Cut down branches from the trees - Carrying palm and other branches was emblematical of victory and success. See 1 Maccabees 13:51; 2 Maccabees 10:7; and Revelation 7:9.
The rabbins acknowledge that the prophecy in Zechariah refers to the Messiah; so Rab. Tancum, and Yalcut Rubeni has a strange story about the ass. "This ass is the colt of that ass which was created in the twilight of the sixth day. This is the ass which Abraham found when he went to sacrifice his son. This is the ass on which Moses rode when he went to Egypt; and this is the ass on which the Messiah shall ride." Some of the Jews seem to think that the zebra is intended; for according to Bab. Sanhedr. fol. 98, when Shapoor, king of Persia, said to Rabbi Samuel: "You say your Messiah will come upon an ass; I will send him a noble horse." To which the rabbi replied, "You have not a horse with a hundred spots (query, streaks) like his ass." See Lightfoot and Schoettgen.
And a very great multitude - Others showed the same respect by throwing their garments before him; others by cutting down branches of trees and casting them in the way. This was the way in which conquerors and princes were often honored. To cast flowers, or garlands, or evergreens before a warrior returning from victory, or a king entering into his kingdom, was a common way of testifying joyful and triumphant feeling. Thus Josephus says that Alexander and Agrippa were received at Jerusalem. So in our own land some of the most acceptable tokens of rejoicing ever bestowed upon Washington were garlands of roses scattered in his path by children. So the path of Lafayette was often strewed with flowers, as a mark of respect and of a nation‘s gratitude. John says John 12:13 that these branches were branches of the “palm-tree.” The palm was an emblem of “joy and victory.” It was used by the Roman soldiers, as well as the Jews, as a symbol of peace. See Revelation 7:9.
The “palm-tree” is common in warm climates, and was abundant in Palestine. The finest grew about Jericho and Engedi. Hence, Jericho was called the city of “palm-trees.” The palm has a long and straight body, a spreading top, and an appearance of very great beauty. It produces an agreeable fruit, a pleasant shade, a kind of “honey” little inferior to the honey of bees, and from it was drawn a pleasant “wine” much used in the East. On ancient coins the palm-tree is often a symbol of Judea. On coins made after Jerusalem was taken, Judea is represented by a female sitting and weeping under a palm-tree. A reference to the palm-tree occurs often in the Bible, and its general form and uses are familiar to most readers.
Strictly speaking, the palm has no branches, but at the summit from forty to eighty twigs or leaf-stalks spring forth. These are referred to in Nehemiah 8:15. The leaves are set around the trunk in circles of about six. The lower row is of great length, and the vast leaves bend themselves in a curve toward the earth: as the circles ascend, the leaves are shorter. In the month of February, there sprout from between the junctures of the lower stalks and the trunk little scales, which develop a kind of bud, the germ of the coming fruit. These germs are contained in a thick and tough skin, not unlike leather. According to the account of a modern traveler, a single tree in Barbary and Egypt bears from fifteen to twenty large clusters of dates, weighing from 15 to 20 lbs. each. The palm-tree lives more than 200 years, and is most productive from the 30th until the 80th year. The Arabs speak of 260 uses to which the different parts of the palm-tree are applied.
The inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia depend much on the fruit of the palm-tree for their subsistence. Camels feed on the seed, and the leaves, branches, fibres, and sap are all very valuable.
The “branches” referred to by John John 12:13 are the long “leaves” which shoot out from the top of the tree, and which were often carried about as the symbol of victory. Compare the notes at Isaiah 3:26.
