He seated Himself upon an ass, teaching us not to be lifted up by praises – St. Cyril the Pillar of Faith


12, 13 On the morrow a great multitude that had come to the feast when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm-trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried out, saying: Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the Name of the Lord.

The multitudes, being more obedient and yielding to the effect of the sign, went to meet the Christ, hymning Him as One Who had conquered death, and carrying palm branches. And they do not praise Him with ordinary language, but quote from the inspired Scripture that which was beautifully spoken with regard to Him; confessing that He was indeed King of Israel, Whom also they called specially their own King, accepting the lordship of the Christ. And the Son, they say, is Blessed: not because He Who blesseth all things and guards them from destruction, and Who is of the ineffable Essence of the Father, receives the blessing which comes from the Father; but because the blessing which is due to One Who is God and Lord by Nature is offered to Him from us, inasmuch as He came in the Name of the Lord. For all the saints did not come with the authority of lordship, but as trusted servants; This One, on the contrary, as Lord. Wherefore the prophetic language was quoted very suitably with regard to Him. For indeed some are called lords, who are not such by nature, but have the honourable name granted to them by favour. As also, to take another case, men are called “true,” when they abstain from falsehood: but this is not the thing to say with regard to Christ; for He is not called “Truth” for the reason that He does not speak falsely, but because He has that Nature which is altogether superior to falsehood.

14, 15 And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh unto thee, sitting on an ass’s colt.

For when a great multitude were escorting Him like a body-guard and shouting His praises, with the most perfect self-restraint He seated Himself upon an ass, teaching us not to be lifted up by praises, and omitting no necessary thing. Matthew therefore related at greater length the circumstances concerning the ass; but John comes at once to the point of the affair that was most suited to the occasion, as it is his custom to do. And since, contrary to His usual habits, on this occasion only, Christ appears seated on an ass, we do not say that He so sat for the reason that it was a long distance to the city; for it was not more than fifteen furlongs off: nor because there was a multitude; for it is certain that on other occasions when He was found with a multitude He did not do this: but He does so, to indicate that He is about to make subject to Himself as a new people the unclean among the Gentiles, and to lead them up to the prerogative of righteousness, and to the Jerusalem above, of which the earthly is a type; into which this people being made clean shall enter with Christ, Who will be hymned by the guileless angels, of whom the babes are a type. And He calls the ass a colt, because the people of the Gentiles had been untrained to the piety which faith produces.

16 And His disciples understood not these things at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him.

At first therefore they were ignorant that these words had been written with regard to Him; but after the Resurrection, they did not continue to suffer from the Jewish blindness, but the knowledge of the Divine words was revealed to them through the Spirit. And then was the Christ glorified, when after being crucified He came to life again. And the Evangelist does not blush to mention the ignorance of the disciples, and again their knowledge, since his object was, to take no heed of respect for men, but to plead for the glory of the Spirit; and to show what sort of men the disciples were before the Resurrection, and what sort of men they became after the Resurrection. If therefore these disciples were ignorant, how much more were the other Jews. And after He was crucified, the veil was rent, in order that we may know that nothing any longer remains hidden and concealed from the faithful and godly. They were enlightened therefore with knowledge from the time of the Resurrection, when the Christ breathed into their face, and they became different from the rest of men. And to a still greater extent they were enlightened on the Day of Pentecost, when they were transformed into the power of the Holy Spirit Who came upon them.

17, 18 The multitude therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, bare witness. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, for that they heard that He had done this sign.

The gathering of the common people, having heard what had happened, were readily persuaded by those who bare witness that the Christ had raised Lazarus to life, and annulled the power of death, as the prophets said: for this cause also they went and met Him.

19  The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Do ye see how ye prevail nothing? Lo, the whole world is gone after Him.

This they say, finding fault with themselves, that they had not long ago put Jesus and Lazarus also to death, urging themselves to murder; being angry concerning the believing multitude, as though deprived of their special possessions – those which really belonged to God.

[St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John]