It was a melancholy account which we had in the close of the foregoing chapter of the dishonour done to our Lord Jesus, when the scribes and Pharisees proclaimed him a traitor to their church, and put upon him all the marks of ignominy they could: but the story of this chapter balances that, by giving us an account of the honour done to the Redeemer, notwithstanding all that reproach thrown upon him. Thus the one was set over against the other. Let us see what honours were heaped on the head of the Lord Jesus, even in the depths of his humiliation. I. Mary did him honour, by anointing his feet at the supper in Bethany (v. 1-11). II. The common people did him honour, with their acclamations of joy, when he rode in triumph into Jerusalem (v. 12-19). III. The Greeks did him honour, by enquiring after him with a longing desire to see him (v. 20-26). IV. God the Father did him honour, by a voice from heaven, bearing testimony to him (v. 27-36). V. He had honour done him by the Old Testament prophets, who foretold the infidelity of those that heard the report of him (v. 37-41). VI. He had honour done him by some of the chief rulers, whose consciences witnessed for him, though they had not courage to own it (v. 42, v. 43. VII. He claimed honour to himself, by asserting his divine mission, and the account he gave of his errand into the world (v. 44-50).
Verses 1-11 In these verses we have,I. The kind visit our Lord Jesus paid to his friends at Bethany, v. 1. He came up out of the country, six days before the passover, and took up at Bethany, a town which, according to the computation of our metropolis, lay so near Jerusalem as to be within the bills of mortality. He lodged here with his friend Lazarus, whom he had lately raised from the dead. His coming to Bethany now may be considered,1. As a preface to the passover he intended to celebrate, to which reference is made in assigning the date of his coming: Six days before the passover. Devout men set time apart before, to prepare themselves for that solemnity, and thus it became our Lord Jesus to fulfil all righteousness. Thus he has set us an example of solemn self-sequestration, before the solemnities of the gospel passover; let us hear the voice crying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. 2. As a voluntary exposing of himself to the fury of his enemies; now that his hour was at hand he came within their reach, and freely offered himself to them, though he had shown them how easily he could evade all their snares. Note, (1.) Our Lord Jesus was voluntary in his sufferings; his life was not forced from him, but resigned: Lo, I come. As the strength of his persecutors could not overpower him, so their subtlety could not surprise him, but he died because he would. (2.) As there is a time when we are allowed to shift for our own preservation, so there is a time when we are called to hazard our lives in the cause of God, as St. Paul, when he went bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem. 3. As an instance of his kindness to his friends at Bethany, whom he loved, and from whom he was shortly to be taken away. This was a farewell visit; he came to take leave of them, and to leave with them words of comfort against the day of trial that was approaching. Note, Though Christ depart for a time from his people, he will give them intimations that he departs in love, and not in anger. Bethany is here described to be the town where Lazarus was, whom he raised from the dead. The miracle wrought here put a new honour upon the place, and made it remarkable. Christ came hither to observe what improvement was made of this miracle; for where Christ works wonders, and shows signal favours, he looks after them, to see whether the intention of them be answered. Where he has sown plentifully, he observes whether it comes up again.II. The kind entertainment which his friends there gave him: They made him a supper (v. 2), a great supper, a feast. It is queried whether this was the same with that which is recorded, Mt. 24:6 , etc., in the house of Simon. Most commentators think it was; for the substance of the story and many of the circumstances agree; but that comes in after what was said two days before the passover, whereas this was done six days before; nor is it likely that Martha should serve in any house but her own; and therefore I incline with Dr. Lightfoot to think them different: that in Matthew on the third day of the passover week, but this the seventh day of the week before, being the Jewish sabbath, the night before he rode in triumph into Jerusalem; that in the house of Simon; this of Lazarus. These two being the most public and solemn entertainments given him in Bethany, Mary probably graced them both with this token of her respect; and what she left of her ointment this first time, when she spent but a pound of it (v. 3), she used that second time, when she poured it all out, Mk. 14:3 . Let us see the account of this entertainment. 1. They made him a supper; for with them, ordinarily, supper was the best meal. This they did in token of their respect and gratitude, for a feast is made for friendship; and that they might have an opportunity of free and pleasant conversation with him, for a feast is made for fellowship. Perhaps it is in allusion to this and the like entertainments given to Christ in the days of his flesh that he promises, to such as open the door of their hearts to him, that he will sup with them, Rev. 3:20 . Martha served; she herself waited at table, in token of her great respect to the Master. Though a person of some quality, she did not think it below her to serve, when Christ sat at meat; nor should we think it a dishonour or disparagement to us to stoop to any service whereby Christ may be honoured. Christ had formerly reproved Martha for being troubled with much serving. But she did not therefore leave off serving, as some, who, when they are reproved for one extreme, peevishly run into another; no, still she served; not as then at a distance, but within hearing of Christs gracious words, reckoning those happy who, as the queen of Sheba said concerning Solomons servants, stood continually before him, to hear his wisdom; better be a waiter at Christs table than a guest at the table of a prince. 