13.Took branches of palm-trees. The palm was the emblem of victory and peace among the ancients; but they were wont to employ branches of palm-trees, when they bestowed kingly power on any one, or when they humbly supplicated the favor of a conqueror. But those persons appear to have taken into their hands branches of palm-trees, as a token of gladness and rejoicing at receiving a new king.
Shouted, Hosanna. By this phrase they testified that they acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the Messiah, who had anciently been promised to the fathers, and from whom redemption and salvation were to be expected. For the Psa_118:25 from which that exclamation is taken was composed in reference to the Messiah for this purpose, that all the saints might continually desire and ardently long for his coming, and might receive him with the utmost reverence, when he was manifested. It is therefore probable, or rather it may be inferred with certainty, that this prayer was frequently used by the Jews, and, consequently, was in every man’ mouth; so that the Spirit of God put words into the mouths, (5) of those men, when they wished a prosperous arrival to the Lord Jesus; and they were chosen by him as heralds to attest that Christ was come.
The word Hosanna is composed of two Hebrew words, and means, Save, I beseech you. The Hebrews, indeed, pronounce it differently, (
הושיענא) Hoshianna; (6) but it usually happens that the pronunciation of words is corrupted, when they are transferred to a foreign language. Yet the Evangelists, though they wrote in Greek, purposely retained the Hebrew word, in order to express more fully that the multitude employed the ordinary form of prayer, which was first employed by David, and afterwards throughout an uninterrupted succession of ages, received by the people of God, and peculiarly consecrated for the purpose of blessing the kingdom of the Messiah. (7) To the same purpose are the words which immediately follow, Blessed be the King of Israel, who cometh in the name of the Lord; for this is also a joyful prayer for the happy and prosperous success of that kingdom, on which the restoration and prosperity of the Church of God depended.
But as David appears to speak of himself rather than of Christ in that psalm, we must first of all solve this difficulty; nor will the task be hard. We know for what purpose the kingdom was established in the hand of David and of his posterity; and that purpose was, that it might be a sort of prelude of the everlasting kingdom which was to be manifested at the proper time. And, indeed, it was not necessary that David should confine his attention to himself; and the Lord, by the prophets, frequently commands all the godly to turn their eyes to a different person from David. (8) So then all that David sung about himself is justly referred to that king who, according to the promise, was to arise from the seed of David to be the redeemer.
But we ought to derive from it a profitable admonition; for if we are members of the Church, the Lord calls upon us to cherish the same desire which he wished believers to cherish under the Law; that is, that we should wish with our whole heart that the kingdom of Christ should flourish and prosper; and not only so, but that we should demonstrate this by our prayers. In order To give us greater courage in prayer, we ought to observe that he prescribes to us the words. Woe then to our slothfulness, if we extinguish by our coldness, or quench by indifference, that ardor which God excites. Yet let us know that the prayers which we offer by the direction and authority of God will not be in vain. Provided that we be not indolent or grow weary in praying, He will be a faithful guardian of his kingdom, to defend it by his invincible power and protection. True, indeed, though we remain drowsy and inactive, (9) the majesty of his kingdom will be firm and sure; but when — as is frequently the ease — it is less prosperous than it ought to be, or rather falls into decay, as we perceive it to be, at the present day, fearfully scattered and wasted, this unquestionably arises through our fault. And when but a small restoration, or almost none, is to be seen, or when at least it advances slowly, let us ascribe it to our indifference. We daily ask from God that his kingdom may come, (Mat_6:10,) but scarcely one man in a hundred earnestly desires it. Justly, therefore, are we deprived of the blessing of God, which we are weary of asking.
We are also taught by this expression, that it is God alone who preserves and defends the Church; for He does not claim for himself, or command us to give him, anything but what is his own. Since, therefore, while He guides our tongues, we pray that he may preserve the kingdom of Christ, we acknowledge that, in order that this kingdom may remain in a proper state, God himself is the only bestower of salvation. He employs, indeed, the labors of men for this purpose, but of men whom his own hand has prepared for the work. Besides, while he makes use of men for advancing, or maintaining the kingdom of Christ, still every thing is begun and completed, through their agency, by God alone through the power of his Spirit.
Who cometh in the name of the Lord. We must first understand what is meant by this phrase,to come in the name of the Lord. He who does not rashly put himself forward, or falsely assume the honor, but, being duly called, has the direction and authority of God for his actions, cometh in the name of God This title belongs to all the true servants of God. A Prophet who guided by the Holy Spirit, honestly delivers to men the doctrine which he has received from heaven, — cometh in the name of God. A King, by whose hand God governs his people cometh in the same name. But as the Spirit of the Lord rested on Christ, and he is the Head of all things, (Eph_1:22,) and all who have ever been ordained to rule over the Church are subject to his say, or rather, are streams flowing from him as the fountain, he is justly said to have come in the name of God. Nor is it only by the high rank of his authority that he surpasses others, but because God manifests himself to us fully in him; for in him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily, as Paul says, (Col_2:9,) and he is the lively image of God, (Heb_1:3,) and, in short, is the true lmmanuel, (Mat_1:23.) It is therefore by a special right that he is said to have come in the name of the Lord, because by him God has manifested himself fully, and not partially, as he had formerly done by the Prophets. We ought therefore to begin with him as the Head, when we wish to bless the servants of God.
Now since the false prophets arrogantly boast ofthe name of God, and shelter themselves under this false pretense, we ought to supply an opposite clause in the prayer, that the Lord may scatter and utterly destroy them. Thus we cannot bless Christ without cursing the Pope and that sacrilegious tyranny which he has raised up against the Son of God. (10) He huffs his excommunications against us, indeed, with great violence, as if they were thunderbolts, but they are mere air-bladders, (11) and therefore we ought boldly to despise them. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit here dictates to us an awful curse, that it may sink the Pope to the lowest hell, with all his pomp and splendor. Nor is it necessary that there should be any Bishop or Pontiff (12) to pronounce the curse against him, since Christ at one time bestowed this authority on children, when he approved of their crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, as the other Evangelists relate, (Mat_21:15.)
(5) “Et pourtant le Sainct Esprit mettoit les mots en la bouche des hommes, quand ils ont ainsi souhaitte heureuse venue au Seigneur Jesus.”
(6) See Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 2, p. 451.