"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"
Thy King cometh unto thee, meek; "And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way." The word "meek" is used in Scripture for "not self-assertive," "not seeking one's own." It is not to be confounded with "humility." The apostle puts "humbleness of mind" and "meekness" alongside each other in such a way that we cannot fail to observe the distinction between them. Moses was the "meekest of men," but certainly not the most humble. It is usual to associate our Lord's "meekness" with his riding on so lowly an animal; but this is to transfer our Western ideas of asses to Eastern lands; and it also fails to observe that in ver. 5 there are two assertions, each distinct from the other. Our Lord was "meek;" and our Lord was "sitting upon an ass." If we take the word "meek" here in its usual meaning, "not self-assertive," we may find fresh suggestion in the passage. The signs of joy given in vers. 8, 9 are characteristically Eastern. Bishop Heber thus describes his march to Colombo: "The road was decorated the whole way as for a festival, with long strips of palm branches hung upon strings on either side; and whenever we stopped we found the ground spread with white cloth, and awnings erected, beautifully decorated with flowers and fruit, and festooned with palm branches. These remnants of the ancient custom mentioned in the Bible, of strewing the road with palm branches and garments, are curious and interesting."
I. THE MEEKNESS OF JESUS. This is not the thing which first arrests attention. Indeed, on this one occasion Jesus seems to be asserting himself. Look deeper, and it will be found that he is not. He is not in any of the senses men put into that term. There, riding into Jerusalem as a King, he has no intention of setting up any such kingdom as men expect; he does not mean to use any force; you could never mistake him for a conqueror. There is submission, there is no self-assertion.
II. THE JOY OF THE PEOPLE. In calling Jesus the "Son of David," the people recognized him as the long promised Messiah; and, without clear apprehensions of what his work was to be, they could rejoice in the realization of the national hope. Their joy made it clear to the Jerusalem officials that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. There could be no mistake. They must accept or reject the claim. - R.T.
They feared the multitude, because they took Him for a prophet.
"The multitude" were pleased with Christ and took Him for a prophet. The pleasure which our text indicates may be referred to wrong motives; they were glad to see others humbled and rebuked. We often repine at the superiority of those above us, and are gratified when any wound is inflicted on their vanity. Not that Christ desired by artful means to gain the favour of the inferior orders. Often in theological controversy men applaud not from love of the truth, but because some one has been repulsed. We take the supposition that the pleasure of the multitude, in part at least, was produced by the general tenor of Christ's preaching, and not by a triumphant exposure of the sins of their rulers. Let us examine into the causes from which it came to pass that discourses which were distasteful to the great amongst the Jews found acceptance with the multitude. No doubt reasons could be derived from the peculiar circumstances of the Jewish nation; their expectation of a temporal prince, which was stronger in the higher classes than in the lower. Had the lower classes been left to themselves, it is probable that the Christ who healed their sick would have been accepted. But this is true of our own day — the multitudes, as distinguished from others, have an interest in hearing the gospel. It gains a hold on them which makes them "take Christ for a prophet." Here it is that the Almighty has introduced one of those counterpoises which cause good and evil to be distributed with considerable equality notwithstanding the marked difference in human conditions. Wealth and learning are great advantages viewed in reference to the present life; but in regard to the other life the circumstances of their life facilitate their eternal good. The poor man has little to attach him to earth; the rich is surrounded by things that fascinate him, also there are prejudices against the gospel peculiar to the rich which the illiterate cannot share. The gospel sets the poor amongst princes; the rich and great cling to artificial distinctions. The poverty of Christ was an offence to the rich; it was an attraction to the poor. The gospel cannot reach the heart without supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; but if we take the doctrines of Christianity — the mediatorial work — imputation of righteousness — we might contend that the common people are in a better position than others to admit them. In the outcasts of society there is not found that haughty self-reliance; the gospel is more welcome to them. The Bible seems to have been composed with express reference to the poor. But we must not overlook the fact that those who took Christ for a prophet finally rejected and crucified Him. "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only."
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