctrines, however revolutionary, but a Aspirant to practical authority, Who must be dealt with practically.
There was evidence also of His intention to proceed upon this new line, when He entered into the temple, investigated its glaring abuses, and only left it for the moment because it was now eventide. Tomorrow would show more of His designs.
Jesus is still, and in this world, King. And it will hereafter avail us nothing to have received His doctrine, unless we have taken His yoke.