CHAPTER VI. JESUS CHRIST PROCLAIMED KING BY HIS DISCIPLES AND THE MULTITUDE
THE workings of Divine Providence are always full of wisdom, but when dealing with the sacred Humanity of Our Lord they are indeed marvelous. The eternal Father had constituted Jesus King and Sovereign over the whole human race and had decreed that at His entrance into the world, this sovereignty should be solemnly proclaimed by the Wise Men coming from the East.
For thirty years this divine King of our hearts lived a hidden life all absorbed in prayer and sacrifice. At last the moment came in which He was to illumine the world with the splendor of His doctrine and renew it with the fire of His charity. Already, by the waters of the Jordan, a heavenly voice had proclaimed Him the beloved Son of His Father, while at the same time the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, had descended upon Him. Already the forerunner had hailed Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John I, 29.) But there still lacked a voice to recognize and solemnly proclaim Him King of Israel.
This voice came from one of the first disciples of Jesus, destined to become an illustrious member of the Apostolic College. Nathaniel or Bartholomew, a man, it would seem, learned in the Law, led by Philip, heard the sweet and persuasive voice of Jesus saying to Him: "When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee." (John I, 48.) These words were enough to open up Nathaniel's heart to the truth of Jesus' divinity. He acknowledged Him to be the promised Messias and in an ardent faith and burning love proclaimed Him without hesitation Son of God, the King of Israel: "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel." (John I, 49.)
From this time forth these words resounded in the ears of the followers of Jesus: "Thou art the King of Israel." And while His faithful disciples heard His preaching with all docility, while they followed Him as a spiritual leader, while they trusted to Him as to a father full of provident and tender solicitude, they realized that they were dealing with a King as great as He was good and merciful, with the King of Israel, with the most lovable King of our hearts.
But Divine Providence was not content with raising, at the beginning of the public life of Jesus Christ, an authoritative voice to pro claim Him King of Israel. The Father wished furthermore to crown His beloved Son's three years of preaching and apostolic deeds by decreeing the solemn recognition of His sovereignty and royal dignity on the part of the multitude who had heard from His lips the words of truth and salvation.
The Pasch was approaching and Jesus was walking toward Jerusalem, where in a few days He was to be put to death. Now Divine Providence had disposed that this time He should make His entry in an entirely new fashion, in a fashion worthy of a sovereign, but of a meek and gentle sovereign.
Riding not on a proudly caparisoned charger, but on a humble ass, and followed by His disciples and an immense multitude, Jesus triumphantly enters the Holy City, acclaimed by the joyful shouts of the populace: "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest" (Matth. XXI, 9.)
Now, what does this sudden applause and unwonted acclamation mean? Whence so strange an inspiration in a people who yesterday were reluctant to lend credence to His wonderful teaching? How is it that without any previous plan they come forth from their houses and, seized with enthusiasm, pluck boughs of olive, take off their garments and strew them on the road by which Jesus is to pass? What does this signify, if not that the irresistible force of this King of love can in an instant so move the most rebellious hearts as to subject them to His sweet sovereignty?
Indeed, it is no small wonder, in the first place, that the will of the asses' owner should have been so speedily overruled as to show no reluctance to the disciples of Jesus when they wished to take away his beasts. But who would have so touched the man's heart save this same Jesus who, as supreme Bang of all nature, moved at His pleasure with irresistible strength and sweetness the minds and the hearts of men? He it is, also, who inclined the multitude to come and meet Him and to show such respect and veneration as to cover with garments and branches the road by which He was to pass. As a meek Lord, disguised in lowliness and poverty, He secretly moved their hearts and drew them interiorly to Him self, thus giving them to understand what is the nature of the empire by which He will one day draw to Himself all the peoples of the earth: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself." (John XII, 32.)
Jesus could well have done at the beginning of His public life what He did only at the end of it. But He wished to defer this triumphal entry to the last days of His mortal course for the sake of that characteristic of His which is humility of heart. Indeed, He wished to keep during the years of His public life the simplicity and attractiveness with which the glitter of regal dignity would, in the eyes of the poor and lowly, have been incompatible. He also wished to teach us that this life is a time of humiliation and suffering and it is only at the end of our course that we are to expect crowns and laurels.
But what most clearly sets off, in this glorious happening, the true character of the regal dignity of our divine Lord is the voice of exultation with which the people bore witness to their feelings of veneration for Him. "Hosanna" they cried (that is, "salvation and glory"), "to the Son of David. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matth. XXI, 9.) "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh: Hosanna in the highest." (Mark XI, 10.) "Blessed be the King who cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in Heaven and glory on high." (Luke XIX, 38.)
Such, according to the evangelists, were the cries and songs of joy with which those that went before and those that followed after, made the air ring in praise of Jesus Christ. Those simple people, guided by the Holy Ghost, understood that Jesus was truly the promised Son of David, who should reign over Israel and whose throne and kingdom should be established for all eternity. But they understood also that His power should be dis played by love: love which should pierce the depths of hearts; love which should overcome every obstacle; love which should triumph over all resistance.
God willed that all the peoples of the earth should recognize Jesus as their King; but not for that, a commonplace king, who should reign to-day and to-morrow be made equal, in the sepulcher, with the least of his subjects. Jesus is a peaceful King, a meek King, the King of our hearts, He of whom Isaias speaks: "Behold thy King cometh to thee meek." (Matth. XXI, 5.) This, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, was ordained by God to make known to the world the King it had so anxiously awaited; and to make manifest to all His subjects the attributes and characteristics of His reign, which is a reign of peace, a reign of love.
"How did it serve Our Lord to be King of Israel?" asks St. Augustine. (Tract. L in Joan.) "Was it so great a matter for the King of Ages to become a King of men? For Christ did not become King of Israel to exact tribute or to arm troops for the overthrow of visible enemies.
He became King of Israel that He might govern souls, that He might make eternal provision for them, that He might lead such as believe in Him, hope in Him and love Him, to His heavenly Kingdom"