Palm Procession: Matthew 21:1-11

Beginning of Glory

Have you lived up to your expectations of Lent? Why or why not?

Popular Translation

1 When Jesus and his followers came to Bethphage, a village on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, he sent out two followers 2 with instructions.“Go to that village over there,”Jesus said,“and you will quickly find a mother donkey and its foal tied up. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone should ask what you are doing, tell them, ‘The Lord needs these animals.’ He will send them right away."

4 This happened so the words of the prophet would come true:

“Tell Jerusalem: ‘Look! Your king is coming to you. He is humble because he is arriving on a donkey and a colt, the foal of a work animal.’”

6 After they left and followed his orders, they brought the animals to Jesus and threw their tunics over the animals’ backs. Then, Jesus got on the animals. 8 Many people in the crowd put their tunics across the road. Others cut the branches of trees and spread them across the road. 9 The people in front of and behind Jesus kept shouting:

“Praise to the son of David. God blesses the one who comes with his power. Praise to God in heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the entire city was shaken up. They asked, “Who is this man?” The people with Jesus kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus. He comes from Nazareth in the region of Galilee.”

Literal Translation

1 When they came near to Jerusalem and went into Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, JESUS then sent out two disciples, 2 saying to them,“Go into the village opposite you and immediately you will find a donkey having been tied and a colt with her. Untying them, bring (them) to ME. 3 If someone should say something to you, say, ‘The LORD has need of them.’ Immediately he will send them.”4 This happened so that (it) might be fulfilled, the word of the prophet, saying:

5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Look! Your king comes to you,
meek and going up (to you) on a donkey
and on a colt, the foal of a yoke animal.’”

6 Having gone out and doing just as JESUS commanded them (to do), the disciples 7 brought the donkey and the colt and placed clothing upon them and JESUS sat on them. 8 A large crowd spread their clothes on the road, but others cut branches from the trees and spread (them) on the road. 9 The crowds going before him and the ones following kept shouting, saying,

“Hosanna to the son of David,
Blessed is the (one) coming in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.”

10 As he entered Jerusalem, the entire city was shaken, saying “Who is (this) one?” 11 The crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet, JESUS of Nazareth from Galilee.”

21:5 This passage is a combination of two verses Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9. Matthew took a figure of speech literally. The mother and foal were actually a single animal, doubled for dramatic literally effect.

21:9 The acclamation of the crowd may have reflected a liturgical hymn used by the audience of Matthew. The word “hosanna” could be loosely translated “praise.” The first part of the hymn praised the son of David, the one who would come in the “name” (i.e., power) of God. The second part praised God in heaven (“in the highest”).

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem marked a high point in the earthly ministry of Jesus. The Galilean made a dramatic show, as he made his way down the Mount of Olives into the city of David. The crowds gathered, hailed the coming teacher, and praised God for his presence. Of course, this commotion baffled the locals. After all, how could anyone of importance come from the back country? Image the headline of the fictitious newspaper, the Jerusalem World: Country boy makes big entrance into the Holy City!

The gospels clearly tell us that the leadership found Jesus to be a threat; the amount of the threat was (and still is) open for debate. His trial was a hastily held “kangaroo court;” yet, he was arrested alone, as his followers fled. The mob turned against him, even after many in the blood thirsty mob greeted the Galilean into the city with honors. The Lord entered the city in glory, but left it in shame.

Yet, the gospels were not written to relate the story of a failed political figure. The were written to engender faith. From a theological perspective, the tension between the earthly glory of Jesus and his shameful death was less important than his mission from the Father. According to the Synopics, after his Galilean ministry, Jesus made the deliberate decision to go to Jerusalem. There, he would reveal himself as the Messiah. He would not use the image of the righteous high priest that would clean the Temple (as the Essences hoped for), the great warrior king (as many common people expected), or the great teacher (as many Gentiles desired). No, he would be the Suffering Servant found in Second Isaiah. He would show how earthly glory was fleeting. He would also show how serving the divine will would lead to true glory.

The entry into Jerusalem was not the first step of the mission, but it was the first step of the public revelation.

The King has come! What we expect of him may delight us, but he may disappoint us. Jesus did not come to fulfill our expectations. He came to fulfill the will of the Father. In essence, that is what Holy Week is all about.

It is now time to set aside personal expectations about Lent. It is now time to walk with the Lord toward his death. It is time to prepare for his glorious resurrection. Set aside time this week to reflect, to pray, and to prepare to celebrate.