bible blog 1209

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


Matthew 21:1-11

New English Translation (NET)

The Triumphal Entry

21 Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 telling them, “Go to the village ahead of you. Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:

5 “Tell the people of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
unassuming and seated on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 As he entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”Pietro_di_Giovanni_d'Ambrogio__Entry_into_Jerusalem__1435-40__Pinacoteca_Stuard,_Parma

Matthew is using his main source, the gospel of Mark here, but he edits and amplifies it. He makes explicit the prophecy of Zechariah (chapter 9:9) which must have been in Mark’a mind (and possibly in Jesus’ mind). It tells of an unusual king who comes in humility rather than arrogance, to make peace rather than war. Matthew is over- literal in his detail of Jesus somehow riding a donkey and a its foal. The prophecy uses parallelism, that is, the two lines give a slightly different description of a single animal. But as far as Matthew is concerned if the prophet said a donkey and a foal, well then, it must have happened that way.

Matthew makes the crowds hail Jesus as their Messiah (son of David)

Hadrian: a proper horse for a ruler?

Hadrian: a proper horse for a ruler?

Doubtless all gospel writers were aware of Roman triumphal processions, when successful a general paraded through a city with his troops, booty and captives. They must also have been aware that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was like a parody of such a triumph, mocking its pretension and exposing its hollowness. The true king needs no trappings of power. This is in all the gospels the most political act in Jesus’ ministry. Against his own religious hierarchy, against the house of Herod, against the Roman invader, Jesus asserts the legitimacy of God’s rule in and through his mission. His manner may be humble but his claim is uncompromising: the kingdom of heaven (as Matthew calls it) is asserted against all other claims to rule whether these are religious or secular. Certainly Jesus was not trying to set up a theocracy or a quasi-Shariah state, but he was insisting that religious and secular authorities should pay attention to the quiet demands of God’s goodness. These same demands should be made by the church of Jesus today, with the same unassuming wit and conviction as Jesus showed in his entry to Jerusalem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: