Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. This place, doubtless, had its name from the great number of olive-trees that grow upon it. It lay a little out of Jerusalem, on the east side, about five furlongs from the city, according to Josephus; but he must be understood of the nearest part of it, since St. Luke makes the distance to be a sabbath-day’s journey, i.e. eight furlongs, or a mile; unless we suppose he meant the summit of the hill, from which our Saviour ascended. (Acts i. 12.) Mr. Maundrell says: I and my companions going out of Jerusalem, at St. Stephen’s gate and crossing the valley of Josaphat, began immediately to ascend the mountain; and being about two-thirds of the way up, we came to certain grottos, cut with intricate windings and caverns, under ground, which were called, the sepulchres of the prophets; that a little higher up, were twelve arched vaults under ground, standing side by side, and built in memory of the apostles, who are said to have compiled their creed in this spot. Sixty paces higher, we came to the place where Christ is said to have uttered his prophecy, concerning the final destruction of Jerusalem; and a little on the right hand, to another, where he is said to have dictated (a second time) the Lord’s prayer to his disciples. A little higher, is the cave of a saint called Pelagia; a little lower, a pillar denoting the place where an angel gave the blessed Virgin three day’s warning of her death; and, at the top of all, we saw the place of our blessed Lord’s ascension. See Maundrell’s Journey to Jerusalem. — In the Greek, being between Bethphage and Bethania. Bethania, which they had just left, was about one mile and a half from Jerusalem: Bethphage was between the two. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 2. This order of Jesus Christ shews his omniscience and supreme dominion. By the former, he informs his two disciples that in Bethphage they would find a colt tied; and by the latter, he assures them that the master, on learning that the Lord hath need of the colt, will immediately let him go. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. The martyrs strewed garments in the way by putting off the garments of the flesh, and thus preparing a way by their blood for the servants of God. Many strew their garments in the way, by subduing their bodies in fasting and abstinence, and thus affording good example to those that follow them. Those cut down branches from the trees, who in their instructions take their seeds from the discourses of the Fathers, and, by an unassuming and humble delivery, spread them in the way of God. (Ven. Bede) — Let us strew the way of life, and cut branches from the trees, by imitating the example of the saints. For the saints are the trees, from which we cut down branches, when we imitate their virtues. (Theophylactus) — The just shall flourish like the palm-tree, (Psalm xci.) confirmed in their roots, and extensive in their fruit and flowers, being the sweet odour of Christ. (2 Corinthians ii. 15.)
Ver. 9. They that went before, were the prophets; and they that come after, are the apostles. (St. Jerome) — All these voluntary offerings were grateful to our divine Saviour; so are the like offerings made to him in the blessed sacrament. (Bristow)
Ver. 10. They call the kingdom of Christ the kingdom of David, because Christ was descended of the family of David. David is likewise interpreted, strong of hand; but who is strong of hand but the Lord, whose hand has wrought so many and such miracles? (Theophylactus) — How great is the similarity of this sentence with that delivered by the angel Gabriel, when he addressed the blessed Virgin Mary: “the Lord God will give to Him the seat of David, his father.” (Ven. Bede) — “In the highest.” By this is meant, that the just shall be built upon the ruins of the angels; and, that the inhabitants of the earth shall obtain salvation. (St. Jerome) — The literal meaning is: blessed be the kingdom of our father, David, which he sees arrive in the person of his Son: Hosanna, glory and salvation to this Son so long expected, so ardently desired: peace and salvation, and glory be given to Him, by the great Lord and God, who dwelleth in the highest heaven. (St. Matthew xxi. 9; St. Luke xix. 38.)
