Question: "What does it mean that "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 118:26 and others)?"
Answer: Psalm 118 is one of the Hallel psalms, also called the “Egyptian Hallel,” a short series of psalms (Psalm 113—118) incorporated in the celebration of the Passover. The final psalm is sung in the festive processional as the people enter the temple gates to worship. In Psalm 118:26, the congregation welcomes the vindicated king, singing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.”
Originally, this psalm depicted Israel’s exodus journey from Egypt to their eventual arrival at Mount Zion. But its celebratory welcoming of the king was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. All four gospels quote Psalm 118:26: “Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Praise God in highest heaven!’” (Matthew 21:9, NLT; see also Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13).
The term translated “blessed is” comes from the Hebrew word barukh (literally “to bless”) and is most often used of God. But in Psalm 118:26 it speaks of the king figure who comes in God’s authority. Faithlife Study Bible explains that barukh “describes bestowing someone with special power or declaring Yahweh to be the source of special power. In that regard, it means praising Yahweh for who He is” (Barry, J. D., et al, entry for Psalm 103:1, Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).
With the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” the ancient psalm praises God for who He is: “The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us” (Psalm 118:27). The blessing also forecasts His future coming as Israel’s Messiah. During passion week, we hear the echo, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” as the people of Christ’s day recognize Jesus as the long-awaited One.
Earlier, when Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, He predicted to the Pharisees, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Luke 13:35). Jesus identified Himself as the “stone the builders rejected” (Psalm 118:22; cf. Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17) who would bring salvation to all who prayed to Him, “Save us, Lord!” (Psalm 118:2). Through His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus was the “living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4, ESV). He became the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33), “and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” Romans 10:11; cf. 1 Peter 2:4–8).
Jesus came in the “special power” of Yahweh. He was vested with all the authority of His Father God. Jesus spoke with God’s authority so that “the people were amazed at his teaching” (Mark 1:22). He drove out unclean spirits (Mark 1:21–28, 39; Luke 4:31–37), healed the sick, and forgave people’s sins (Matthew 9:1–8; Mark 2:1–12; Luke 7:48). Jesus controlled the elements (Matthew 8:23–27), raised the dead to life (John 11:38–44), and cleansed the temple (Mark 11:27–33), all by God’s mandate.
“All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Jesus by His Father (Matthew 28:18), including the authority “to judge” (John 5:27) and to lay down His life in sacrifice for the sins of the world (John 10:18). God “granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those” God had given to Him (John 17:2).
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” is a declaration of praise and recognition that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world who came in the power and authority of God. “I have come in my Father’s name,” said Jesus (John 5:43). All that Christ did was commissioned by His Father. Everything Jesus said and did was to glorify His Father and accomplish the work of making Him known to humans so that they might be saved (John 17:1–24).