3. Lazarus was one of those that sat at meat. It proved the truth of his resurrection, as it did of Christs, that there were those who did eat and drink with him, Acts. 10:41 . Lazarus did not retire into a wilderness after his resurrection, as if, when he had made a visit to the other world, he must ever after be a hermit in this; no, he conversed familiarly with people, as others did. He sat at meat, as a monument of the miracle Christ had wrought. Those whom Christ has raised up to a spiritual life are made to sit together with him. See Eph. 2:5, Eph. 2:6 .III. The particular respect which Mary showed him, above the rest, in anointing his feet with sweet ointment, v. 3. She had a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, which probably she had by her for her own use; but the death and resurrection of her brother had quite weaned her from the use of all such things, and with this she anointed the feet of Jesus, and, as a further token of her reverence for him and negligence of herself, she wiped them with her hair, and this was taken notice of by all that were present, for the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. See Prov. 27:16 .1. Doubtless she intended this as a token of her love to Christ, who had given real tokens of his love to her and her family; and thus she studies what she shall render. Now by this her love to Christ appears to have been, (1.) A generous love; so far from sparing necessary charges in his service, she is as ingenious to create an occasion of expense in religion as most are to avoid it. If she had any thing more valuable than another, that must be brought out for the honour of Christ. Note, Those who love Christ truly love him so much better than this world as to be willing to lay out the best they have for him. (2.) A condescending love; she not only bestowed her ointment upon Christ, but with her own hands poured it upon him, which she might have ordered one of her servants to have done; nay, she did not, as usual, anoint his head with it, but his feet. True love, as it does not spare charges, so it does not spare pains, in honouring Christ. Considering what Christ has done and suffered for us, we are very ungrateful if we think any service too hard to do, or too mean to stoop to, whereby he may really be glorified. (3.) A believing love; there was faith working by this love, faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed, who, being both priest and king, was anointed as Aaron and David were. Note, Gods Anointed should be our Anointed. Has God poured on him the oil of gladness above his fellows? Let us pour on him the ointment of our best affections above all competitors. By consenting to Christ as our king, we must comply with Gods designs, appointing him our head whom he has appointed, Hos. 1:11 .2. The filling of the house with the pleasant odour of the ointment may intimate to us, (1.) That those who entertain Christ in their hearts and houses bring a sweet odour into them; Christs presence brings with it an ointment and perfume which rejoice the heart. (2.) Honours done to Christ are comforts to all his friends and followers; they are to God and good men an offering of a sweet-smelling savour. IV. Judass dislike of Marys compliment, or token of her respect to Christ, v. 4, v. 5, where observe,1. The person that carped at it was Judas, one of his disciples; not one of their nature, but only one of their number. It is possible for the worst of men to lurk under the disguise of the best profession; and there are many who pretend to stand in relation to Christ who really have no kindness for him. Judas was an apostle, a preacher of the gospel, and yet one that discouraged and checked this instance of pious affection and devotion. Note, It is sad to see the life of religion and holy zeal frowned upon and discountenanced by such as are bound by their office to assist and encourage it. But this was he that should betray Christ. Note, Coldness of love to Christ, and a secret contempt of serious piety, when they appear in professors of religion, are sad presages of a final apostasy. Hypocrites, by less instances of worldliness, discover themselves to be ready for a compliance with greater temptations.2. The pretence with which he covered his dislike (v. 5): "Why was not this ointment, since it was designed for a pious use, sold for three hundred pence (8l. 10s. of our money), "and given to the poor? (1.) Here is a foul iniquity gilded over with a specious and plausible pretence, for Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. (2.) Here is worldly wisdom passing a censure upon pious zeal, as guilty of imprudence and mismanagement. Those who value themselves upon their secular policy, and undervalue others for their serious piety, have more in them of the spirit of Judas than they would be thought to have. (3.) Here is charity to the poor made a colour for opposing a piece of piety to Christ, and secretly made a cloak for covetousness. Many excuse themselves from laying out in charity under pretence of laying up for charity: whereas, if the clouds be full of rain, they will empty themselves. Judas asked, Why was it not given to the poor? To which it is easy to answer, Because it was better bestowed upon the Lord Jesus. Note, We must not conclude that those do no acceptable piece of service who do not do it in our way, and just as we would have them; as if every thing must be adjudged imprudent and unfit which does not take its measures from us and our sentiments. Proud men think all ill-advised who do not advise with them.3. The detection and discovery of Judass hypocrisy herein, v. 6. Here is the evangelists remark upon it, by the direction of him who searches the heart: This he said, not that he cared for the poor, as he pretended, but because he was a thief, and had the bag. (1.) It did not come from a principle of charity: Not that he cared for the poor. He had no compassion towards them, no concern for them: what were the poor to him any further than he might serve his own ends by being overseer of the poor? Thus some warmly contend for the power of the church, as others for its purity, when perhaps it may be said, Not that they care for the church; it is all one to them whether its true interest sink or swim, but under the pretence of this they are advancing themselves. Simeon and Levi pretended zeal for circumcision, not that they cared for the seal of the covenant, any more than Jehu for the Lord of hosts, when he said, Come see my zeal. (2.) It did come from a principle of covetousness. The truth of the matter was, this ointment being designed for his Master, he would rather have had it in money, to be put in the common stock with which he was entrusted, and then he knew what to do with it. Observe,[1.] Judas was treasurer of Christs household, whence some think he was called Iscariot, the bag-bearer. First, See what estate Jesus and his disciples had to live upon. It was but little; they had neither farms nor merchandise, neither barns nor storehouses, only a bag; or, as some think the word signifies, a box, or coffer, wherein they kept just enough for their subsistence, giving the overplus, if any were, to the poor; this they carried about with them, wherever they went. Omnia mea mecum portoI carry all my property about me. This bag was supplied by the contributions of good people, and the Master and his disciples had all in common; let this lessen our esteem of worldly wealth, and deaden us to the punctilios of state and ceremony, and reconcile us to a mean and despicable way of living, if this be our lot, that it was our Masters lot; for our sakes he became poor. Secondly, See who was the steward of the little they had; it was Judas, he was purse-bearer. It was his office to receive and pay, and we do not find that he gave any account what markets he made. He was appointed to this office, either, 1. Because he was the least and lowest of all the disciples; it was not Peter nor John that was made steward (though it was a place of trust and profit), but Judas, the meanest of them. Note, Secular employments, as they are a digression, so they are a degradation to a minister of the gospel; see 1 Co. 6:4 . The prime-ministers of state in Christs kingdom refused to be concerned in the revenue, Acts. 6:2 . Because he was desirous of the place. He loved in his heart to be fingering money, and