Pittsburgh Gazette, April 8, 1906


Pastor C T Russell preached yesterday in Carnegie Hall, Allegheny, to a large audience. He took for his text John 12:13, "They took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel."

He said: Today is celebrated by a large proportion of nominal Christendom as Palm Sunday, in celebration of the event mentioned in our text. I recall to your memory the circumstances connected with the event. It occurred on the first day of the week, just five days before our Lord's crucifixion. The Passover season was at hand, when the most devoted Jews gathered at Jerusalem for its celebration, in harmony with the commands of the law. Our Lord and his disciples came from Galilee, and en route Jesus had explained to His followers that it meant His death that He was to be crucified, but that He would be raised again from the dead on the third day. It was on this occasion that the impulsive St. Peter forgot his place as a disciple and undertook to chide the Master for entertaining such thoughts, saying, "Far be it from Thee, Lord." Peter's expectations were for the Lord's increasing dignity and honor until He should be established in the kingly power, when the apostles, according to His promise, would be sharers of His kingdom. Our Lord, however, was gradually drawing the attention of His followers to the fact that the kingdom glory belonged to a future time, and that first Himself and all accounted worthy of a share in that kingdom must be subjected to tests of loyalty to righteousness and the divine will even unto death.


Nearing Jerusalem they stopped over the seventh day (the Jewish Sabbath) at Bethany, at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. The last time they were there was on the occasion of the calling of Lazarus from the tomb, to the great joy of the sorrowing sisters. That home was always open to our Redeemer, but we may be sure that He was thrice honored and welcomed on this occasion. As the Jewish Sabbath ended at sundown, a feast was prepared for the evening. At the feast Mary and Martha both served, but at an arranged time Mary brought a vase of very costly ointment and anointed His feet her tribute of love and esteem and gratitude. Her humility was displayed by the fact that she anointed not her Lord's head, but His feet; the most menial members of His body she esteemed worthy of her highest reverence and service, most humbly wiping them with her hair.


We remember the indignation of Judas, the traitor, the thief, who carried the bag, the treasurer of the Lord's band of disciples; how he allowed greed to blunt his mind so that he could not appreciate the perfume and the love behind it, secretly wishing that the price of the perfume were in his possession. He cloaked his acquisitiveness with an affectation of interest in the poor, saying: This ointment might have been sold for a great price and the proceeds given to the poor. Our Lord, however, reproved him, and commended Mary with the words, "The poor ye have always with you, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good, but Me ye have not always." It would appear that Judas noticed the alabaster vase before it was opened, and expostulated that the ointment would not have been used, for it could have been sold for 300 pence a sum equivalent in our money to nearly $300.00.

It did indeed seem a very extravagant gift, and many of us of economical tendencies, very necessary in the ordinary affairs of life, might have been inclined to have doubted the propriety of so expensive an anointing. Our Lord's words give us the true key; He said, "Let her alone (do not hinder her from this sacrifice that she has purposed); against the day of my burying hath she kept this." One thought we may gather is that nothing is too good for our Master, nothing is a waste that is done in His service and with an endeavor to honor Him. The sacrifice of earthly interests on His behalf is approved. Then, drawing the same lesson as before, we find that this same principle may properly apply to all the members of the body of Christ, the true church. We cannot do too much for them from the proper motives even for the least of them, as symbolized by the fact that it was our Lord's feet that were anointed.


The next morning, the first day of the week, our Lord sent two of the apostles for an ass, a donkey an animal very much in use for riding purposes in Palestine and Egypt to this day. Meantime the people of surrounding villages, and in the city of Jerusalem near by, had heard of Jesus' arrival, and that He was at the house of Lazarus, whom He had called back from death. They were curious both to see Lazarus and the One who raised him from the dead, so that by the time the donkey arrived quite a crowd of people were there. It was the custom of Jewish kings to ride to their inauguration in this manner, and when our Lord mounted the ass the assembled multitude imbued already with a strong presentiment that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they caught the inspiration of His actions, that He was by His conduct thus declaring himself the King, and immediately they cried out in the language of our text, "Hosanna; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah, even the King of Israel." They made haste also to treat Him as a king, gathering palm branches for the donkey to walk over, casting some of their garments in the way also, as an evidence of their appreciation of His dignity of office, and of their desire to serve Him and His cause in any manner.

