Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38
1. And when they approached Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, to the mountain of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 698 2. Saying to them, Go into the village which is opposite to you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them to me. 3. And if any man shall say anything to you, say, The Lord hath need of them; and immediately he will send them. 699 4. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5. Say to the daughter of Zion, Lo, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and sitting on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of one that is under the yoke. 700 6. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus had commanded them. 7. And they brought the ass and the colt, and laid on them their garments, and placed him upon them. 701 8. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed be he 702 that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 703
1. And as they approach Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain of Olives, he sendeth two of his disciples. 2. And saith to them, Go away into the village which is opposite to you, and, just as you are entering into it, you will find a colt tied, on which no man ever sat; loose him, and bring him. 3. And if any man shall say to you, Why do you this? say, Because the Lord hath need of him; and immediately he will send him hither. 4 And they went away, and found a colt tied near a door where two ways meet, and they loose him. 5. And some of those who stood there said to them, What do you, 704 loosing the colt? 6. And they said to them as Jesus had commanded, and they allowed them. 705 7. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on him, and he sat upon him, 8. And many spread their garments in the way; and others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9. And they that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Blessed be he 706 that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 707
29. And it happened, when he approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain which is called the mountain of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 30. Saying, Go into the village which is opposite; and, as you enter into it, you will find a colt tied, on which no man ever sat; loose him, and bring him. 31. And if any man shall ask you, Why do you loose him? thus shall you say to him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32. And they that were sent went away, and found as he had said to them. 33. And while they were loosing the colt, its owners 708 said to them, Why do you loose the colt? 34. And they said, The Lord hath need of him. 35. And they brought him to Jesus; and, having thrown their garments on the colt, they set Jesus upon it. 36. And while he was going, they strawed their garments in the way. 37. And when he was already of the mountain of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples, rejoicing, began to praise God with a loud voice, for all the miracles which they had seen, 38. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 709
Matthew 21:1. Then Jesus sent two disciples Jesus sends his disciples to bring an ass to him, not because he was wearied with the journey, but for a different reason; for, in consequence of the time of his death being at hand, he intended to show, by a solemn performance, what was the nature of his kingdom. He had begun, indeed, to do this at his baptism, but it remained that this demonstration should be given by him towards the end of his calling: for why did he hitherto refrain from the title of King, and now at length openly declare himself to be a King, but because he is not far from the end of his course? 710 So then, as his removal to heaven was at hand, he intended to commence his reign openly on earth.
This would have been a ridiculous display, if it had not been in accordance with the prediction of Zechariah, (Zec 9:9.) In order to lay claim to the honors of royalty, he enters Jerusalem, riding an ass. A magnificent display, truly! more especially when the ass was borrowed from some person, and when the want of a saddle and of accouterments compelled the disciples to throw their garments on it, which was mark of mean and disgraceful poverty. He is attended, I admit, by a large retinue; but of what sort of people? Of those who had hastily assembled from the neighboring villages. Sounds of loud and joyful welcome are heard; 711 but from whom? From the very poorest, and from those who belong to the despised multitude. One might think, therefore, that he intentionally exposed himself to the ridicule of all. But as he had two things to do at the same time, — as he had to exhibit some proof of his kingdom, and to show that it does not resemble earthly kingdoms, and does not consist of the fading riches of this world, it was altogether necessary for him to take this method.
To wicked men, no doubt, this might be very unacceptable, had not God long before testified by his Prophet that such would be the king who would come to restore the salvation of his people. In order, therefore, that the mean aspect of Christ may not hinder us from perceiving in this exhibition, 712 his spiritual kingdom, let us keep before our eyes the heavenly prediction, by which God conferred more honor on his Son under the revolting aspect of a beggar, than if he had been decorated with all the dazzling ornaments of kings. Without this seasoning, we shall never have any relish for this history; and therefore there is great weight in the words of Matthew, when he says, that the prediction of the Prophet was fulfilled 713 Perceiving that it was hardly possible that men, who are too much devoted to wealth and splendor, should derive any advantage from this narrative, when viewed according to the feeling of the flesh, he leads them away from the simple contemplation of the fact to the consideration of the prophecy.