therefore had the moneybag committed to him, either, (1.) As a kindness, to please him, and thereby oblige him to be true to his Master. Subjects are sometimes disaffected to the government because disappointed of their preferment; but Judas had no cause to complain of this; the bag he chose, and the bag he had. Or, (2.) In judgment upon him, to punish him for his secret wickedness; that was put into his hands which would be a snare and trap to him. Note, Strong inclinations to sin within are often justly punished with strong temptations to sin without. We have little reason to be fond of the bag, or proud of it, for at the best we are but stewards of it; and it was Judas, one of an ill character, and born to be hanged (pardon the expression), that was steward of the bag. The prosperity of fools destroys them. [2.] Being trusted with the bag, he was a thief, that is, he had a thievish disposition. The reigning love of money is heart-theft as much as anger and revenge are heart-murder. Or perhaps he had been really guilty of embezzling his Masters stores, and converting to his own use what was given to the public stock. And some conjecture that he was now contriving to fill his pockets, and then run away and leave his Master, having heard him speak so much of troubles approaching, to which he could by no means reconcile himself. Note, Those to whom the management and disposal of public money is committed have need to be governed by steady principles of justice and honesty, that no blot cleave to their hands; for though some make a jest of cheating the government, or the church, or the country, if cheating be thieving, and, communities being more considerable than particular persons, if robbing them be the greater sin, the guilt of theft and the portion of thieves will be found no jesting matter. Judas, who had betrayed his trust, soon after betrayed his Master.V. Christs justification of what Mary did (v. 7, v. 8): Let her alone. Hereby he intimated his acceptance of her kindness (though he was perfectly mortified to all the delights of sense, yet, as it was a token of her goodwill, he signified himself well-pleased with it), and his care that she should not be molested in it: Pardon her, so it may be read; "excuse her this once, if it be an error it is an error of her love. Note, Christ would not have those censured nor discouraged who sincerely design to please him, though in their honest endeavours there be not all the discretion that may be, Rom. 14:3 . Though we would not do as they do, yet let them alone. For Marys justification,1. Christ puts a favourable construction upon what she did, which those that condemned it were not aware of: Against the day of my burying she has kept this. Or, She has reserved this for the day of my embalming; so Dr. Hammond. "You do not grudge the ointment used for the embalming of your dead friends, nor say that it should be sold, and given to the poor. Now this anointing either was so intended, or at least may be so interpreted; for the day of my burying is now at hand, and she has anointed a body that is already as good as dead. Note, (1.) Our Lord Jesus thought much and often of his own death and burial; it would be good for us to do so too. (2.) Providence does often so open a door of opportunity to good Christians, and the Spirit of grace does so open their hearts, that the expressions of their pious zeal prove to be more seasonable, and more beautiful, than any foresight of their own could make them. (3.) The grace of Christ puts kind comments upon the pious words and actions of good people, and not only makes the best of what is amiss, but makes the most of what is good.2. He gives a sufficient answer to Judass objection, v. 8. (1.) It is so ordered in the kingdom of Providence that the poor we have always with us, some or other that are proper objects of charity (Deu. 15:11 ); such there will be as long as there are in this lapsed state of mankind so much folly and so much affliction. (2.) It is so ordered in the kingdom of grace that the church should not always have the bodily presence of Jesus Christ: "Me you have not always, but only nor for a little time. Note, We need wisdom, when two duties come in competition, to know which to give the preference to, which must be determined by the circumstances. Opportunities are to be improved, and those opportunities first and most vigorously which are likely to be of the shortest continuance, and which we see most speedily hastening away. That good duty which may be done at any time ought to give way to that which cannot be done but just now. VI. The public notice which was taken of our Lord Jesus here at this supper in Bethany (v. 9): Much people of the Jews knew that he was there, for he was the talk of the town, and they came flocking thither; the more because he had lately absconded, and now broke out as the sun from behind a dark cloud. 1. They came to see Jesus, whose name was very much magnified, and made considerable by the late miracle he had wrought in raising Lazarus. They came, not to hear him, but to gratify their curiosity with a sight of him here at Bethany, fearing he would not appear publicly, as he used to do, this passover. They came, not to seize him, or inform against him, though the government had prosecuted him to an outlawry, but to see him and show him respect. Note, There are some in whose affections Christ will have an interest, in spite of all the attempts of his enemies to misrepresent him. It being known where Christ was, multitudes came to him. Note, Where the king is there is the court; where Christ is there will the gathering of the people be, Lu. 17:37 . They came to see Lazarus and Christ together, which was a very inviting sight. Some came for the confirmation of their faith in Christ, to have the story perhaps from Lazaruss own mouth. Others came only for the gratifying of their curiosity, that they might say they had seen a man who had been dead and buried, and yet lived again; so that Lazarus served for a show, these holy-days, to those who, like the Athenians, spent their time in telling and hearing new things. Perhaps some came to put curious questions to Lazarus about the state of the dead, to ask what news from the other world; we ourselves have sometimes said, it may be, We would have gone a great way for one hours discourse with Lazarus. But if any came on this errand it is probable that Lazarus was silent, and gave them no account of his voyage; at least, the scripture is silent, and gives us no account of it; and we must not covet to be wise above what is written. But our Lord Jesus was present, who was a much fitter person for them to apply to than Lazarus; for if we hear not Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles, if we heed not what they tell us concerning another world, neither should we be persuaded though Lazarus rose from the dead. We have a more sure word of prophecy.VII. The indignation of the chief priests at the growing interest of our Lord Jesus, and their plot to crush it (v. 10, v. 11): They consulted (or decreed) how they might put Lazarus also to death, because that by reason of him (of what was done to him, not of any thing he said or did) many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. Here observe,1. How vain and unsuccessful their attempts against