MATT. 21:1-17.SEPTEMBER 9.
IN our last lesson Jesus and his disciples, with others, were on the way to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. They had already passed through Jericho. En route Jesus gave the parable of the talents; and Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, was reached Friday night, just a week before his crucifixion. He rested with his friends on the Sabbath, partook of the feast prepared in his honor that evening, received the anointing of the costly spikenard from Mary, and next morning, the first day of the week, continued his journey to Jerusalem. Throughout the week, however, he made Bethany his home, going daily to the city, returning at night. Bethany was about two miles distant from the Temple. Here the present lesson begins.
With the Lord were a considerable number of people who had come up to Jerusalem in his company, and some who had come out from Jerusalem to Bethany to see him, because they had heard that the Prophet of Nazareth who had raised Lazarus from the dead was at the home of the latter. When this multitude reached Bethphage, a little village on the Mount of Olives, Jesus stopped and sent two of his disciples to another village close by to bring to him an ass and her foal. The owner of the animals may have been acquainted with Jesus, and if so would also have been acquainted with his disciples. At all events his request was honored, and Mark tells us, according to the revised version, that they promised that Jesus would send back the colt to the owner. Evidently it was unusual for our Lord to ride, and, although he came and went a longer distance every morning and evening throughout the week, this was the only occasion we have any knowledge of his riding. Evidently the reason for riding at this time was not weariness. He was about to present himself to the people after the manner of their kings of the past, who we are told rode in triumph on white asses.
A prominent writer on this lesson seems to present a very wrong view of our Lord's course and program, saying: "Jesus now for three days made his final attempts to persuade the Jewish nation to accept him as the Messiah and thus save themselves from destruction, and become a great power for bringing in the Kingdom of heaven among men. He uses every possible means, in a great variety of ways, for accomplishing his purpose. He presents himself to them as a king. He shows his royal authority by cleansing the temple, his Father's house. He performs royal deeds of power and of mercy in healing the sick. He argues, he discourses, he pleads, he teaches, he answers objections, he threatens, he warns."
To the very contrary of all this, we find that our Lord here studiously avoided arousing the people, lest they should "take him by force to make him a king." (John 6:15.) He taught the people in parables and dark sayings, which he did not explain except privately to his disciples, saying, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God: but unto them that are without all these things are spoken in parables: that seeing they may see and not perceive; and hearing they may hear and not understand." (Mark 4:11,12.) Just a few days before this our Lord had expressly told his disciples that he would be set at naught by the rulers of the nation and would be crucified and rise again the third day. They had at least partially understood this matter, for they endeavored to dissuade him from such a view, and he had explained to them that his Kingdom was to be a heavenly one, "in the regeneration" times, when they should sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Our Lord knew that he would be rejected, and before he entered the city, viewing it, he wept over it and said, "Your house is left unto you desolate." He evidently had not the slightest intention of alluring the people to his support and for the establishment of an earthly Kingdom. We cannot doubt what a power he would have had if he had but spoken in defense of his own position. Even when he was accused before Pilate, the Roman governor marvelled that he offered no defense. All this was in harmony with the prophecy, which declared, "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
Jesus sought to influence only those Jews who were "Israelites indeed," in whom there was no guile; and he understood the Father's plan to be that his message, as directed under the leadings of providence, would attract this classand he did not wish for others. It was not the Father's will, as he declared. The remainder of that nation, aside from the "Israelites indeed," the holy ones, according to the divine plan and arrangement, would reject our Lord, crucify him and be blinded for more than eighteen centuries until, at the time of his second advent, their eyes of understanding would be opened and they would "look upon him whom they have pierced and mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zech. 12:10.) Meantime the Lord's favor during this Gospel age, as intended, would pass throughout the world, making disciples of the pure in heart, a zealous class of various nations, peoples, kindreds, tongues, for the purpose of selecting joint-heirs in the heavenly Kingdom, which was not intended to be established as an earthly Kingdom nor a heavenly one until God's due timeat the second coming of our Lord.
