When they were near Jerusalem and had come in sight of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village facing you, and you will immediately find a tethered donkey and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, “The Master needs them and will send them back directly”.’ This took place to fulfil the prophecy:
Say to the daughter of Zion:
Look, your king comes to you;
he is humble, he rides on a donkey
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
So the disciples went out and did as Jesus had told them. They brought the donkey and the colt, then they laid their cloaks on their backs and he sat on them. Great crowds of people spread their cloaks on the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and those who followed were all shouting:
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!’
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. ‘Who is this?’ people asked, and the crowds answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
|Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!|
It's quite strange listening to Matthew's Gospel today when it has been John's words all week.
The people Jesus had been speaking to in John were people who listened and believed much of what Jesus was saying; much but not all. They had challenged Jesus' standing against Abraham, Moses and the prophets and had not been happy when Jesus put himself before them all. Believers turned into stone throwers in a matter of sentences - unwilling to accept what they have heard or seen - needing to put limitations on someone who is just a man. And then Jesus challenged the concept of being 'just a man' if you accept God as your Father.
Jesus argues himself into a corner of unacceptability; but today, that is all by-the-by
This celebration and public exhibition of support for Jesus comes after last week's Gospel where Lazarus was raised from the dead. At a time when all roads where leading to Jerusalem - all the gossip and news was heading there too and if Jesus already had a reputation from his previous visits to the Temple- and he did - then this last miracle would have tongues and ears burning. The anticipation overflowing when Jesus meets the prophet's sign; entering the city on a donkey.
Much as he has been a thorn in the Temple's side there is no denying that Jesus has become someone to be reckoned with. And the Jews were not expecting their Messiah to be God, simply to be sent from God. There had been some nearly-messiahs in the past - it was almost worth taking the risk because they wanted to be free. They wanted another Moses to stand up to their oppressors and, this time, chase them away; they wanted Jerusalem to be all theirs.
This is 'crowd mentality'; this is diversion; this is a public expression of national and religious pride that suits everyone except the Romans. And that certainly suits Jesus' enemies. The common people will be dismayed when Jesus does not take on the role of freedom fighter; the religious will become more intimidated at Jesus' actions in the Temple and the Romans will simply seek to assert control.
Holy Week begins with an unruly crowd looking for excitement and spectacle. Whether they believe that this man could be the Messiah is a moot point- it is a festival time and hope springs eternal. In the main they will be let down - Jesus is not that kind of man. Although the moment in the Temple may be a stirring moment for some - generally Jesus has commited himself to a path that will end in betrayal, suffering and death. His choice has been made at the gates of David's city; the opportunity for escape into the Lenten wilderness- lost.
Today, we have the choice of how this entry in Jerusalem will continue for us. Will we follow on; sharing as much time as we can with Jesus in the days to come or will we allow ourselves to be distracted by the rest of the world; by the busy -ness of our lives - only remembering who it was we were cheering when the time comes to condemn him for having not lived up to our expectations.