What Does 'Blessed Is He Who Comes In the Name of the Lord' Mean?

When the people of Jerusalem sang "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" on Palm Sunday, they had a special reason for saying it. Jesus uses it later in Matthew, and both times the phrase says something crucial about Jesus' identity.

Contributing Writer
May 25, 2022
What Does 'Blessed Is He Who Comes In the Name of the Lord' Mean?

In the movie A Knight’s Tale, William is a squire who finds the old knight dead before the final joust. Since he was a boy, William has dreamed of being a knight, and he takes this opportunity to dress as a knight and win the tournament. William and two other squires conspire to continue this deception to make money.

The problem, however, was that only those from noble families could compete in those ancient tournaments. So William and his friends concoct a name and noble heritage. Hence the conflict of the movie.

Names mean many things. Our names tell us where we come from and who our families are. They give us identity and describe our character or future. Like the movie, a name can get us access to events or luxuries. If I buy a ticket to a concert in my name, I will need to show my ID once I arrive at the event.

Jesus’ name, Yeshua, means “salvation.” God was continually changing people’s names after an encounter with him. The Bible mentions a book in Heaven that includes the names of all allowed entry into that hallowed, eternal place—the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5).

One phrase is unique in Scripture yet has an important meaning. Jesus quotes, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” and it’s recorded in the Gospels. But what was the context? Why did Jesus use that phrase? We first head to the Old Testament to see where it was originally used.

Where Does the Bible Say 'Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord'?

The Bible uses the term “in the name” (or some close variant like “in my name”) several times in the Old and New Testaments. To do something in a name meant to act in some authority’s stead. For instance, a king could send a message through a courier, and if there was a seal and signature on that message, it gave it legitimacy.

Even today, ambassadors are sent to live in another nation to represent their host country in national and political matters, usually housed in an embassy on that foreign soil. The US embassy in another country literally belongs to America, whether it is in Spain, Nigeria, or any country. The ambassador and embassy are there in the name of the United States to act on America’s behalf. One can tell the relationship between countries by how we treat embassies and ambassadors. An attack on an American embassy is an attack on the US, an act of war.

To be sent in the name of America is a great honor, carrying with it immense responsibilities and privileges. The ambassador speaks in that official capacity, and it is as if America has spoken. But many countries aren’t friendly to America, may not allow us in at all, or hate us even when they do. Other countries give the American embassy almost royal treatment and favor.

The specific expression “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” appears three times in the Bible. The first is in Psalm 118.

What Does 'Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord' Mean in Psalm 118?

The Bible doesn’t list an author for Psalm 118, but many scholars assume it was the great king and writer David, the man after God’s own heart.

The writer begins by expressing how great God is, the Lord’s faithfulness and love to his people. We soon discover that the author begins with praise despite the great distress he is in. In verse 5, the psalmist declares how he called on God in a crisis, and the Lord responded, saving and setting him free. With God on his side, how could anyone do anything to him? These ideas are also within the New Testament—“if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Verses 8-9 of Psalm 118 contrast who to trust: we should trust God, not any authority of man.

This theme continues with more details in Psalm 118 of how people tried to kill the author, surrounding him, overwhelming him. Each time, God saved him and gave him victory. The psalmist returns to more praise for the character and power of God.

Psalm 118:22 gives us another famous phrase—“the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Jesus refers to this verse in Matthew 21:42, and Peter also uses the same idea before the Jews in Acts 4:11. In the context of the psalm, there has been a rejection of something God had ordained to be centrally important.

Hence, David makes sense as this psalm’s author. He was anointed as king and then sent into exile by Saul before becoming the king of the whole nation.

The psalmist enters God’s presence—likely the tabernacle David set up outside of Jerusalem that housed the Ark of the Covenant. If a later author wrote the psalm, “entering God’s presence” would have been Solomon’s Temple. While singing that praise, the psalmist asks that God give the people success, stating the truth as proof of their future success—blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Anyone coming in the name of God, in God’s place or stead, as if God was there, should be counted as blessed and given great favor.