Two prophecies combine in the testimony here recorded: "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold your King cometh unto thee, meek and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the [R3850 : page 282] foal of an ass." (Compare Isa. 62:11; Zech. 9:9.) It was in fulfilment of the prediction that Jesus rode upon the ass. The Jews were familiar with this prophecy, and for long centuries had been waiting for Messiah to fulfil it. It was necessary, according to the divine program, that our Lord should literally, actually, do what the prophets had foretold, that Israel might be without excuse in their rejection of him: so that in the future, when their blindness shall be turned away, when the eyes of their understanding shall be opened, when they shall look upon him whom they have pierced and mourn for their rejection of him, they will find themselves without excuse, they will realize that the Lord had performed unto them as his covenant people all his good promises, and that the fault of their rejection was entirely of themselves; that they were not in the condition of heart to receive their King; that whereas he was meek and lowly of heart they were proud and boastful; whereas he was pure and unselfish, they were impure and self-seeking and not fit for the Kingdom. In a word, God did for natural Israel everything that he had purposed and promised, and certified thereby that the fault was entirely theirs.
The multitudes accompanying the Lord seemed to catch the spirit of the occasion, and while they shouted "Hosanna to the son of David," the Messiah, they made him a royal pathway for his beast, some spreading their garments, others getting branches of trees. It had been a custom [R3851 : page 282] amongst various peoples for long centuries to thus treat their honored rulers. In countries where flowers abounded these were used, in others the branches of trees, and in some instances the garments of their admirers and loyal subjects were thus used. We cannot suppose that all of this multitude were saints, though doubtless many of them outside of the apostles were sympathizers with Jesus. That it was not the apostles themselves who instigated and carried on this proceeding is shown by the fact, narrated by another evangelist, that certain Scribes and Pharisees in the multitude came to the disciples and suggested that they call the attention of the Lord to the matter, pointing out to him the impropriety of such proceedings.
The modesty of our Lord in respect to his Messiahship is noteworthy. Not on a single occasion we know of did he announce himself as Messiah. His highest claim at any time was that he was the Son of God, a claim and title permissible to any of his true disciples throughout the Gospel age since Pentecost. In every instance his honor as Messiah was mentioned by others and simply not disputed by the Lord. For instance, on the first occasion when Jesus inquired of his disciples, "Whom say men that I am?" and later, "Whom say ye that I am?" when Peter, speaking for them, replied, "Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God," Jesus indicated his assent by the words, "Blessed art thou, Simon-Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Now it was the multitude that heralded him the son of David, the Messiah, and he merely held his peaceonly when others objected did he declare that the shouting was necessary to the fulfilment of the prophecy which declared that there should be a shout, saying, "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." The third place where his Messiahship was referred to was before Pilate, who asked him, "Art thou a king then?" He answered, "To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth."
Had this procession and the shoutings of kingly honor to our Savior any meaning outside of being a testimony to the Jewish nationa presentation to them of their Kingto be accepted or rejected? They had no other meaning at the time, but indirectly they have a lesson for us spiritual Israelites at the end of this age; because we find that the divine arrangement is such that the history of natural Israel, from the death of Jacob down to this event, was typical of spiritual Israel's experiences from the death of Jesus down to his coming in glory, presenting himself to his people. The declaration of the prophets is that he must offer himself to "both the houses of Israel"the fleshly house and the spiritual house. As in the fleshly house there were true and untrue Israelites, so also in the spiritual house of this Gospel age, "Christendom," there are both true and untrue Israelites, professedly waiting for Messiah and his Kingdom.
Natural Israel waited 1845 years for the Lord to come as their King, to establish righteousness in the earth, and to use them as his channel for blessing to all mankind according to the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant. When Messiah came they were unready to receive him and unfit to be his co-laborersexcept the few Israelites indeed whom he gathered out of that nation and constituted the nucleus of the new nation. When the Jewish nation, natural Israel, were cast off, rejected, the Lord began the selection of spiritual Israel out of all the nations as he had foreseen and foretold. Nominal spiritual Israel waited a similar period of time, 1845 years, from the death of Jesus to the time when he was due to present himself as King.
