It was Palm Sunday, and Jesus had entered Jerusalem to the loud accolades and adulations of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Later, it would be a much different scene, but for now, Jesus was the celebrity of Jerusalem. After cleansing the temple of the nefarious money changers and merchants, He took His place there in the temple and started an impromptu set of healing miracles. The blind and lame came to Him and left with sight and health. The children in the temple again took up the chant, “Hosanna to the son of David!” Can you imagine a bigger stir?
The chief priests and scribes looked on, their simmering agitation growing through the day. Dripping with indignation, they leveled a rhetorical question at Jesus, “Do you hear what these are saying?” They expected Jesus to realize that these people were perilously close to blasphemy in saying these things. After all, what God-fearing Jew would allow other Jews to speak of him with such messianic expectancy?
If the priests and scribes started out angry, Jesus’ response did not lower their blood pressure. He responded by quoting Psalm 8:2: “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matt. 21:16). Do not miss what Jesus is saying about Himself in this passage. He is making a veiled but bold claim to His own deity. The Jews would have been very familiar with Psalm 8, not just because of their use of psalms in worship but also because Psalm 8 had a very recognizable structure.
The first half of Psalm 8 discusses God, His inherent greatness in comparison to the creation He made. The second half of Psalm 8 focuses on man, his attributed greatness as the height of God’s created order. Jesus could have quoted the second half of the psalm about His activities that day in Jerusalem. In fact, the author of Hebrews quotes the second half of Psalm 8 to describe Jesus’ perfect humanity (Heb. 2:5–8; see Ps. 8:4–6). But Jesus placed His work that day and the praise He was receiving firmly in the first half, the God half, of Psalm 8. Jesus even implied that He was the “you” of Psalm 8:2, synonymously comparing Himself to Yahweh of the Old Testament.
Jesus was asserting more about Himself than Jerusalem could stomach. By Friday, the chief priests, scribes, and crowd would want nothing to do with this Nazarene upstart.
The confrontation with the chief priests and scribes illustrates the terms on which we must deal with Jesus. Either He claimed too much and should be dismissed by each generation—not as a good teacher, but with the only tenable options, provided succinctly by C.S. Lewis, as either a crazy man or a fiend from hell—or we accept Jesus on His terms, as perfect God and perfect man, looking to Him, even this day as our Savior. Take Him at His word, as who He thought Himself to be, and worship.