His tears were not for Himself, though He well knew whither His feet were tending. Before Him lay Gethsemane, the scene of His approaching agony. The sheepgate also was in sight, through which for centuries the victims for sacrifice had been led, and which was to open for Him when He should be “brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” Isaiah 53:7. Not far distant was Calvary, the place of crucifixion. Upon the path which Christ was soon to tread must fall the horror of great darkness as He should make His soul an offering for sin. Yet it was not the contemplation of these scenes that cast the shadow upon Him in this hour of gladness. No foreboding of His own superhuman anguish clouded that unselfish spirit. He wept for the doomed thousands of Jerusalem—because of the blindness and impenitence of those whom He came to bless and to save. GC 18.1
The history of more than a thousand years of God's special favor and guardian care, manifested to the chosen people, was open to the eye of Jesus. There was Mount Moriah, where the son of promise, an unresisting victim, had been bound to the altar—emblem of the offering of the Son of God. There the covenant of blessing, the glorious Messianic promise, had been confirmed to the father of the faithful. Genesis 22:9, 16-18. There the flames of the sacrifice ascending to heaven from the threshing floor of Ornan had turned aside the sword of the destroying angel (1 Chronicles 21)—fitting symbol of the Saviour's sacrifice and mediation for guilty men. Jerusalem had been honored of God above all the earth. The Lord had “chosen Zion,” He had “desired it for His habitation.” Psalm 132:13. There, for ages, holy prophets had uttered their messages of warning. There priests had waved their censers, and the cloud of incense, with the prayers of the worshipers, had ascended before God. There daily the blood of slain lambs had been offered, pointing forward to the Lamb of God. There Jehovah had revealed His presence in the cloud of glory above the mercy seat. There rested the base of that mystic ladder connecting earth with heaven (Genesis 28:12; John 1:51)—that ladder upon which angels of God descended and ascended, and which opened to the world the way into the holiest of all. Had Israel as a nation preserved her allegiance to Heaven, Jerusalem would have stood forever, the elect of God. Jeremiah 17:21-25. But the history of that favored people was a record of backsliding and rebellion. They had resisted Heaven's grace, abused their privileges, and slighted their opportunities. GC 18.2Read in context »
Let us follow Jesus as He so meekly rode into Jerusalem, when “the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice, ... saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples. And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” A large portion of those who profess to be looking for Christ would be as forward as the Pharisees were to have the disciples silenced, and they would doubtless raise the cry, “Fanaticism! Mesmerism! Mesmerism!” And the disciples, spreading their garments and branches of palm trees in the way, would be thought extravagant and wild. But God will have a people on the earth who will not be so cold and dead but that they can praise and glorify Him. He will receive glory from some people, and if those of His choice, those who keep His commandments, should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out. EW 109.1
Jesus is coming, but not as at His first advent, a babe in Bethlehem; not as He rode into Jerusalem, when the disciples praised God with a loud voice and cried, “Hosanna”; but in the glory of the Father and with all the retinue of holy angels to escort Him on His way to earth. All heaven will be emptied of the angels, while the waiting saints will be looking for Him and gazing into heaven, as were the men of Galilee when He ascended from the Mount of Olivet. Then only those who are holy, those who have followed fully the meek Pattern, will with rapturous joy exclaim as they behold Him, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us.” And they will be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump”—that trump which wakes the sleeping saints, and calls them forth from their dusty beds, clothed with glorious immortality, and shouting, “Victory! Victory over death and the grave!” The changed saints are then caught up together with the angels to meet the Lord in the air, never more to be separated from the object of their love. EW 110.1
With such a prospect as this before us, such a glorious hope, such a redemption that Christ has purchased for us by His own blood, shall we hold our peace? Shall we not praise God even with a loud voice, as did the disciples when Jesus rode into Jerusalem? Is not our prospect far more glorious than was theirs? Who dare then forbid us glorifying God, even with a loud voice, when we have such a hope, big with immortality, and full of glory? We have tasted of the powers of the world to come, and long for more. My whole being cries out after the living God, and I shall not be satisfied until I am filled with all His fullness. EW 110.2Read in context »
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; 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.” Zechariah 9:9. DA 569.1Read in context »
We were firm in the belief that the preaching of definite time was of God. It was this that led men to search the Bible diligently, discovering truths they had not before perceived. Jonah was sent of God to proclaim in the streets of Nineveh that within forty days the city would be overthrown; but God accepted the humiliation of the Ninevites, and extended their period of probation. Yet the message that Jonah brought was sent of God, and Nineveh was tested according to His will. The world looked upon our hope as a delusion, and our disappointment as its consequent failure; but though we were mistaken in the event that was to occur at that period, there was no failure in reality of the vision that seemed to tarry. LS 62.1
Those who had looked for the coming of the Lord were not without comfort. They had obtained valuable knowledge in the searching of the Word. The plan of salvation was plainer to their understanding. Every day they discovered new beauties in the sacred pages, and a wonderful harmony running through all, one scripture explaining another, and no word used in vain. LS 62.2
Our disappointment was not so great as that of the disciples. When the Son of man rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, they expected Him to be crowned king. The people flocked from all the region about, and cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Matthew 21:9. And when the priests and elders besought Jesus to still the multitude, He declared that if they should hold their peace, even the stones would cry out, for prophecy must be fulfilled. Yet in a few days these very disciples saw their beloved Master, whom they believed would reign on David's throne, stretched upon the cruel cross above the mocking, taunting Pharisees. Their high hopes were disappointed, and the darkness of death closed about them. Yet Christ was true to His promises. Sweet was the consolation He gave His people, rich the reward of the true and faithful. LS 62.3Read in context »