Christ had hitherto been. They had done all they could to alienate the people from him, and exasperate them against him, and yet many of the Jews, their neighbours, their creatures, their admirers, were so overcome by the convincing evidence of Christs miracles that they went away from the interest and party of the priests, went off from obedience to their tyranny, and believed on Jesus; and it was by reason of Lazarus; his resurrection put life into their faith, and convinced them that this Jesus was undoubtedly the Messiah, and had life in himself, and power to give life. This miracle confirmed them in the belief of his other miracles, which they had heard he wrought in Galilee: what was impossible to him that could raise the dead?2. How absurd and unreasonable this days vote wasthat Lazarus must be put to death. This is an instance of the most brutish rage that could be; they were like a wild bull in a net, full of fury, and laying about them without any consideration. It was a sign that they neither feared God nor regarded man. For, (1.) If they had feared God, they would not have done such an act of defiance to him. God will have Lazarus to live by miracle, and they will have him to die by malice. They cry, Away with such a fellow, it is not fit he should live, when God had so lately sent him back to the earth, declaring it highly fit he should live; what was this but walking contrary to God? They would put Lazarus to death, and challenge almighty power to raise him again, as if they could contend with God, and try titles with the King of kings. Who has the keys of death and the grave, he or they? O caeca malitia! Christus qui suscitare potuit mortuum, non possit occisum.Blind malice, to suppose that Christ, who could raise one that had died a natural death, could not raise one that had been slain! Augustine in loc. Lazarus is singled out to be the object of their special hatred, because God has distinguished him by the tokens of his peculiar love, as if they had made a league offensive and defensive with death and hell, and resolved to be severe upon all deserters. One would think that they should rather have consulted how they might have joined in friendship with Lazarus and his family, and by their mediation have reconciled themselves to this Jesus whom they had persecuted; but the god of this world had blinded their minds. (2.) If they had regarded man, they would not have done such an act of injustice to Lazarus, an innocent man, to whose charge they could not pretend to lay any crime. What bands are strong enough to hold those who can so easily break through the most sacred ties of common justice, and violate the maxims which even nature itself teaches? But the support of their own tyranny and superstition was thought sufficient, as in the church of Rome, not only to justify, but to consecrate the greatest villanies, and make them meritorious.
Verses 12-19 This story of Christs riding in triumph to Jerusalem is recorded by all the evangelists, as worthy of special remark; and in it we may observe,I. The respect that was paid to our Lord Jesus by the common people, v. 12, v. 13, where we are told,1. Who they were that paid him this respect: much people, ochlos polys a great crowd of those that came up to the feast; not the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but the country people that came from remote parts to worship at the feast; the nearer the temple of the Lord, the further from the Lord of the temple. They were such as came up to the feast. (1.) Perhaps they had been Christs hearers in the country, and great admirers of him there, and therefore were forward to testify their respect to him at Jerusalem, where they knew he had many enemies. Note, Those that have a true value and veneration for Christ will neither be ashamed nor afraid to own him before men in any instance whereby they may do him honour. (2.) Perhaps they were those more devout Jews that came up to the feast some time before, to purify themselves, that were more inclined to religion than their neighbours, and these were they that were so forward to honour Christ. Note, The more regard men have to God and religion in general, the better disposed they will be to entertain Christ and his religion, which is not destructive but perfective of all previous discoveries and institutions. They were not the rulers, nor the great men, that went out to meet Christ, but the commonalty; some would have called them a mob, a rabble: but Christ has chosen the weak and foolish things (1 Co. 1:27 ), and is honoured more by the multitude than by the magnificence of his followers; for he values men by their souls, not their names and titles of honour.2. On what occasion they did it: They heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They had enquired for him ch. 11:55, ch. 11:56 ): Will he not come up to the feast? And now they hear he is coming; for none that seek Christ seek in vain. Now when they heard he was coming, they bestirred themselves, to give him an agreeable reception. Note, Tidings of the approach of Christ and his kingdom should awaken us to consider what is the work of the day, that it may be done in the day. Israel must prepare to meet their God (Amos. 4:12 ), and the virgins to meet the bridegroom. 3. In what way they expressed their respect; they had not the keys of the city to present to him, nor the sword nor mace to carry before him, none of the city music to compliment him with, but such as they had they gave him; and even this despicable crowd was a faint resemblance of that glorious company which John saw before the throne, and before the Lamb, Rev. 7:9, Rev. 7:10 . Though these were not before the throne, they were before the Lamb, the paschal Lamb, who now, according to the usual ceremony, four days before the feast, was set apart to be sacrificed for us. There it is said of that celestial choir,(1.) That they had palms in their hands, and so had these branches of palm-trees. The palm-tree has ever been an emblem of victory and triumph; Cicero calls one that had won many prizes plurimarum palmarum homoa man of many palms. Christ was now by his death to conquer principalities and powers, and therefore it was fit that he should have the victors palm borne before him; though he was but girding on the harness, yet he could boast as though he had put it off. But this was not all; the carrying of palm-branches was part of the ceremony of the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:40 ; Neh. 8:15 ), and their using this expression of joy in the welcome given to our Lord Jesus intimates that all the feasts pointed at his gospel, had their accomplishment in it, and particularly that of the feast of tabernacles, Zec. 14:16 .