Weekly Bible Devotional
“Come, Follow Me Home to Jerusalem”
April 10, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill 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.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Notes on the Text:
This week we celebrate Palm Sunday as we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. This is the culmination point in the ministry of Jesus as he finally confronts the corrupt powers of the world through the power of love. At the time of Jesus, there were expectations of what the Messiah would do to save the people from oppression. The people imagined their savior to be a powerful military leader who would wage war against the occupying forces of the Romans. We can relate to this sentiment. Think of oppressive forces of Putin and how we wish for armed resistance that would rid the world of their evil. But Jesus had a bigger plan for healing the world. He was working from the perspective of eternity. His vision was for the total transformation of the world so that the roots of evil in human hearts would be gone. He knew that a violent victory over an enemy was only a temporary measure for remedying the problem of evil in the world.
Jesus wanted his people to know that he was not going to resist evil with evil. He was not going to lead an army to a battle. He knew about the history of his people that in 63 BCE, Pompeii was the Roman general who conquered Israel and the Israelites found themselves in slavery. The Israelites were trying to get rid of the Romans. They hated the Romans for many reasons. The Romans made the Jews eat pork, which a Jew would never do. The Romans were forcing them to worship Caesar, which a Jew would never do. The Romans forbade circumcising their children, which the Jews would never do. The Romans were seducing them out of their Judaism. The Jews hated the Romans and were always ready for a revolution.
Sometime about the year 6-4 BCE, the great builder, King Herod, who had rebuilt their Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, 150 feet long and 150 feet high, a magnificent temple, turned from being Herod the Builder to Herod the Killer. He ordered that all boys two and under be killed. The killer king didn’t want any baby messiah being born who would grow up to be a political king. About twelve years later, Zaduk the Pharisee led a revolution in and around Jerusalem and two thousand of his followers were killed. The Romans hung them up on crosses. Two thousand dead men hanging on crosses for the entire world to see! Would that send a message to the Jewish population about what the Romans do with political revolutionaries?
The Gospel of Matthew describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a deliberate attempt by Jesus to reveal himself as the peaceful Messiah. Matthew does this by quoting the prophets. Matthew also alludes to it by Jesus’ choice of a donkey to ride by sending two of his disciples into Bethphage to bring him the humblest of animals. Zechariah’s prophecy symbolized the peaceful choice of a victorious king selecting a donkey as his ride instead of a conqueror’s proud steed for his triumphal entry into his capital city. So, despite all of his teachings and his riding a humble donkey for his entry, still people misunderstood who Jesus was.
Though Jesus had no intention of being king, his disciples and others thwarted him by throwing their garments and branches before him as Jehu had been hailed as king in 2 Kings 9:13. According to the Mishnah of the 2nd century CE, the custom had precedents in the celebration of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) when pilgrims collected twigs or branches of myrtle, willow or palm to be bound together in a festal plume, called a lulab to symbolize rejoicing. Waving these lulabs, the pilgrims paraded into the courts of the temple singing the Hallel.
Jesus’ intentional rejection of fighting evil with evil is a challenge and a blessing for us today. It helps us to see the falsehoods of our egos about power, violence, and control. It reminds us that in order for us to live in light of eternity, we have to take the long view of history. In fact, we have to see history in light of eternity. Through God’s eternal vision, we know that the transformation of hearts and minds is the only way to redeem our world.
At the time of Jesus, his people were expecting something big and violent when he entered into Jerusalem. They believed that would be the only way to rid them of the oppression of Rome. We sometimes fall into the same trap expecting violence and control to help us. We even project this kind of view onto God hoping that God would punish our enemies. Yet, Palm Sunday and the stories of Holy Week reveal to us a different kind of God, a God who suffers with us, a God who is vulnerable and open to our pain. As we have been pondering the question: How do we live in light of eternity? the story of Palm Sunday amplifies Jesus’ focus on the eternal values of the kingdom of God, values of love, justice, and compassion.
The Mystery of Darkness” by Henri Nouwen:
O God, this holy season of Lent is passing quickly. I entered into it with fear, but also with great expectations. I hoped for a great breakthrough, a powerful conversion, a real change of heart; I wanted Easter to be a day so full of light that not even a trace of darkness would be left in my soul. But I know that you do not come to your people with thunder and lightning. Even St. Paul and St. Francis journeyed through much darkness before they came to see your light. Let me be thankful for your gentle way. I know you are at work. I know you will not leave me alone. I know you are quickening me for Easter – but in a way fitting my own history and my own temperament.
I pray that these last weeks, in which you invite me to enter more fully into the mystery of your passion, will bring me a greater desire to follow you on the way that you create for me and to accept the cross that you give me. Let me die to the desire to choose my own way and to select my own cross. You do not want to make me a hero but a servant who loves you.
Be with me today, tomorrow, and in all the days to come, and let me experience your gentle presence. Amen.