2. Go into the village. As he was at Bethany, he did not ask for an ass to relieve the fatigue of traveling; for he could easily have performed the rest of the journey on foot. 714 But as kings are wont to ascend their chariots, from which they may be easily seen, so the Lord intended to turn the eyes of the people on himself, and to place some mark of approbation on the applauses of his followers, lest any might think that he unwillingly received the honor of a king. 715
From what place he ordered the ass to be brought is uncertain, except, what may naturally be inferred, that it was some village adjoining to the city; for the allegorical exposition of it, which some give, as applying to Jerusalem, is ridiculous. Not a whit more admissible is the allegory which certain persons have contrived about the ass and the colt “The she-ass,” they tell us, “is a figure of the Jewish nation, which had been long subdued, and accustomed to the yoke of the Law. The Gentiles, again, are represented by the colt, on which no man ever sat. Christ sat first on the ass for this reason, that it was proper for him to begin with the Jews; and afterwards he passed over to the colt, because he was appointed to govern the Gentiles also in the second place.” And indeed Matthew appears to say that he rode on both of them; but as instances of Synecdoche occur frequently in Scripture, we need not wonder if he mentions two instead of one. From the other Evangelists it appears manifestly that the colt only was used by Christ; and all doubt is removed by Zechariah, (Zec 9:9,)who twice repeats the same thing, according to the ordinary custom of the Hebrew language. 716
And immediately you will find That the disciples may feel no hesitation about immediate compliance, our Lord anticipates and replies to their questions. First, he explains that he does not send them away at random, and this he does by saying that, at the very entrance into the village, they will find an ass-colt with its mother; and, secondly, that nobody will hinder them from leading him away, if they only reply that He hath need of him In this way he proved his Divinity; for both to know absent matters, and to bend the hearts of men to compliance, 717 belonged to God alone. It was, no doubt, possible that the owner of the ass, entertaining no unfavorable opinion of Christ, would cheerfully grant it; but to foresee if he would be at home, if it would then be convenient for him, or if he would place confidence in unknown persons, was not in the power of a mortal man. Again, as Christ strengthens the disciples, that they may be more ready to obey, so we see how they, on the other hand, yield submission. The result shows that the whole of this affair was directed by God.
5. Say to the daughter of Zion. This is not found, word for word, in Zechariah; but what God commanded one Prophet to proclaim, the Evangelist justly and appropriately applies to all godly teachers; for the only hope, on which the children of God ought both to build and to rely, was, that the Redeemer would at length come. Accordingly, the Prophet shows that the coming of Christ yields to believers a full and complete ground of joy; for, since God is not reconciled to them in any other way than through the agency of the Mediator, and as it is the same Mediator who delivers his people from all evils, what can there be, apart from him, that is fitted to cheer men ruined by their sins, and oppressed by troubles? And as we must be altogether overwhelmed with grief when Christ is absent, so on the other hand, the Prophet reminds believers that, when the Redeemer is present with them, they ought to be perfectly joyful. Now though he bestows on Christ other commendations — namely, that he is just, and having salvation — Matthew has taken but a single portion, which applied to the object he had in view, which is, that Christ will come, poor or meek; or in other words, that he will be unlike earthly kings, whose apparel is very magnificent and costly. Another mark of poverty is added, that he will ride on an ass, or the foal of an ass; for there can be no doubt that the manner of riding which belongs to the common people is contrasted with royal splendor.
6. And the disciples went It was just now remarked, that the zeal and readiness of the disciples to obey are here mentioned with commendation; for the influence of Christ was not so great, that his name alone would be sufficient to produce an impression on unknown persons; and besides, there was reason to fear that they would be blamed for theft. It is therefore a proof of the deference which they paid to their Master, when they make no reply, but proceed readily towards that place to which he has ordered them to go, relying on his command and promise. Let us also learn by their example to press forward through every kind of difficulty, so as to render to the Lord the obedience which he demands from us; for he will remove obstacles, and open up a path, and will not permit our endeavors to be unavailing.
8. And a very great multitude. Here the Evangelists relate that Christ was acknowledged as a king by the people. It might, indeed, appear to be a ludicrous exhibition, 718 that a multitude of obscure persons, by cutting down trees, and strawing their garments, bestowed on Christ the empty title of King; but as they did this in good earnest, and as they gave an honest testimony of their reverence, so Christ looked upon them as fit heralds of his kingdom. Nor ought we to wonder at such a beginning, when even in the present day, while sitting at the right hand of the Father, he commissions from the heavenly throne obscure men, by whom his majesty is celebrated in a despicable manner. I do not think it probable that the branches of palm-trees were cut down, as some interpreters conjecture, in accordance with an ancient and solemn rite appointed for that day. On the contrary, it would seem to have been by a sudden movement of the Spirit that this honor was rendered to Christ, when nothing of this nature had been intended by the disciples, whom the rest of the multitude imitated by doing the same thing; for this also may be inferred from the words of Luke.