(2.) That they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God (Rev. 7:10 ); so did these here, they shouted before him, as is usual in popular welcomes, Hosanna, blessed is the king of Israel, that comes in the name of the Lord; and hosanna signifies salvation. It is quoted from Ps. 118:25, Ps. 118:26 . See how well acquainted these common people were with the scripture, and how pertinently they apply it to the Messiah. High thoughts of Christ will be best expressed in scripture-words. Now in their acclamations, [1.] They acknowledge our Lord Jesus to be the king of Israel, that comes in the name of the Lord. Though he went now in poverty and disgrace, yet, contrary to the notions their scribes had given them of the Messiah, they own him to be a king, which bespeaks both his dignity and honour, which we must adore; and his dominion and power, to which we must submit. They own him to be, First, A rightful king, coming in the name of the Lord (Ps. 2:6 ), sent of God, not only as a prophet, but as a king. Secondly, The promised and long-expected king, Messiah the prince, for he is king of Israel. According to the light they had, they proclaimed him king of Israel in the streets of Jerusalem; and, they themselves being Israelites, hereby they avouched him for their king. [2.] They heartily wish well to his kingdom, which is the meaning of hosanna; let the king of Israel prosper, as when Solomon was crowned they cried, God save king Solomon, 1 Ki. 1:39 . In crying hosanna they prayed for three things:First, That his kingdom might come, in the light and knowledge of it, and in the power and efficacy of it. God speed the gospel plough. Secondly, That it might conquer, and be victorious over all opposition, Rev. 6:2 . Thirdly, That it might continue. Hosanna is, Let the king live for ever; though his kingdom may be disturbed, let it never be destroyed, Ps. 72:17 . [3.] They bid him welcome into Jerusalem: "Welcome is he that cometh; we are heartily glad to see him; come in thou blessed of the Lord; and well may we attend with our blessings him who meets us with his. This welcome is like that (Ps. 24:7-9 ), Lift up your heads, O ye gates. Thus we must every one of us bid Christ welcome into our hearts, that is, we must praise him, and be well pleased in him. As we should be highly pleased with the being and attributes of God, and his relation to us, so we should be with the person and offices of the Lord Jesus, and his meditation between us and God. Faith saith, Blessed is he that cometh. II. The posture Christ puts himself into for receiving the respect that was paid him (v. 14): When he had found, or procured, a young ass, he sat thereon. It was but a poor sort of figure he made, he alone upon an ass, and a crowd of people about him shouting Hosanna. 1. This was much more of state than he used to take; he used to travel on foot, but now was mounted. Though his followers should be willing to take up with mean things, and not affect any thing that looks like grandeur, yet they are allowed to use the service of the inferior creatures, according as God in his providence gives particular possession of those things over which, by his covenant with Noah and his sons, he has given to man a general dominion. Yet it was much less of state than the great ones of the world usually take. If he would have made a public entry, according to the state of a man of high degree, he should have rode in a chariot like that of Solomons (Cant. 3:9, Cant. 3:10 ), with pillars of silver, the bottom of gold, and the covering of purple; but, if we judge according to the fashion of this world, to be introduced thus was rather a disparagement than any honour to the king of Israel, for it seemed as if he would look great, and knew not how. His kingdom was not of this world, and therefore came not with outward pomp. He was now humbling himself, but in his exalted state John sees him in a vision on a white horse, with a bow and a crown. III. The fulfilling of the scripture in this: As it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion, v. 15. This is quoted from Zec. 9:19 . To him bore all the prophets witness, and particularly to this concerning him.1. It was foretold that Zions king should come, should come thus, sitting on an asss colt; even this minute circumstance was foretold, and Christ took care it should be punctually fulfilled. Note, (1.) Christ is Zions king; the holy hill of Zion was of old destined to be the metropolis or royal city of the Messiah. (2.) Zions king does and will look after her, and come to her; though for a short time he retires, in due time he returns. (3.) Though he comes but slowly (an ass is slow-paced), yet he comes surely, and with such expressions of humility and condescension as greatly encourage the addresses and expectations of his loyal subjects. Humble supplicants may reach to speak with him. If this be a discouragement to Zion, that her king appears in no greater state or strength, let her know that though he comes to her riding on an asss colt, yet he goes forth against her enemies riding on the heavens for her help, Deu. 33:26 .2. The daughter of Zion is therefore called upon to behold her king, to take notice of him and his approaches; behold and wonder, for he comes with observation, though not with outward show, Cant. 3:11 . Fear not. In the prophecy, Zion is told to rejoice greatly, and to shout, but here it is rendered, Fear not. Unbelieving fears are enemies to spiritual joys; if they be cured, if they be conquered, joy will come of course; Christ comes to his people to silence their fears. If the case be so that we cannot reach to the exultations of joy, yet we should labour to get from under the oppressions of fear. Rejoice greatly; at least, fear not. IV. The remark made by the evangelist respecting the disciples (v. 16): They understood not at first why Christ did this, and how the scripture was fulfilled; but when Jesus was glorified, and thereupon the Spirit poured out, then they remembered that these things were written of him in the Old Testament, and that they and others had, in pursuance thereof, done these things to him. 1. See here the imperfection of the disciples in their infant state; even they understood not these things at first. They did not consider, when they fetched the ass and set him thereon, that they were performing the ceremony of the inauguration of Zions king. Now observe, (1.) The scripture is often fulfilled by the agency of those who have not themselves an eye to the scripture in what they do, Isa. 45:4 . (2.) There are many excellent things, both in the word and providence of God, which the disciples themselves do not at first understand: not at their first acquaintance with the things of God, while they see men as trees walking; not at the first proposal of the things to their view and consideration. That which afterwards is clear was at first dark and doubtful. (3.) It well becomes the disciples of Christ, when they are grown up to maturity in knowledge, frequently to reflect upon the follies and weaknesses of their first beginning, that free grace may have the glory of their proficiency, and they may have compassion on the ignorant. When I was a child, I spoke as a child. 2. See here the improvement of the disciples in their adult state. Though they had been children, they were not always so, but went on to perfection. Observe,(1.) When they understood it: When Jesus was glorified; for, [1.] Till then they did not rightly apprehend the nature of his kingdom, but expected it to appear in external pomp and power, and therefore knew not how to apply the scriptures which spoke of it to so mean an appearance. Note, The right understanding of the spiritual nature of Christs kingdom, of its powers, glories, and victories, would prevent our misinterpreting and misapplying the scriptures that speak of it. [2.] Till then the Spirit was not poured out, who was to lead them into all truth. Note, The disciples of Christ are enabled to understand the scriptures by the same Spirit that indited the scriptures. The spirit of revelation is to all the saints a spirit of wisdom, Eph. 1:17, Eph. 1:18 .