The Scribes and Pharisees were devout people in many respects, but they had become so filled with their own theories respecting the fulfillment of the prophecies that they could not conceive of any fulfillment except along the lines of their anticipations that the coming Messiah would recognize them as His holy people and certainly be [HGL888] no friend to publicans and sinners, but denounce them. A few of these Pharisees were in the mixed company surrounding Jesus, and they were highly incensed and appealed to the disciples that they should call the attention of the Master to the fact that He was being hailed as Messiah, and that He should rebuke the people and assure them that He was not.

Our Lord's reply was: "If these should hold their peace the very stones would cry out." Why? do you ask. Was it necessary that some such shout be made? Yes, we answer. God, through the Prophet Zechariah (9:9), had centuries before, indicated that there should be such an acclaim of Messiah, and at this particular time on this particular day. The prophet's words are: "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." The shout called for in the prophecy must be given, as our Lord had declared no feature of the law or the prophets could pass without fulfillment. This prophecy was fulfilled by the multitude who knew not. When we see this particularity in the fulfillment of the prophecies it gives us assurance of other prophecies not yet fulfilled. Through another prophet it was foretold that Jesus would be rejected by his own nation and would suffer as the Redeemer of the world, and yet His coming in kingly power at the end of this age, at the opening of the new Millennial age, is with equal clearness set forth. Seeing the fulfillment in the one particular instance gives us the stronger faith in the ultimate fulfillment of every feature of the divine plan in due time.

The company preceding and following Jesus, still shouting Hosanna and still providing the palm branches and robes, wended its way to the hilltop overlooking Jerusalem, called the Mount of Olives. There the procession halted, and our Lord, beholding the Holy City with its grand temple and precious memories, and foreknowing the trouble and sorrow and destruction which should come upon it because of its rejection of Him, wept over it, saying: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

That was the critical moment when the interests of fleshly Israel were in the balances. The Lord had done for them as a Nation all that was proper for Him to do, and as a Nation they had rejected Him. To have been ready to receive Him would have meant that the officials of the city would by this time have waited upon Him to tender Him the sovereignty, but only the common people had heard Him gladly. Those who should have received Him the teachers, the chief priests, the leaders of the people were angry and at this very time were plotting His death because He was not in harmony with any of their great sects. Little did they know how much was meant by those words, "Your house is left unto you desolate."

Looking back over nearly 19 centuries we can see how accurately those words were fulfilled. At that moment their national hopes of becoming the elect Church of God, the Bride of Messiah, ended. Favor was continued, however, in another form for three and a half years the Gospel was preached to them exclusively, and for 33 years thereafter it was as open to them as to the Gentiles; and in that harvest period, a total of 40 years from the beginning of our Lord's ministry, He gathered out of that Nation all the Israelites indeed in whom was no guile, and the rest, as the Apostle says, were blinded and stumbled in such a manner as to render themselves and their children practically immune to the influences of the Gospel for all these centuries, in which as a dead Nation they have nevertheless suffered trouble and torture of various kinds, as symbolically represented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.


If we believed that their failure implied their eternal torment it would indeed seem harsh to speak of Israel's fall from divine favor as bringing a blessing to the Gentiles which they could not have otherwise attained. But there is no question of eternal torment about this matter. We want to rid our minds of that false thought, which so interferes with every proper interpretation of the Divine Word. In rejecting Jesus the Jews did not fall into hell and everlasting torment, but they did fall away from those special blessings and privileges which they had enjoyed as the Lord's peculiar people, the seed of Abraham. They were cut off from those special blessings, and instead have had special trials, ignominies, persecutions. And the promise of the Lord is that when His time shall come, and they shall have learned certain lessons by experience, He will bring them back again into his favor He will recover them or save them from the blindness into which they went and under which they have suffered these many centuries. What was the blessing that came to us who were Gentiles through their failure, their fall? We answer that it was the blessing or privilege of becoming the kingdom class, Messiah's bride and joint heir. This privilege belongs to the Jew first as the natural seed of Abraham; hence, as the apostle points out, speaking to them, "It was necessary that the gospel should be first preached to you." (Acts 13:46.) The gospel of the kingdom could not have been preached to the Gentiles except first the natural Israelites had rejected the offer. Not that they could have claimed it by right, because their own law hindered this and stipulated that only those who could keep the law could inherit eternal life and the kingdom; and the truth of the apostle's declaration that none of them kept the law is evident, for none of them lived forever. Nor have they received the kingdom of the world promised to Abraham. When they failed to accept Jesus as the Messiah and He declared their house left desolate, it threw open the kingdom privileges to others, and it is in this manner that a blessing has come to us who were Gentiles, through the fall, the failure of those who were the natural heirs of that blessing, that promise.


