March 20, 2005 - Year A - Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

21 When they drew near Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage, on the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying, “Go to the village in front of you, and there you will find a donkey tied up with its colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says something to you, say: The Lord needs them but he will send them back immediately.”

This happened in fulfillment of what the prophet said: Say to the daughter of Zion: See, your king comes to you in all simplicity, riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, with its colt.

The disciples went as Jesus had instructed them, and they brought the donkey with its colt. Then they threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people who walked ahead of Jesus and those who followed him began to shout: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, glory in the highest!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this man?” 11 And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

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 • 21.1 Matthew, Mark and Luke place the incident about those selling in the Temple at the time of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. John, on the other hand, situates this event at the beginning of Jesus’ mission. Once more we see how each of the evangelists disposes of events following the plan he has chosen to develop the mystery of Salvation. Their aim is not to draw up a life of Jesus where events would be placed in the exact order in which they occurred.

Besides, there are several details in this triumphant entrance of Jesus that remind us more of the Feast of the Tabernacles (which was celebrated in September), than of the days before the Passover:

– The joyous spirit of the people is more appropriate to that feastday, which was the most popular of all.

– The branches and palms, as in the procession of the feastday, on the way to the fountain of Siloe, while singing Psalm 118: “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and shouts of “Hosannah!” (that is: Save us!).

– Mention of the Mountain of Olives, where tents of branches and leaves were erected for the feast.

See, in this respect, Zec 14 that refers to this feastday (14:16) and foretells the purification of the Temple.

Very possibly, the evangelists placed the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover for the simple reason that they only related one trip of Jesus to Jerusalem.

They arrived at Bethphage. The small village of Bethphage was the entrance to the district of Jerusalem towards the east. According to the Law, the Passover should be celebrated in Jerusalem, but the city was not big enough to accommodate more than a hundred and fifty thousand pilgrims for the festival. So it was necessary to enlarge the juridical limits of Jerusalem, embracing therefore some small villages like Bethphage. During those days, Jesus also used to lodge in Bethany (21:17).

[The Community Christian Bible]

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1. We often name this Palm Sunday. Sometimes we have Passion Sunday out of consideration for all those who won't walk a daily walk through a memory of Jesus' last week. This year we might focus on Coat Sunday. Coats in the winter season are an integral part of life. Palms are things one finds at hand. Here we have the opportunity to participate in a great Hosanna! and that gets greater and greater the closer and closer it comes to our daily living, our necessities.

Here, Jesus, is my Coat. May it ease your entrance to suffering. Here, world, is my Coat. May it ease your current suffering. Here is my coat, my warmth, my comfort. Here I offer it out of joy. I'll need it again and will wear it with the mark of the hoof or the dung. But for now, here is my coat.

2. Oh, yes, my Hosanna is not everyone's. When a Hosanna comes, those who have been receiving the benefit from the Woe that was here before the Hosanna are not happy. They feel that a great injustice has been done them and this is disturbing the quietude that is so much to their benefit. In such cases we always want to know who is responsible for this shift. A Great Hosanna is like the starting gun for The Blame Game to begin in earnest.

3. What is it that can both bring about a Great Hosanna and a Great Blame? It is a prophet. Good News for the poor and oppressed is Bad news for the rich and the oppressor. The connection between these is the prophet who calls for a rebalancing of power and notes that justice is more than what you can get away with, it is a community building block.

Usually prophets are in the midst of stressful situation. They are funeral directors for the past and midwives for the future. They are part of the religious sandwich generation caring for failing parents and demanding children. As a prophet, Jesus was in his element riding into Jerusalem, living between/within the blessings and the woes.

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