(2.) How they understood it; they compared the prophecy with the event, and put them together, that they might mutually receive light from each other, and so they came to understand both: Then remembered they that these things were written of him by the prophets, consonant to which they were done to him. Note, Such an admirable harmony there is between the word and works of God that the remembrance of what is written will enable us to understand what is done, and the observation of what is done will help us to understand what is written. As we have heard, so have we seen. The scripture is every day fulfilling.V. The reason which induced the people to pay this respect to our Lord Jesus upon his coming into Jerusalem, though the government was so much set against him. It was because of the illustrious miracle he had lately wrought in raising Lazarus.1. See here what account and what assurance they had of this miracle; no doubt, the city rang of it, the report of it was in all peoples mouths. But those who considered it as a proof of Christs mission, and a ground of their faith in him, that they might be well satisfied of the matter of fact, traced the report to those who were eye-witnesses of it, that they might know the certainty of it by the utmost evidence the thing was capable of: The people therefore that stood by when he called Lazarus out of his grave, being found out and examined, bore record, v. 17. They unanimously averred the thing to be true, beyond dispute or contradiction, and were ready, if called to it, to depose it upon oath, for so much is implied in the word Emartyrei . Note, The truth of Christs miracles was evidenced by incontestable proofs. It is probable that those who had seen this miracle did not only assert it to those who asked them, but published it unasked, that this might add to the triumphs of this solemn day; and Christs coming in now from Bethany, where it was done, would put them in mind of it. Note, Those who wish well to Christs kingdom should be forward to proclaim what they know that may redound to his honour.2. What improvement they made of it, and what influence it had upon them (v. 18): For this cause, as much as any other, the people met him. (1.) Some, out of curiosity, were desirous to see one that had done such a wonderful work. Many a good sermon he had preached in Jerusalem, which drew not such crowds after him as this one miracle did. But, (2.) Others, out of conscience, studied to do him honour, as one sent of God. This miracle was reserved for one of the last, that it might confirm those which went before, and might gain him this honour just before his sufferings; Christs works were all not only well done (Mk. 7:7 ) but well timed. VI. The indignation of the Pharisees at all this; some of them, probably, saw, and they all soon heard of, Christs public entry. The committee appointed to find out expedients to crush him thought they had gained their point when he had retired unto privacy, and that he would soon be forgotten in Jerusalem, but they now rage and fret when they see they imagined but a vain thing. 1. They own that they had got no ground against him; it was plainly to be perceived that they prevailed nothing. They could not, with all their insinuations, alienate the peoples affections from him, nor with their menaces restrain them from showing their affection to him. Note, Those who oppose Christ, and fight against his kingdom, will be made to perceive that they prevail nothing. God will accomplish his own purposes in spite of them, and the little efforts of their impotent malice. You prevail nothing, ouk opheleite you profit nothing. Note, There is nothing got by opposing Christ. They own that he had got ground: The world is gone after him; there is a vast crowd attending him, a world of people: an hyperbole common in most languages. Yet here, like Caiaphas, ere they were aware, they prophesied that the world would go after him; some of all sorts, some from all parts; nations shall be discipled. But to what intent was this said? (1.) Thus they express their own vexation at the growth of his interest; their envy makes them fret. If the horn of the righteous be exalted with honour, the wicked see it, and are grieved (Ps. 112:9, Ps. 112:10 ); considering how great these Pharisees were, and what abundance of respect was paid them, one would think they needed not grudge Christ so inconsiderable a piece of honour as was now done him; but proud men would monopolize honour, and have none share with them, like Haman. (2.) Thus they excite themselves and one another, to a more vigorous carrying on of the war against Christ. As if they should say, "Dallying and delaying thus will never do. We must take some other and more effectual course, to put a stop to this infection; it is time to try our utmost skill and force, before the grievance grows past redress. Thus the enemies of religion are made more resolute and active by being baffled; and shall its friends be disheartened with every disappointment, who know its cause is righteous and will at last be victorious?
Verses 20-26 Honour is here paid to Christ by certain Greeks that enquired or him with respect. We are not told what day of Christs last week this was, probably not the same day he rode into Jerusalem (for that day was taken up in public work), but a day or two after.I. We are told who they were that paid this honour to our Lord Jesus: Certain Greeks among the people who came up to worship at the feast, v. 20. Some think they were Jews of the dispersion, some of the twelve tribes that were scattered among the Gentiles, and were called Greeks, Hellenist Jews; but others think they were Gentiles, those whom they called proselytes of the gate, such as the eunuch and Cornelius. Pure natural religion met with the best assistance among the Jews, and therefore those among the Gentiles who were piously inclined joined with them in their solemn meetings, as far as was allowed them. There were devout worshippers of the true God even among those that were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel. It was in the latter ages of the Jewish church that there was this flocking of the Gentiles to the temple at Jerusalem,a happy presage of the taking down of the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles. The forbidding of the priests to accept of any oblation or sacrifice from a Gentile (which was done by Eleazar the son of Ananias, the high priest), Josephus says, was one of those things that brought the Romans upon them, War 2.409-410. Though these Greeks, if uncircumcised, were not admitted to eat the passover, yet they came to worship at the feast. We must thankfully use the privileges we have, though there may be others from which we are shut out.II. What was the honour they paid him: they desired to be acquainted with him, v. 21. Having come to worship at the feast, they desired to make the best use they could of their time, and therefore applied to Philip, desiring that he would put them in a way to get some personal converse with the Lord Jesus. 