This is Wednesday of the fourth week of Lent. The reading is Matthew 21:1-22, with a focus on the Triumphal Entry. (If you want to listen, scroll to the bottom of that page for the audio links.)
Wright says “We reach Palm Sunday in Matthew’s story ten days before we get there in our own Lenten journey. It’s just as well. There is so much packed between Palm Sunday and Good Friday that it’s important to get advance notice of what’s in store.
It is one of the great scenes in all scripture. Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey: it could be the climax of an opera, or a Shakespeare play. For Matthew, though, it’s the climax of a much longer and more complicated story: the whole story of God and Israel. St John put it like this: he came to his own, and his own didn’t receive him. All along Jesus had made it clear that his particular vocation was to present the arrival of heaven’s kingdom to the people of Israel. Having prepared the way by his work up in the north, he has now arrived, with a great throng of Passover pilgrims, at the holy city itself. Only it wasn’t as holy as it should have been. Jerusalem, the city chosen by God as his own resting-place, had also been chosen by many as their place of profit.
But Jesus’ protest against the Temple wasn’t just about it being, in that sense, ‘a den of robbers’. He was quoting the prophet Jeremiah at that point, and Jeremiah wasn’t just worried about economic exploitation. Something deeper and darker was afoot. Behind all the outward trappings of the Temple, Jesus could see that the whole place, and the whole city, had come to symbolize the determination of Israel to do things their own way; in particular, to embrace a vision of God and God’s kingdom which was fundamentally different from the vision which he was announcing and living out. Their vision would have climaxed in a Messiah coming on a war-horse. Jesus’ vision led him to act out the prophecy of Zechariah: your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey. This simple yet profound symbolic action continues to resonate out into the world where, even among people who profess to follow Jesus, the war-horse is still preferred to the donkey.
The third level concerns what Matthew is saying about Jesus himself. The local crowds, seeing all the commotion as Jesus came into the city, were told by the pilgrims that ‘this is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee’ (verse 11). But Matthew makes it clear that, though Jesus is indeed a prophet, he is much more. To begin with, he is the ‘Son of David’ — the royal title which so annoyed the chief priests and scribes (verse 15). They were perhaps frightened of what the Roman authorities might do to the city if it welcomed a would-be king. They may also have been frightened of what a would-be king and his followers might say about them.”
Too many good videos for this day:
Here Come Your King, one of my favorite themes from the movie Gospel of John, though this one is music only.
For those of you who like something classical, Hosanna by Thomas Weelkes. I think it’s a great idea to show the (six part!) vocal score.
And something a little more contemporary, though not necessarily as Palm-Sundayish: Hosanna, by Hillsong.