Prepare to Listen. In silence and stillness prepare to receive the Word and pray: Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! (Psalm 118:25)
Prayerfully Read Matthew 21:1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying 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. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ 4This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5‘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.’ 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The 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!’ 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ 11The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
Imagine growing up frequently reciting the words of the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! … Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9). If you lived in a covid-19-induced lockdown or, as the Jews did then, under the oppressive rule of hostile Rome, perhaps you’d zoom in on two words: ‘triumphant and victorious.’ You’d long for the Messiah to come and defeat the occupying forces (think global pandemic) and restore your nation to prosperity and freedom. Now imagine being one of the crowd as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on ‘a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ Like Matthew, you’d think of Zechariah’s words and hail Jesus as the promised Messiah, excitedly crying out with the crowd words borrowed from Psalm 118:25-26: “Hosanna (meaning ‘save us, we beseech you’) to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” And, no doubt you too would expect great things, like the removal of the enemy Rome or the deadly pestilence of covid-19 to happen right away.
But nothing happened that day nor the next and in the end Jesus died the ignominious death of a criminal. This wasn’t what the people who regularly recited Zechariah expected. And, let’s be honest, it’s not what we expect or want either. Interestingly, a few decades later when Matthew wrote this story in his Gospel, he omitted Zechariah’s promise of triumph and victory, thus warning us readers that Jesus’ victory wasn’t one anyone wanted or expected. Jesus’ way isn’t our way. It takes courage to take the humble way of Jesus and resist the arrogance of political leaders who think they know best in these times. The triumph and victory will come, in its time. But it won’t be what we expect.
Jesus didn’t fulfill people’s expectations then. How about your expectations of what Jesus is like and will do today? How do they match up with Matthew’s picture of Jesus in this passage?
Respond to Jesus
“Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!” Lord I pray this, but sometimes I have false expectations of what success is like for you and thus for your people. Help me keep learning and letting go my false expectations. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world, humbly submitting to Jesus, the coming king.
Note: Devotions for Holy Week will begin at this same site tomorrow (Monday) and will appear everyday until Easter Sunday, including Holy Saturday.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.