1. Having a desire to see Christ, they were industrious in the use of proper means. They did not conclude it impossible, because he was so much crowded, to get to speak with him, nor rest in bare wishes, but resolved to try what could be done. Note, Those that would have the knowledge of Christ must seek it. They made their application to Philip, one of his disciples. Some think that they had acquaintance with him formerly, and that they lived near Bethsaida in Galilee of the Gentiles; and then it teaches us that we should improve our acquaintance with good people, for our increase in the knowledge of Christ. It is good to know those who know the Lord. But if these Greeks had been near Galilee it is probable that they would have attended Christ there, where he mostly resided; therefore I think that they applied to him only because they saw him a close follower of Christ, and he was the first they could get to speak with. It was an instance of the veneration they had for Christ that they made an interest with one of his disciples for an opportunity to converse with him, a sign that they looked upon him as some great one, though he appeared mean. Those that would see Jesus by faith now that he is in heaven must apply to his ministers, whom he had appointed for this purpose, to guide poor souls in their enquiries after him. Paul must send for Ananias, and Cornelius for Peter. The bringing of these Greeks to the knowledge of Christ by the means of Philip signified the agency of the apostles, and the use made of their ministry in the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith and the discipling of the nations. 3. Their address to Philip was in short this: Sir, we would see Jesus. They gave him a title of respect, as one worthy of honour, because he was in relation to Christ. Their business is, they would see Jesus; not only see his face, that they might be able to say, when they came home, they had seen one that was so much talked of (it is probable they had seen him when he appeared publicly); but they would have some free conversation with him, and be taught by him, for which it was no easy thing to find him at leisure, his hands were so full of public work. Now that they were come to worship at the feast, they would see Jesus. Note, In our attendance upon holy ordinances, and particularly the gospel passover, the great desire of our souls should be to see Jesus; to have our acquaintance with him increased, our dependence on him encouraged, our conformity to him carried on; to see him as ours, to keep up communion with him, and derive communications of grace from him: we miss of our end in coming if we do not see Jesus. 4. Here is the report which Philip made of this to his Master, v. 22. He tells Andrew, who was of Bethsaida likewise, and was a senior fellow in the college of the apostles, contemporary with Peter, and consults him what was to be done, whether he thought the motion would be acceptable or no, because Christ had sometimes said that he was not sent but to the house of Israel. They agree that it must be made; but then he would have Andrew go along with him, remembering the favourable acceptance Christ had promised them, in case two of them should agree touching any thing they should ask, Mt. 18:19 . Note, Christs ministers should be helpful to one another and concur in helping souls to Christ: Two are better than one. It should seem that Andrew and Philip brought this message to Christ when he was teaching in public, for we read (v. 29) of the people that stood by; but he was seldom alone.III. Christs acceptance of this honour paid him, signified by what he said to the people hereupon, v. 23, etc., where he foretels both the honour which he himself should have in being followed (v. 23, v. 24) and the honour which those should have that followed him, v. 25, v. 26. This was intended for the direction and encouragement of these Greeks, and all others that desired acquaintance with him.1. He foresees that plentiful harvest, in the conversion of the Gentiles, of which this was as it were the first-fruits, v. 23. Christ said to the two disciples who spoke a good word for these Greeks, but doubted whether they should speed or no, The hour is come when the Son of Man shall be glorified, by the accession of the Gentiles to the church, and in order to that he must be rejected of the Jews. Observe,(1.) The end designed hereby, and that is the glorifying of the Redeemer: "And is it so? Do the Gentiles begin to enquire after me? Does the morning-star appear to them? and that blessed say-spring, which knows its place and time too, does that begin to take hold of the ends of the earth? Then the hour is come for the glorifying of the Son of man. This was no surprise to Christ, but a paradox to those about him. Note, [1.] The calling, the effectual calling, of the Gentiles into the church of God greatly redounded to the glory of the Son of man. The multiplying of the redeemed was the magnifying of the Redeemer. [2.] there was a time, a set time, an hour, a certain hour, for the glorifying of the Son of man, which did come at last, when the days of his humiliation were numbered and finished, and he speaks of the approach of it with exultation and triumph: The hour is come. (2.) The strange way in which this end was to be attained, and that was by the death of Christ, intimated in that similitude (v. 24): "Verily, verily, I say unto you, you to whom I have spoken of my death and sufferings, except a corn of wheat fall not only to, but into, the ground, and die, and be buried and lost, it abideth alone, and you never see any more of it; but if it die according to the course of nature (otherwise it would be a miracle) it bringeth forth much fruit, God giving to every seed its own body. Christ is the corn of wheat, the most valuable and useful grain. Now here is,[1.] The necessity of Christs humiliation intimated. He would never have been the living quickening head and root of the church if he had not descended from heaven to this accursed earth and ascended from earth to the accursed tree, and so accomplished our redemption. He must pour out his soul unto death, else he cannot divide a portion with the great, Isa. 53:12 . He shall have a seed given him, but he must shed his blood to purchase them and purify, must win them and wear them. It was necessary likewise as a qualification for that glory which he was to have by the accession of multitudes to his church; for if he had not by his sufferings made satisfaction for sin, and so brought in an everlasting righteousness, he would not have been sufficiently provided for the entertainment of those that should come to him, and therefore must abide alone. [2.] The advantage of Christs humiliation illustrated. He fell to the ground in his incarnation, seemed to be buried alive in this earth, so much was his glory veiled; but this was not all: he died. This immortal seed submitted to the laws of mortality, he lay in the grave like seed under the clods; but as the seed comes up again green, and fresh, and flourishing, and with a great increase, so one dying Christ gathered to himself thousands of living Christians, and he became their root. The salvation of souls hitherto, and henceforward to the end of time, is all owing to the dying of this corn of wheat. Hereby the Father and the Son are glorified, the church is replenished, the mystical body is kept up, and will at length be completed; and, when time shall be no more, the Captain of our salvation, bringing many sons to glory by the virtue of his death, and being so made perfect by sufferings, shall be celebrated for ever with the admiring praises of saints and angels, Heb. 2:10, Heb. 2:13 .2. He foretels and promises an abundant recompence to those who should cordially embrace him and his gospel and interest, and should make it appear that they do so by their faithfulness in suffering for him or in serving him.