A host of Scriptures unite in the testimony that our Redeemer presented himself to spiritual Israel at the date corresponding to this triumphal entry into Jerusalem and presentation to natural Israel, viz., in 1878 A.D. (for prophetic testimony on the subject see MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vols. II. and III.) At that date also we believe nominal spiritual IsraelChurchianity, "Babylon"was rejected after the same manner that the Jewish nation was rejected. True, Christendom does not realize this rejection,neither did natural Israel realize its rejection and that its house was left desolate, left to go to destruction. As the 37 years following our Lord's rejection of natural Israel brought them to the utter destruction of their city and polity, so we anticipate that 37 years from 1878 will bring "Christendom" to its destruction in the great time of trouble predicted in the prophecy.
We are still in the time when spiritual Israelites are deciding for or against Messiahaccepting him as their present Lord and King, or rejecting him; shouting in their hearts "Hosanna to the son of David, who cometh in the name of the Lord," or, on the other hand, amongst those who become embittered as they hear the message. Those who receive him will surely have an antitype of the blessed experiences which came to the Lord's true people at Pentecost. The [R3851 : page 283] antitype will be immensely greater and grander than the type, nothing short of full change from the corruptible to incorruptible conditions in the First Resurrection. The others, unready of heart to receive the Lord and the blessings, will have their share in the great time of trouble with which this age will terminate and which will prepare mankind in general for the glorious Millennial reign of righteousness promptly to be ushered in.
As soon as Jesus had sentenced the Jewish nation to destruction saying, "Your house is left unto you desolate: ye shall see me no more until that day when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," he ceased all efforts in connection with that nationtheir trial was ended as a nation, but still he sought the individuals who were of the proper condition of heart. He proceeded to the Temple and cleansed it of its merchants and money changers, driving them out with a scourge of cords. He was backed by the authority which belonged to any Jew in any station of life, but was additionally backed by his own kingly presence and the multitude which thronged about him, which would have been ready to support him with physical force: all this of course aside from his heavenly power.
To our understanding the chief force of this feature was its typical oneillustrative of a great truth now applicable to spiritual Israel. The Temple built by Herod was only the type. The true Temple is the Church of the living God. This Church Temple may be considered from two standpoints: (1) The Church of glory in the future, of which the Lord's faithful ones of the present time are the living stones, now being chiseled, prepared. (2) The Church in its present condition of humiliation, imperfection, more properly the tabernacle in which the Lord dwells. As there were strict regulations governing the worship and worshipers in the types, so there are positive regulations in God's Word for those who constitute the priests and Levites doing the services of the tabernacle in the present time, preparatory to the establishment of the glorious Temple of the future.
The Scriptures clearly indicate that in the end of this Gospel age God purposes a cleansing of his sanctuary, his templeChristendom. There will be nothing in or connected with the Temple in glory that will need to be cleansed, nothing impure, nothing that defileth will enter therein; but the Temple, the Church of the present time, stipulated to be composed merely, solely, of the consecrated believers, has become a mixed multitude, so that under the name of Christian and Church are many persons and parties thoroughly unchristian, connected with the things of this world on a purely selfish basis. The Lord proposes a cleansing of this sanctuary, as testified through the Prophet Danielunto 2300 days [years], then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. That was merely a typical cleansing which our Lord accomplished in the typical Temple; the antitypical cleansing is the one of real importance and we are living now in this time of cleansing. (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. III., Chap. IV.)
