Verse 46. "They sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude" - Restraining and preventing grace is an excellent blessing, particularly where it leads to repentance and salvation; but he who abstains from certain evils, only through fear of scandal or punishment, has already committed them in his heart, and is guilty before God. The intrepidity of our Lord is worthy of admiration and imitation; in the very face of his most inveterate enemies, he bears a noble testimony to the truth, reproves their iniquities, denounces the Divine judgments, and, in the very teeth of destruction, braves danger and death! A true minister of Christ fears nothing but God, when his glory is concerned: a hireling fears every thing, except Him whom he ought to fear.
This last journey of our Lord to Jerusalem is a subject of great importance; it is mentioned by all the four evangelists, and has been a subject of criticism and cavil to some unsanctified minds. He has been accused of "attempting, by this method, to feel how far the populace were disposed to favour his pretensions in establishing himself as a king in the land; or, at least, by his conduct in this business, he gave much cause for popular seditions." Every circumstance in the case refutes this calumny.
1. His whole conduct had proved that his kingdom was not of this world, and that he sought not the honour that cometh from man.
2. He had in a very explicit manner foretold his own premature death, and particularly at this time.
3. It is evident, from what he had said to his disciples, that he went up to Jerusalem at this time for the express purpose of being sacrificed, and not of erecting a secular kingdom.
4. What he did at this time was to fulfill a declaration of God delivered by two prophets, upwards of 700 years before, relative to his lowliness, poverty, and total deadness to all secular rule and pomp. See Isa. lxii. 11; Zech. ix. 9.
5. All the time he spent now in Jerusalem, which was about five days, he spent in teaching, precisely in the same way he had done for three years past; nor do we find that he uttered one maxim dissimilar to what he formerly taught, or said a word calculated to produce any sensation on the hearts of the populace, but that of piety towards God; and in the parable of the man and his two sons, the husbandmen and the vineyard, he spoke in such a way to the rulers of the people as to show that he knew they were plotting his destruction; and that, far from fleeing from the face of danger, or strengthening his party against his enemies, he was come to wait at the foot of the altar till his blood should be poured out for the sin of the world! 6. Had he affected any thing of a secular kind, he had now the fairest opportunity to accomplish his designs. The people had already received him as Jesus the prophet; now they acknowledge him as the Christ or MESSIAH, and sing the hosannah to him, as immediately appointed by Heaven to be their deliverer.
7. Though, with the character of the Messiah, the Jews had connected that of secular royalty, and they now, by spreading their clothes in the way, strewing branches, &c., treat him as a royal person, and one appointed to govern the kingdom; yet of this he appears to take no notice, farther than to show that an important prophecy was thus fulfilled: he went as usual into the temple, taught the people pure and spiritual truths, withdrew at night from the city, lodged in private at Mount Olivet; and thus most studiously and unequivocally showed that his sole aim was to call the people back to purity and holiness, and prepare them for that kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which he was about, by his passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and the mission of the Holy Spirit, to set up in the earth.
8. Could a person who worked such miracles as he was in the daily habit of working-miracles which proved he possessed unlimited power and unerring wisdom, need subterfuges, or a colouring for any design he wished to accomplish? He had only to put forth that power essentially resident in himself, and all resistance to his will must be annihilated. In short, every circumstance of the case shows at once the calumny and absurdity of the charge. But, instead of lessening, or tendering suspicious this or any other part of our Lord's conduct, it shows the whole in a more luminous and glorious point of view; and thus the wrath of man praises him.
9. That he was a king, that he was born of a woman and came into the world for this very purpose, he took every occasion to declare; but all these declarations showed that his kingdom was spiritual: he would not even interfere with the duty of the civil magistrate to induce an avaricious brother to do justice to the rest of the family, Luke xii. 13, when probably a few words from such an authority would have been sufficient to have settled the business; yet to prevent all suspicion, and to remove every cause for offense, he absolutely refused to interfere, and took occasion from the very circumstance to declaim against secular views, covetousness, and worldly ambition! O how groundless does every part of his conduct prove this charge of secular ambition to be! Such was the spirit of the Master: such must be the spirit of the disciple. He that will reign with Christ, must be humbled and suffer with him. This is the royal road. The love of the world, in its power and honours, is as inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel as the love of the grossest vice. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Reader, take occasion from this refuted calumny, to imitate thy Lord in the spirituality of his life, to pass through things temporal so as not to lose those that are eternal, that thou mayest reign with him in the glory of his kingdom. Amen.