Ver. 11. In going into the temple, immediately on entering the city, he shews what religion recommends to us, viz. to enter first into a place of worship, if there is one, where we visit. (Ven. Bede) — Looking into the hearts of all, he could not, amongst those who contradicted the truth, find where to recline his head; therefore, he withdraws to his faithful servants, and takes up his abode with the children of obedience. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 13. He came, if perhaps, &c. Christ knew there was no fruit upon it, and that it was not the season, or a season for figs. See Matthew xxi. 19, what instruction he designed to give his disciples by what he said and did to the fig-tree. (Witham) — Jesus Christ here curses the barren tree, on account of his disciples, who were present; for as he every where gave instances of his most beneficent will, it was proper he should also give them proofs of his justice and severity. Hence his principal motive for cursing the fig-tree was, not on account of any hunger he then experienced; for it is not probable that Christ should experience so great hunger, and at so early an hour, as these words seem to indicate. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 16. The vessels here spoken of as not allowed to be carried through the temple, were not any belonging to the temple, but only such as were brought by those who were buying and selling. Origen asserts, that our Saviour’s driving so many thousands out of the temple, poor and humble as he appeared, was a more astonishing miracle than even his giving sight to the blind. So divine an effulgency flashed from his eyes and whole countenance, as affected every beholder with astonishment and awful terror. (Origen in Dionysius) — If Christ could not bear to see his Father’s house profaned, even with those things which in another place were not unbecoming, how indignant must he be to see the temple of God defiled with blasphemous and heretical doctrines, and with that levity and inattention observed in thoughtless giddy Christians, who thus scandalize and pervert his devoted children. (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Not to the Jews only, but to all nations; not in Jerusalem only, but in every city of the known world. It is no longer a temple of bulls, goats, and rams, but a temple of prayer. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 18. What effect this strong reproof of our Saviour had upon the Jewish priests, and other ministers of the temple, is related by the evangelist in the subsequent words: they sought how they might destroy him. Still they were obliged to protract their iniquitous designs for a short time, as the multitude were in admiration of his doctrines. (Gloss.) — It was on a Tuesday that Jesus Christ discussed various subjects in the temple, his mission, the duties we owe to society, the resurrection of the body, &c. &c.
Ver. 23. Ecclesiastical history informs us, that St. Gregory of Neo-Cęsarea, surnamed Thaumaturgus (whose feast is kept Nov. 17.) performed this miracle, removing by his prayers a mountain that obstructed the building of a church. (Ven. Bede)
Ver. 26. Faith alone will not suffice for the remission of sins; we must moreover pardon every neighbour, and from our heart.
Ver. 28. “It was a reasonable demand,” says Dr. Barrow, “which was made to our Saviour: tell us by what authority thou doest these things, and who hath given thee this authority. The reasonableness of it our Lord did often avow, declaring, that if by his doctrine and works he had not vouched the divinity of his authority, it had been no sin to disbelieve or reject him.” (John v. 31, 36; x. 25, 37; and xv. 22, 24.) Dr. Barrow on Supremacy, p. 49. — This principle, which supposes in pastors the necessity of a lawful mission, was formerly, and may still be, triumphantly urged against Luther, Calvin, Tindal [Tyndale], Cranmer, and all the first pretended Reformers of the Catholic Church. For whence, said the Catholics, did these innovators derive their mission? Who sent them to preach? Who gave them authority to reform and alter the whole state of God’s Church? Let them shew their commission for this purpose, either ordinary or extraordinary. Unless they can do this, we have nothing to do with usurpers and intruders. … If it be pretended that they had extraordinary mission, immediately derived from God, why did they not shew their credentials, stamped with the broad seal of heaven; that is, why did they not by clear and evident miracles, such as Christ and his apostles wrought, attest their being thus extraordinarily commissioned for the extraordinary work of the Reformation? Without such proofs as these, no pretensions to an extraordinary mission, in opposition to the ordinary Church authority, can be admitted. Otherwise every fanatic or enthusiast, following his own caprice, may pretend to a call from heaven; and, upon this foolish plea, preach up his own dreams for the pure word of God, in contempt of all authority, whether of Church or State. If it be said that the missions of the first reformers were ordinary, and derived to them by the ministry of men, it behoves them to point out what men these were from whom they received this ordinary power. Were they Catholics or Protestants? Not Protestants, for they cannot name any such who commissioned them to preach; not Catholics, because the religion which Luther and his reforming brethren endeavoured to propagate, was a new religion, directly opposite to that of Catholics, and therefore could not be taught, in virtue of any commission from Catholics. And how can they preach unless they be sent? (Romans x. 15.) If it be urged that Luther had received his orders in the Catholic Church, it is easily answered that this could not authorize him to commence preacher and teacher of another religion, any more than the orders which Mr. Whiston and Mr. Wesley might receive in the Protestant church of England could authorize them to teach a doctrine anathematized by that Church. (Rutter)
Ver. 33. Neither do I tell you, &c. I do not tell you what I know, because you refuse to own what you know. We should observe, there are here two reasons for concealing the truth from inquirers: 1st, when he that inquireth after the truth is incapable of understanding it; 2d, when on account of some contempt of the truth, or some other evil indisposition, the person is not deserving of having the truth laid open to him. (Ven. Bede)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Christ enters into Jerusalem upon an ass: curses the barren fig-tree: and drives the buyers and sellers out of the temple.
