How is being a misfit a blessing? Why do misfits with counter viewpoints seem to upset the powers that be? Is that upset always a bad thing, and how do you channel that energy to constructive ends? Read on!
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
1 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.”
Background on the Text:
- This is the beginning of the last section of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has been making his way toward the center of power, Jerusalem, for some time.
- This scene is one that the people would have been familiar with: processions were an important social event, especially when the army had defeated the enemy and it wanted to show off the military rulers. Processions also occurred when important political leaders came to town. The role of processions was to remind the oppressed people that they were under the control of the Roman Empire.
- Jesus takes the opportunity to put a completely different spin on the occasion. He participates in a kind of “street theater” which challenges the conventional wisdom of who is in charge of the world.
Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:
- The Mount of Olives was a place symbolically associated with judgement and salvation.
- To mock the Romans, and to keep with Jewish tradition, Jesus decides to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, and not a horse, as a Roman general would. But in Jewish history, Solomon rode a donkey in procession.
- Matthew is quoting from the book of the prophet Zechariah, specifically the part of this book that dates to about 450 BCE. This was a time of very slow rebuilding of Judah and Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. There were great hopes for a ruler to arise that would help restore Jerusalem to its former glory.
- The placing of branches on the road for the “conquering king” was a sign of reverence and respect. “Hosanna” means “save us.”
- When forced to decide who Jesus is, the crowds still say that he is a prophet. This declaration still sends “the whole city” into a tizzy. “The city” represents those in power who will continue to oppose Jesus and his ministry.
Questions the Text Asks of Us:
- There are two crowd scenes in this section of the gospel, and they both bring up questions of mob mentality. This first scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem seems to be a fairly positive one for the crowds: they express admiration for the person of Jesus. The second crowd scene occurs when Jesus is brought before Pilate, and Pilate asks the crowd (the same people) what to do with Jesus, and they demand he be crucified. The stories suggest that everyone in the crowd went along with the flow of the sentiment. We don’t get a lot of stories saying, “Joe Blow stood up and disagreed with everyone around him.” What keeps us from disagreeing with the crowd, even when we know they are going in the wrong direction?