The type gives us a suggestion respecting the character of the cleansing, that it mainly affects those who make merchandise of holy thingsthose who are associated with the Lord's work for selfish reasons, because "their bread is buttered on that side," because they can have more honor of men, more of the advantages and comforts of life, and better business prospects by reason of their identification with Churchianity. All of this class must be driven out: the Lord himself will see to the work. The Lord's house is not to be a house of merchandise. The Lord seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth, and not those who seek the loaves and fishes or any earthly advantage. He will therefore present the truth in such a form that it will be a blessing to the proper class, and separate all of the improper class by a measure of odium in connection with the King and his faithful. At the present time the Lord, the Truth, with a whip of small cords, is injurious only to those who are in the Temple for purposes of merchandise, and not injurious to others. There are money changers today in the nominal Temple who are robbing the people by accepting salaries for that which is not food, who, while professing to teach the way of the Lord and receiving honor [R3852 : page 283] of men and other emoluments, are really misrepresenting the Lord and his Truth. All such will be separated from the true Temple class, all such will be angry with the Master and his followers, as were the merchants and money-changers in the typical Temple, and they will have their sympathizers also, as they did.
Thieving, robbery, is usually done secretly, deceptively. The thief usually represents himself as the very reverse. He poses as an honorable man; but slyly, under cover, he secures to himself that which is not properly his. Is not this the case with very many professedly Christian ministers and teachers and elders in various quarters of Churchianity? Are there not many who pose as ministers of the cross of Christ and of the Word of God who deny the Word of God and to whom the cross of Christ is foolishness? Of this class are those who tell us that they are Evolutionists; that instead of man falling from God's likeness and needing to be redeemed by the blood of the cross and needing the second coming of the Lord to restore him, the very reverse is their conception of truth, viz., that if man has fallen at all he has fallen upward, that he has no need to be redeemed, and that to look for the second coming of the Lord for the salvation of the world is foolishness. Are not these men receiving money under false pretenses? and is not such a system of thievery the very worst kind in the world? Is not this an open robbery? Do they not rob God in that they detract from his honor? and do they not rob the people in that they take from them money and honors, etc., while deceiving them, selling them that which is not bread, which satisfieth not?
The Father's house, his Church, should be composed solely of those who worship him in spirit and in truth. It is meet, it is proper, that all others should be cast out, and the Lord will see to this now because the due time for it has come. The sanctuary shall be cleansed; then in due time the glory of the Lord will fill itthe Royal Priesthood will be changed and become the Temple of glory, honor, dominion and power, from which will proceed the blessing of the world of mankind.
The people in general were thoroughly aroused by the triumphal entry and then the scourging of the money-changers. [R3852 : page 284] To the inquiry, Who is this? came the answer, "This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee." The news spread, and the poor and the lame of the city began to flock to the temple. Doubtless they had heard before about this great Prophet, and many of them found this their opportunity for receiving a blessing at his hands. So it will be in the future, when the spiritual Temple will have been fully cleansed, and the Lord of the Temple will be in it in power and great glory, the healing and blessing of all the families of the earth will be in order and will be accomplishedall who will may then be blessed.
The shoutings of the multitude on the way had doubtless ceased, yet the children in the Temple had apparently taken it up, and doubtless without any particular meaning were singing over and over, "Hosanna, hosanna, to the son of David." This illustrated how by and by the praises of the Lord shall fill his Temple, and the Pharisees who heard the children were annoyed by it. We may presume that they endeavored to stop them unsuccessfully, and then appealed to the Master, as the one whose authority would be recognized, to rebuke them; but he answered them this was fulfilling prophecy again, as it is written, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise." What the more highly favored and intelligent of natural Israel did not appreciate and failed to proffer the Lord caused to be accomplished even at the mouths of babes. Indeed, everywhere we find that earthly wisdom is apt to misinterpret divine purposes. Very frequently, therefore, the Lord makes use of the weak, the poor, the ignorant, instead. Let us, dear brethren, whatever our opportunities and talents, seek to be as little children, not guided by worldly wisdom merely but "taught of God," that we may now in the proper form herald our Master the Messiah, and in every sense of the word cooperate with him in his work and be accounted worthy as faithful ones to be associated also in the glory of the Kingdom.