1 And *when they were drawing near to Jerusalem, and to Bethania, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth two of his disciples,
2 And saith to them: Go into the village that is over-against you, and immediately at your coming in thither, you shall find a colt tied, upon which no man yet hath sat: loose him, and bring him.
3 And if any man shall say to you: What are you doing? say ye that the Lord hath need of him: and immediately he will let him come hither.
4 And going their way, they found the colt tied before the gate without, in the meeting of two ways: and they loose him.
5 And some of them that stood there, said to them: What do you, loosing the colt?
6 They said to them as Jesus had commanded them: and they let him go with them.
7 *And they brought the colt to Jesus: and they lay their garments on him, and he sat upon him.
8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way.
9 And they that went before and they that followed, cried, saying: *Hosanna:
10 Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father, David, that cometh: Hosanna in the highest.
11 *And he entered Jerusalem, into the temple: and having viewed all things round about, when now the hour of evening was come, he went out to Bethania with the twelve.
12 And the next day, when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry.
13 *And when he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came, if perhaps he might find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves: for it was not the time for figs.
14 And answering, he said to it: May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. And his disciples heard it.
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And when he was entered into the temple, he began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and he overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the chairs of them that sold doves.
16 And he suffered not that any man should carry a vessel through the temple.
17 And he taught, saying to them: Is it not written: *My house shall be called the house of prayer to all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves.
18 Which when the chief priests, and the Scribes, had heard, they sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because the whole multitude was in admiration at his doctrine.
19 And when evening was come, he went forth out of the city.
20 And when they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter remembering, said to him: Rabbi, behold the fig-tree, which thou cursedst, is withered away.
22 And Jesus answering, saith to them: *Have the faith of God.
23 Amen, I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain: Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not stagger in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done: it shall be done for him.
24 *Therefore, I say to you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.
25 *And when you shall stand to pray, forgive, if you have any thing against any man, that your Father also, who is in heaven, may forgive you your sins.
26 But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father, who is in heaven, forgive you your sins.
27 *And they come again to Jerusalem. And when he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the Scribes, and the ancients;
28 And they say to him: By what authority dost thou these things? and who hath given thee this authority to do these things?
29 And Jesus answering, said to them: I will also ask of you one word, and answer me: and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.
31 But they thought with themselves, saying: If we say, From heaven: he will say, Why then did you not believe him?
32 If we say, From men, we fear the people. For all men counted John that he was a prophet indeed.
33 And they answering, say to Jesus: We know not. And Jesus answering, saith to them: Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
1: about the year A.D. 33.; Matthew xxi. 1.; Luke xix. 29.
7: John xii. 14.
9: Psalm cxvii. 26.; Isaias xxviii. 16.; Matthew xxi. 9.; Luke xix. 38.
11: Matthew xxi. 10.
13: Matthew xxi. 19.
17: Isaias lvi. 7.; Jeremias vii. 11.
22: Matthew xxi. 21.
24: Matthew xvii. 19. and xxi. 22.
25: Matthew vi. 14. and xviii. 35.; Luke xi. 9.
27: Luke xx. 1.