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§ 243. The Entry into Jerusalem.651651 We must here account for the chronology that we adopt. We set out with the presupposition (for which reasons will be given hereafter) that the beginning of the Passover, 14th Nisan, occurred in that year on a Friday. Now John, xii., 1, gives a fixed mark—Christ’s arrival at Bethany six days before the Passover; which six days may include that which forms the terminus a quo, and also the terminus ad quem. If he included the first, Christ reached Bethany on the Sabbath; not very likely, as he was wont to avoid the charge of violating the Mosaic law except in cases of urgent necessity. If he included both days, Christ reached Bethany on the first day of the week. But then the Passover caravan must have reached Jericho on Sabbath, or on Friday, remaining there on Sabbath, which is not probable, from the general tenor of the separate accounts. The only supposition that avoids these difficulties is that John included neither of the two days, and that Christ arrived in Bethany on Friday. (Cf. note, p. 281.) B. Jacobi supposes that Christ arrived so late on Friday that the Sabbath had begun, and John, therefore, regarded Friday as past; this supposition would remove the difficulty without altering the chronology.
THE fame of Christ’s acts had been diffused among the
thousands of Jews652652 By a
census taken under Nero, 2,700,000 men gathered at Jerusalem to the Passover
Joseph., B. J., vi., 9, § 3. that had gathered from all quarters for the Passover. The
resurrection of Lazarus, in particular, had created a great sensation. As soon
as the Sabbath law allowed,653653 The Sabbath-day’s journey allowed by the law was
1000 paces; but Bethany was twice that far from Jerusalem. The habit was to walk
the first 1000 on Sabbath before sunset; the others afterward. they flocked in crowds to Bethany to see Jesus,
and especially to convince themselves of the resurrection of Lazarus by ocular
evidence and inquiry on the spot. Perhaps on Sunday morning, too, before Christ
went to Jerusalem, many had gone out.654654 John, xii.,
9, 13. According to the other Evangelists, Jesus came on the same day with the
multitude from Jericho. The difficulty is not wholly inexplicable; nor does it
affect the substance of the narrative. It is possible to distinguish (as
Schleiermacher and others do) two entries of Christ into the city; the first
being described in the first three Gospels, the second in John. According to
this view, he entered first with the caravan towards evening, and a great
sensation was produced; thence he went immediately to Bethany, and on the next
morning (according to our view, the second day after) returned to the city, the
fame of his works having, in the mean time, been still more widely bruited among
the people; the second entry, expected and prepared for, causing much greater
excitement than the first unannounced and unexpected one. But in this case we
should have to admit that the two
narratives had been blended; parts that belonged to the second, as given by
John, being transferred to the first. As the other Gospels (Mark especially)
relate that he arrived late in the evening at the city, and went directly thence
to Bethany, there appears good ground for the supposition. The statement of the
other Evangelists (his going to Bethany) suits exactly John’s account of his
relations with the family of Lazarus.
But yet, if our mode of viewing the Gospels be correct, it may very well have been inferred—the narrative of the entry being separately transmitted, and the supposition naturally arising that he came directly with the caravan from Jericho—that the Messianic entry took place immediately on his arrival.
The question may arise whether the triumphal entry into Jerusalem was part of Christ’s plan, or not. It is certainly possible, from the circumstances just mentioned, that it was unsought on his part. But had such really been the case, he would have avoided the multitude, and entered the city quietly and privately, as he could easily have done. Had he not had higher interests in view, he must have avoided a mode of entry which confirmed the opinion that he claimed to be more than a mere teacher, and which would afford so excellent a handle to his enemies. We do not, indeed, look upon it as brought about by any management on his part, but as a natural result of the circumstances, as a final and necessary link in a chain of consecutive events. We regard it, therefore, as foreseen and embraced in his plan; and his plan was nothing else but the will of his Father, which he fulfilled as a free organ. He wished to yield to the enthusiasm of the people, transient as he knew it would be in most of them, and thus to testify, in the face of the nation and of mankind, that the kingdom of God had come, and that he was the promised Theocratic King. And this was the result of his previous labours, brought about by the Divine guidance. If he had not before, in the same direct and public way, proclaimed himself Messiah, he now did it before the eyes of all, most publicly and strikingly. This triumphant entry was the reply to many questions; a reply which shut out all doubt; it was, in a word, a world—historical event.655655 It may be matter of question what features of the entry belonged to Christ’s plan, and what were brought about entirely by the circumstances. To admit that any of them belonged to the latter class would not deprive them of significance; the developement of the circumstances themselves, apart from Christ’s immediate intention, or in connexion therewith, might adapt them to symbolize the appearance of the kingdom of God. From John, xii., 14, we learn that Christ, finding the throng so great, seated himself upon an ass found just at hand, which act was subsequently referred to Zach., ix., 9, and the narrative somewhat modified accordingly, as, indeed, is seen in Matthew (xxi., 2-7), where two beasts are mentioned, from a misapprehension of the passage in Zachariah, following the Alexandrian version. It is to be carefully observed that John, xii., 16, makes a clear distinction between the view of this event taken by the disciples at the time, from that in which they regarded it at a later period, when all had been fulfilled, and they had seen Jesus as the glorified Messiah; showing that what at first appeared to be only accidental afterward gained a higher significance. None but an eye-witness would have made such a distinction at the time when this Gospel was written. If this should be taken as implying that the ass was accidentally there (though it by no means necessarily implies this), the use of the animal is not thereby rendered the less significant, or a less apt fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy. But, on the other hand, the other Gospels represent the act as intentional on Christ’s part; not, however, as Strauss will have it, miraculous. It is not at all impossible to harmonize John’s account with that of the other Evangelists; the word εὑρὼν in v. 14 does not of necessity define the way in which Christ obtained the ass; and John states many points very concisely. In the mean time, it is a question which account is the most simple.
Attended by his disciples and the host that had gathered into Bethany, Christ set out for Jerusalem. Many more advanced to meet him from the city, and were hailed by those who had been with Christ with the assurance that Lazarus had indeed been raised from the dead. In the increasing throng, Christ mounted an ass which he found at hand, for his own convenience and that the people might see him. And thus the natural course of circumstances aptly symbolized the peaceable character of the kingdom of God, and its total rejection of worldly pomp and display, as typified by the Prophet Zachariah (ix., 9). With joyous songs and shoutings he was introduced into the city as Messiah, while on all sides was heard the loud acclaim, “Hosanna! Jehovah prosper him! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah” (Ps. cxviii., 25, 26). Some Pharisees among the multitude, who were perhaps not fully decided in their opinions, though recognizing Jesus as a great teacher, were displeased that he was thus proclaimed Messiah on entering the city, and asked him to silence his followers. He answered, “I tell you, if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.”656656 Luke, xix., 39. If we suppose there were two entries (which this passage appears, though not necessarily, to favour), these words would refer to the first; and the Pharisees probably accompanied the Passover caravan from Galilee. An event had occurred, so lofty and so pregnant with the best interests of mankind, that it might rouse even the dullest to rejoice. In the mouth of any other, even the greatest of men, these words would have been an unjustifiable self-exaltation; uttered by Him, they show the weighty import which he gave to his manifestation. Christ’s conduct in this respect, moreover, shows that such an entry into Jerusalem formed part of his plan.
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