9. Hosanna to the Son of David. This prayer is taken from Ps 118:25. Matthew relates expressly the Hebrew words, in order to inform us, that these applauses were not rashly bestowed on Christ, and that the disciples did not utter without consideration the prayers which came to their lips, but that they followed with reverence the form of prayer, which the Holy Spirit had prescribed to the whole Church by the mouth of the Prophet. For, though he speaks there of his own kingdom, yet there is no reason to doubt that he principally looks, and intends others to look, to the eternal succession, which the Lord had promised to him. He drew up a perpetual form of prayer, which would be observed, even when the wealth of the kingdom was decayed; and therefore it was a prevailing custom, that prayers for the promised redemption were generally presented in these words. And the design of Matthew was, as we have just hinted, to quote in Hebrew a well-known psalm, for the purpose of showing that Christ was acknowledged by the multitude as a Redeemer. The pronunciation of the words, indeed, is somewhat changed; for it ought rather to have been written, Hoshiana, (הושיע נא) Save now, we beseech thee; but we know that it is scarcely possible to take a word from one language into another, without making some alteration in the sound. Nor was it only the ancient people whom God enjoined to pray daily for the kingdom of Christ, but the same rule is now laid down for us. And certainly, as it is the will of God to reign only in the person of his Son, when we say, May thy kingdom come, under this petition is conveyed the same thing which is expressed more clearly in the psalm. Besides, when we pray to God to maintain his Son as our King, we acknowledge that this kingdom was not erected by men, and is not upheld by the power of men, but remains invincible through heavenly protection.
In the name of the Lord. He is said to come in the name of God, who not only conducts himself, but receives the kingdom, by the command and appointment of God. This may be more certainly inferred from the words of MARK, where another exclamation is added, Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, which cometh in the name of the Lord; for they speak thus in reference to the promises; because the Lord had testified that he would at length be a deliverer of that nation, and had appointed as the means the restoration of the kingdom of David. We see then that the honor of Mediator, from whom the restoration of all things and of salvation was to be expected, is ascribed to Christ. Now as it was mean and uneducated men by whom the kingdom of Christ was called the kingdom of David, let us hence learn that this doctrine was at that time well known, which in the present day appears to many to be forced and harsh, because they are not well acquainted with Scripture.
Luke adds a few words, Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest; 719 in which there would be no obscurity, were it not that they do not correspond to the song of the angels, (Lu 2:14;) for there the angels ascribe to God glory in heaven, and to men peace on earth; while here both peace and glory are ascribed to God. But there is no contradiction in the meaning; for, though the angels state more distinctly the reason why we ought to sing, Glory to God — namely, because through his mercy men enjoy peace in this world — yet the meaning is the same with what is now declared by the multitude, that there is peace in heaven; for we know that there is no other way in which wretched souls find rest in the world, than by God reconciling himself to them out of heaven.
“Deux de ses disciples;” — “two of his disciples?”
“Et incontinent les laissera aller;” — “and immediately he will allow them to go.”
“Et la petit asnon de celle qui est sous le ioug;” — “and the young ass-colt of her that is under the yoke.” — Campbell brings out, in the same manner, the force of Greek, “even the colt of a laboring beast.” — Ed.
“Et le feirent asseoir sur iceux vestemens;” — “and made him sit on these garments.”
“Benit soil celuy;” — “blessed be he.”
“Es tres-hauts lieux;” — “in the very high places.”
“Que voulez-vous faire?” — “Witat do you wish to do?”
“Et ceux-la les laisserent aller;” — “and those men allowed them to go.”
“Benit soil celuy;” — “blessed be he.”
“Es tres-hauts lieux;” — “in the very high places.”
“Ceux a qui il estoit;” — “those to whom it belonged.”
“Es tres-hauts lieux;” — “in the very high places.”
“Pource qu’il se voit estre bien pres du but de sa course;” — “because he sees that he is very near the end of his course.”
“Les voix retentissent pour luy faire honneur, et le recevoir en grande ioye et triomphe;” — “voices resound to do him honor, and to receive him in great joy and triumph.”
“Sous la couverture des choses yci recitees;” — “under the disguise of the things here related.”
“Quand il dit que tout cela se faisoit afin que ce qui avoit este dit loaf le Prophete fust accompli;” — “when he says that all this was done, in order that what had been said by the Prophet might be fulfilled.”
“Car il y avoit si pen de la iusques en Ierusalem, qu’il y fust aisee-merit alle a pied;” — “for it was so short a distance from that place to Jerusalem, that he would easily have gone thither on foot.”
“Afin qu’on ne pensast point qu’il prinst cela a desplaisir, et qu’on lui attribuast l’honneur de Roy contre son vouloir;” — “that it might not be thought that he took offense at this, and that the honor of King was given to him in opposition to his will.”
“Car voyla ses mots, Estant monte sur an asne, et sur un asnon poullain d’asnesse;” — “for his words are these, Sitting on an ass, and on an ass-colt, the foal of an ass.”
“Et de faire flechir les coeurs des hommes, pour accorder ce qu’il luy plaist;” — “and to bend the hearts of men to grant what he pleases.”
“Vray est qu’il pouvoit sembler que c’estoit un ieu de petits enfans;” — “true, it might be thought that it was a game of little children.”
“Es lieux tres-hauts;” — “in the very high places.”