It strengthens our faith to note the exactness of the fulfillment of the prophecies respecting our Redeemer's affairs. For instance, it assists our faith when we learn that our Lord's presentation of himself as King on this occasion [HGL889] was in harmony with the Passover type and his suffering as the antitypical Lamb. We have already noted that this scene occurred on the fifth day before the Passover. This we learn from John 12:1, which declares that the day at Bethany was the sixth before the Passover. The Passover always began on the 15th. day of the first Jewish month, and the Passover Lamb was to be killed on the 14th; the fifth day previous, therefore, marked the date of our Lord's riding on the ass as the ninth of Nisan. The Scriptures have something to say respecting that ninth of Nisan, namely, that on that day the Israelites should take the Passover Lamb into their houses. As a nation they did not receive the Lamb of God on that day; only the remnant of their nation accepted him, and hence the special Passover blessing did not come to them. Nevertheless in God's due time they will come into other blessings already foretold respecting them, and be amongst the first of the nations of the world to experience the favors of the Millennial age and its restitution work.

In a general way the Passover type shows forth a coming blessing upon all the families of the earth in the sense that Israel, in bondage to Egypt and Pharaoh, typified the human family in bondage to Satan, and the unfavorable conditions of this present time, to which through the fall they are slaves, "sold under sin." (Rom. 7:14.) The Passover type shows that ultimately, as a result, all who desire to worship the Lord will have full opportunity for going forth from under the control of Satan and his hosts, typified by Pharaoh and his army, and that the Lord will see to their deliverance.

But the main part of this type of the Passover affected only the first-born only the firstborn were in any danger only they, therefore, were passed over or spared in that night. This, as we have already seen on other occasions, and as we shall more particularly refer to the matter this evening, is a type which belongs to this Gospel age exclusively. This is the night time; we are still waiting for the Millennial morning, when the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its beams. (Mal. 4:2.) In this night, more than 18 centuries ago, the antitypical Lamb died at the appointed time, and, by his blood sprinkling the doorpost and lintel of our hearts, we, who become members of the Church of the firstborn, are passed over, and will in due time, at the dawning of the day, become the Royal Priesthood, who will lead forth our brothers, yea, all who desire to worship God in sincerity, from the dominion of sin and death, across the Red Sea to Canaan.


It will be remembered that these first-born ones in all the tribes and families of Israel were exchanged for the one tribe of Levi, which thereafter represented them. The experiences of the tribe of Levi, therefore, typified the experiences of the Church of the first-born. From that tribe of Levi the Lord selected the special priesthood, the Royal Priest-hood, and so the Royal Priesthood who will be joint heirs with Jesus in his Kingdom are members of this household of faith, typified by the bribe of Levi. As the priests and the Levites led and instructed the people, so the Church of the first-born, composed of a "little flock" of Royal Priests and of a great company of justified ones, assistants, co-laborers, will, during the Millennial age, under the lead of the antitypical Moses, guide and bless and bring into full harmony with God all the willing and obedient.

How is it with us to-day, dear friends? Have we all without exception acclaimed Jesus as our Redeemer and King, or are we standing aside like the Pharisee, doctors of divinity, and higher critics of old, objecting and insisting that our Lord must establish His kingdom according to their ideas or be rejected? Let us be Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile, that the Lord may teach us and guide us, as He declared He will do to those who are of a right condition of heart- "The meek will He guide in judgment; and the meek will He teach His way." (Psa. 25:9.) Let us hearken less to the voices and creeds of the "Dark Ages" and more and more to the voice of Him who spake as never man spake, and to the words of His inspired apostles whom He commissioned to be our instructors. Let us take our instruction from the foundation and not from any of the polluted streams of Churchianity.

In conclusion I call your attention to the fact that those who adhered to the Church calendar, Romanists, Episcopalians and some others, and who have named this as Palm Sunday, have arranged their reckonings so as to have the anniversary of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday fall on the days of the week corresponding to the original transactions. This, however, was not the custom followed originally; instead the Jewish method was followed, namely, lunar time, celebrating the ninth day, the fourteenth day and the sixteenth day irrespective of how these corresponded with the original days of the week, Monday, Friday and Saturday.