(1.) In suffering for him (v. 25): He that loves his life better than Christ shall lose it; but he that hates his life in this world, and prefers the favour of God and an interest in Christ before it, shall keep it unto life eternal. This doctrine Christ much insisted on, it being the great design of his religion to wean us from this world, by setting before us another world.[1.] See here the fatal consequences of an inordinate love of life; many a man hugs himself to death, and loses his life by over-loving it. He that so loves his animal life as to indulge his appetite, and make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, shall thereby shorten his days, shall lose the life he is so fond of, and another infinitely better. He that is so much in love with the life of the body, and the ornaments and delights of it, as, for fear of exposing it or them, to deny Christ, he shall lose it, that is, lose a real happiness in the other world, while he thinks to secure an imaginary one in this. Skin for skin a man may give for his life, and make a good bargain, but he that gives his soul, his God, his heaven, for it, buys life too dear, and is guilty of the folly of him who sold a birth-right for a mess of pottage.[2.] See also the blessed recompence of a holy contempt of life. He that so hates the life of the body as to venture it for the preserving of the life of his soul shall find both, with unspeakable advantage, in eternal life. Note, First, It is required of the disciples of Christ that they hate their life in this world; a life in this world supposes a life in the other world, and this is hated when it is loved less than that. Our life in this world includes all the enjoyments of our present state, riches, honours, pleasures, and long life in the possession of them; these we must hate, that is, despise them as vain and insufficient to make us happy, dread the temptations that are in them, and cheerfully part with them whenever they come in competition with the service of Christ, Acts. 20:24 Acts. 21:13 ; Rev. 12:11 . See here much of the power of godliness that it conquers the strongest natural affections; and much of the mystery of godliness that it is the greatest wisdom, and yet makes men hate their own lives. Secondly, Those who, in love to Christ, hate their own lives in this world, shall be abundantly recompensed in the resurrection of the just. He that hateth his life shall keep it; he puts it into the hands of one that will keep it to life eternal, and restore it with as great an improvement as the heavenly life can make of the earthly one.(2.) In serving him (v. 26): If any man profess to serve me, let him follow me, as a servant follows his master; and where I am, ekei kai ho diakonos ho emos estai there let my servant be; so some read it, as part of the duty, there let him be, to attend upon me; we read it as part of the promise, there shall he be in happiness with me. And, lest this should seem a small matter, he adds, If any man serve me, him will my Father honour; and that is enough, more than enough. The Greeks desired to see Jesus (v. 21), but Christ lets them know that it was not enough to see him, they must serve him. He did not come into the world, to be a show for us to gaze at, but a king to be ruled by. And he says this for the encouragement of those who enquired after him to become his servants. In taking servants it is usual to fix both the work and the wages; Christ does both here.[1.] Here is the work which Christ expects from his servants; and it is very easy and reasonable, and such as becomes them.First, Let them attend their Masters movements: If any man serve me, let him follow me. Christians must follow Christ, follow his methods and prescriptions, do the things that he says, follow his example and pattern, walk as he also walked, follow his conduct by his providence and Spirit. We must go whither he leads us, and in the way he leads us; must follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes before us. "If any man serve me, if he put himself into that relation to me, let him apply himself to the business of my service, and be always ready at my call. Or, "If any man do indeed serve me, let him make an open and public profession of his relation to me, by following me, as the servant owns his Master by following him in the streets.Secondly, Let them attend their Masters repose: Where I am, there let my servant be, to wait upon me. Christ is where his church is, in the assemblies of his saints, where his ordinances are administered; and there let his servants be, to present themselves before him, and receive instructions from him. Or, "Where I am to be in heaven, whither I am now going, there let the thoughts and affections of my servants be, there let their conversation be, where Christ sitteth. Col. 3:1, Col. 3:2 .[2.] Here are the wages which Christ promises to his servants; and they are very rich and noble.First, They shall be happy with him: Where I am, there shall also my servant be. To be with him, when he was here in poverty and disgrace, would seem but poor preferment, and therefore, doubtless, he means being with him in paradise, sitting with him at his table above, on his throne there; it is the happiness of heaven to be with Christ there, ch. 17:24 . Christ speaks of heavens happiness as if he were already in it: Where I am; because he was sure of it, and near to it, and it was still upon his heart, and in his eye. And the same joy and glory which he thought recompence enough for all his services and sufferings are proposed to his servants as the recompence of theirs. Those that follow him in the way shall be with him in the end.Secondly, They shall be honoured by his Father; he will make them amends for all their pains and loss, by conferring an honour upon them, such as becomes a great God to give, but far beyond what such worthless worms of the earth could expect to receive. The rewarder is God himself, who takes the services done to the Lord Jesus as done to himself. The reward is honour, true lasting honour, the highest honour; it is the honour that comes from God. It is said (Prov. 27:18 ), He that waits on his Master (humbly and diligently) shall be honoured. Those that wait on Christ God will put honour upon, such as will be taken notice of another day, though now under a veil. Those that serve Christ must humble themselves, and are commonly vilified by the world, in recompence of both which they shall be exalted in due time.Thus far Christs discourse has reference to those Greeks who desired to see him, encouraging them to serve him. What became of those Greeks we are not told, but are willing to hope that those who thus asked the way to heaven with their faces thitherward, found it, and walked in it.