Palm Sunday, cycle A

The Gospel at the Procession: Matthew 21: 1-11

In Jesus’ day the Jewish people had hoped that the Messiah would come with military power and might – and that with that power he would free them. But Jesus came and opened a new way. Just as he rode to Jerusalem on a donkey, an ass, a pack animal, rather than arriving with armies and angels, so he opened a new path for the reign of God, the Kingdom of God. He preached about God who cared for the least, who sought the lost and the poor and counted the hairs of one’s head. This God reached out to the Gentiles, the enemies of the Jews and spoke of loving one’s enemies as if it were possible. His idea of the reign of God and how a Messiah might act was incomprehensible to many of the people. This was not the way a Messiah ought to act. How could this be God or God’s servant?  (Celebration, 4/13/02)

In Matthew’s account, scriptural passages are added to emphasize that Jesus is fulfilling what has been written.  References are made to Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9.  Strangely, Matthew misinterprets the Zechariah text which speaks of one animal but in a repeated parallel form as if they are 2 separate animals  (so Jesus is somehow riding both?).  This is a case of being too literal in the interpretation  (R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 778).

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible on Matthew II, p. 239 -241:

They shouted “Hosanna!” meaning “Save now!”.  It was the cry for help which a people in distress addressed to their king or god.  This is a dramatic entrance, and an action by Jesus that brings great meaning beyond words

One of the supreme disasters of Jewish history was the capture of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes about 175BC.  Antiochus was determined to stamp out Judaism and to introduce the Greek way of life.  He profaned the Temple, to the point of making its chambers into public brothels.  But the Maccabees rose against him and rescued their native land.  The Temple was restored and purified.  See 2 Maccabees 10:7.  Perhaps Jesus was entering into Jerusalem with the same intention of cleansing God’s house just like Judas Maccabaeus.

Jesus shows these traits by his entrance into Jerusalem:

  1. Courage:  Despite everyone’s enthusiasm, Jesus knows he is a wanted man.  Many might have shown more discretion than valor.  This is a deliberate challenge to authority.
  2. Claim as God’s Messiah:  Jesus is a new kind of king.  He is suggesting a whole other way of life.  It is all or nothing.
  3. Love:  This is a kingship of the heart.  A king riding in on an ass often meant that he was coming in peace (A horse was more a sign of war.).  Jesus is the king of peace, wanting love not condemnation.

Some questions for reflection this Holy Week:

Who do I do with feelings of loss and emptiness?
How do I face uncertainty, confusion or anxiety?

What does being powerless in a situation lead me to do?  How do I cope or respond?

What are symbols of hope that offer me reassurance at times of discouragement or grieving?

What or who is the source of my hope and strength?

What disappointments or hurts or failures are preventing me from moving on with my life?

How have I experienced God’s peace and promise of faithful presence through a friendship in my life?

What do I want to do to remain open to God’s continuing faithful love for me?

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