Why Does Jesus Repeat 'Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord' in Matthew?

As we can see, Psalm 118 is complex and full of Messianic connections. The Jews use the phrase first in Matthew 21:9 during the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, only a few days before Jesus’ death. Jesus entered Jerusalem like a new king, being praised and worshiped while riding a donkey colt. The Jews that gathered threw palm branches on the ground, singing “Hosanna” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The Jews had heard of Jesus, his teaching, and his miracles. They sought the Messiah promised in the prophets and the coming new kingdom. The “best guess” dates from Daniel and others had placed the Messiah’s coming in their time. All combined, they thought Jesus must be the One. The Messiah, the Anointed One!

Jesus was the Messiah, but he wouldn’t be accepted as such. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he cleared out the temple from those profiting off the poor and the Gentiles through the currency exchange in the temple’s main gathering area. The Jewish leaders, especially those of the Sadducees and Pharisees, challenged him at every turn and grew angrier with Jesus’ popularity and his statements equating himself with God the Father, a heresy to them.

As Jesus predicted, they rejected his message, even to the point of trying to kill him, all expressed in Messianic Psalm 118. The Jews would have understood that implication when he quoted from the psalm, “the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” later in the same chapter (Matthew 21:42).

The religious leadership became more resistant to Christ, God in the flesh, and Jesus confronted them on their hypocrisy in Matthew 23, calling them blind fools, that they swore by the temple but then killed the prophets.

Jesus wept in sorrow over wayward Jerusalem, expressing how he would have gathered the city like a mother hen, showing how much he loved them, but they wouldn’t come to him (to God). Their rejection had consequences. They wouldn’t see Jesus until they said, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39).

The Kingdom of God isn’t about coercion or force. Jesus didn’t come with any worldly position or power on purpose. Like in Psalm 118, he trusted in his Father’s power alone and invited people into the correct relationship with the Father through Christ, the Son. The Jews took that merciful and loving invitation and rejected it. However, they went further than mere rejection, killing the very God who offered salvation.

However, God had anointed this one person as the solution. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must stop rejecting the message to enjoy that saving relationship. Jesus is the message of God, the Word of God made into a human, and we must do more than simply stop rejecting the message of Truth. We must welcome it, call it blessed. It must be a joy to us, something to sing and dance about, because anything less is a lie.

The Psalm 118 quote also contained a message that God would save and bring victory for those who belong to him. The message and the messenger might be rejected or attacked, yet the ultimate victory is assured.

What Does 'Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord' Mean for Us Today?

Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on his disciples and said, “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).

Christ also promised that the world would continue to reject the message, and us, since they rejected him; no servant is greater than his master (John 15:20). A few would receive and be reborn, the narrow way.

We have been sent into the world with the message of Christ. We are also his presence on the Earth with his Spirit within us. Our churches (the gathering of people as a spiritual family, not the building) are embassies of another, heavenly kingdom. We belong to our Father, as individuals and corporately. We are also born of a noble name, like William so desired in A Knight’s Tale, but we carry the name of Christ as “Christians.” We have been born of Heaven and come to the world in the name of God.

We’ve been told to pray in his name (John 14:13-15). We were instructed to go with the power and name of Christ into all the world, discipling with the words of Jesus and baptizing others into the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20).

The world may reject the Truth, and many probably will, and they may try to be our enemies. Still, we hold onto the reality that we have been anointed with the Spirit of God, chosen by God as daughters and sons of the king to go out and invite people to be reconciled to the Father’s love. With that mission, loving all people despite the resistance, we know that God is good and that the victory is ultimately assured through Christ.


Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/leolintang

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney (with his amazing wife, Becca) has lived as a missionary in Korea, traveled for missions to several countries, and now lives in Suwanee GA as a church planter that works bi-vocationally with Phoenix Roasters, a missional coffee company. He has a podcast about the Kingdom of God called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author with Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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