By J.R. Miller
The time of the triumphal entry was five days before the crucifixion. There was an immense contrast between the two events. Here we see Jesus riding as a King into the holy city, followed by a great multitude of wildly enthusiastic people. It is a glimpse in earthly expression of the Messianic glory of Jesus. His reign was to be spiritual--but here once, it took on a form which made its appeal to the senses of mankind.
The other evangelists tell us that disciples had a part in preparing for the great pageant. We learn also that it was Jesus Himself who gave the command for this display. Once before when the enthusiastic multitude would have taken Him by force to make Him a king--He resisted and rejected the honor, sent His disciples away, dispersed the crowd, and fled to the mountains, taking refuge in prayer. Now, however, it is at His own command that this procession is undertaken. He would proclaim His Messiahship in a way that would make appeal to the rejecters.
Or we may say that this really was the ride of the King to His coronation, for was not the cross the stairway to the Messiah's throne? The events of this day fulfilled an ancient prophecy. The song that was sung, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" was a joyous outburst from the hearts of the people. Yet we know how soon that "Hosanna!" was changed to "Crucify him!"
A picture of the cross by Tintoretto represents the scene of the Crucifixion after it was over. It is late in the evening. The cross is empty. The multitude has scattered, and all is quiet. The crown of thorns is lying on a rock near by. Then, in the background, a donkey is seen feeding on withered palm leaves. This suggests how short-lived was the enthusiasm of which the palm branches were the emblem, and marks the contrast between the shouts on this Palm Sunday--and the angry cries on the following Friday!
The effect of this day's events on different people, is indicated in the passage. The disciples did not then understand what it all meant. Afterwards, however, they remembered that the things which happened that day had been foretold of Jesus in prophecy. We need the "afterwards" to explain many perplexities in our lives. In the light of future events--present mysteries become clear. The effect on the multitude was probably transient, and yet we are told that they remembered the raising of Lazarus when they beheld the scenes of triumphal entry. The effect of the strange events of that day on the Pharisees was still further to embitter them. They said, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
The incident of the coming of the Greeks occurred two days after the triumphal entry. These Greeks were Gentiles. They had learned the Jewish religion and were worshipers in the temple. They had come up from their own country to attend the feast of the Passover. They wished to see Jesus. Why they wished to see Him, we are not told. Whatever their definite desire may have been, their prayer is one which should be on the lips of every one of us, "We would like to see Jesus!" This should be the deepest wish and prayer of every heart. The great business of life--should be to know Jesus Christ, to get intimately acquainted with Him. It was not enough to know about Him--we should be content with nothing less than personal knowledge of Him as a friend. We cannot see Jesus now in the flesh--but we can see Him by faith as our Savior--and take Him into our lives in the most real sense--as our intimate companion.
These Greeks came to two of Christ's disciples and asked them to introduce them to their Master. A little child was dying, and she said she was not afraid to die, for she was going to be with Jesus. But she wished so much that her mother would come with her to introduce her. "For you know, mother," said the little one, "that I was always afraid of strangers." But no one will find Jesus a stranger. He loves to be sought and to have people want to see Him. Yet it is always a precious privilege, to be permitted to introduce another person to Him.
The reply of Jesus to the request of these Greek visitors was, "The hour has come, that the Son of man should be glorified." By the "hour" He referred to the time of His death, the hour toward which He had been moving through all the years of His life. Every one of us is moving toward our "hour." It is not marked on any earthy calendar; we do not know in what year, or in what month, or day, it lies--but it is fixed in the plan of God, and we shall come to it at the appointed time.
It seems strange to us to have Jesus speak of His death as His being glorified. He died on a cross of shame. It seemed to the world, as the extinction of all glory for Him. He Himself, however, explained the meaning in the words, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." A grain of wheat laid away carefully in a dry place, remains simply a grain of wheat, with no increase. It cannot thus reach its best. It is only when it is cast away, as it seems, and falls into the ground and perishes as to it's form--that it is really glorified, springing up into a harvest of golden wheat.
Jesus might have saved Himself from the sacrifice and death--if He had sought to do so. He might have turned away from His enemies and have found an asylum among the Gentiles. He might have lived to old age, teaching, healing and blessing the world. Yet, He would not in His years of comfort and quiet usefulness, have done the work He had been sent into the world to do. Life is not measured by the number and length of its years--but by the completeness of its devotion to the will of God. Jesus never would have glorified God by fleeing from the sacrifice of the cross, to an asylum which would have given Him continued years of comfort and ease. By giving Himself up to death on the cross--He became the world's Redeemer! Christianity, with all its marvelous fruits and blessings, is the real glorifying of Christ. If He had not gone to His cross, this glorifying would never have been attained.
Jesus taught His disciples further, that not only must He Himself reach His glory by way of His cross--but that those who would follow Him must also walk in the same way. "The man who loves his life--will lose it; while the man who hates his life in this world--will keep it for eternal life." There are two ways of living. We may live for self, taking good care of our lives, not exposing them to danger, not making any sacrifices, caring only for our own interests. We may then prosper in this world, and people will commend our prudence. We may reach old age robust and well-preserved, and may greatly enjoy our accumulated honors and possessions. That is one way of living--loving our life and saving it from the costly service to which we were called--but in the end it is only that wheat kept from falling into the ground to die. There will be no harvest. That is the outcome of selfishness. Its end is death. "He who loves his life--loses it."
The other way of living is to forget SELF--not to care for one's own life or to try to preserve it--but to give it out at God's call, to throw it away in unselfish service. People will say you are foolish thus to waste your golden life, thus to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others, or in the cause of Christ. But was Christ foolish when He chose to go to His cross? The redeemed Church is the answer. Ignatius said, when facing the fierce lions in the arena: "I am grain of God. Let me be ground between the teeth of lions--if thus I may become bread to feed God's people." Was the martyr foolish? Did he really waste His witnessing for His Lord? The way to make nothing of one's life--is to take too good care of it. The way to make one's life an eternal success--is to do with it as Jesus did with His.