Palm Sunday 2008 (March 16)

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March 16
Palm Sunday
Matthew 21.1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Today we celebrate Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem–a parade that we often imagine as being of mythic proportions, with huge crowds, coats flung on the road, and palm fronds waving in welcome. In the midst of this parade we often miss some of the significance of this act. There are very real social and political ramifications to this story. This is no normal parade–this is a parody of a royal procession, with the king riding a donkey instead of a war horse. This is a (intentional?) fulfillment of Messianic prophecy–in fact, Matthew takes such pains to tell us it was written by the prophet that he mistranslates the couplet to say that Jesus rode not just a donkey but its colt as well! This is an act that comes right up to the line of rebellion–Jesus and his followers, people who came with him from the countryside, and those who’ve gathered along the way, come into Jerusalem and the whole city ends up in turmoil. In Matthew’s account Jesus heads straight to the Temple for a workout with tables and moneychangers.
Who is the king here–the one on the donkey, or the one in the palace? Who has the real power here–the one with a crowd of country rabble, or the one with priests and soldiers? Where is real security to be found–in a royal parade or in a procession led by a donkey? (TCP)

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