2011 - Vol. 49.
to the Son of David!”
By Jeanne Kun
your king comes to you;
and victorious is he,
and riding on an ass.
entry into Jerusalem manifests the coming of the kingdom that the Messiah
- King, welcomed into his city by children and the humble of heart, is
going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection.
Jesus had raised
Lazarus from the dead, and so he was a man with a price on his head: He
went into temporary seclusion (John 11:53-57), where he was refreshed by
a visit with his friends and anointed beforehand for his burial (12:1-8).
Jesus was now ready to enter Jerusalem openly, knowing he would confront
its hostile authorities. He was approaching the culmination of his mission.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 570
had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time
and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of ‘his
father David’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 559). His entrance
into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Passover was deliberate and purposeful,
for it was popularly believed that the Messiah would come at Passover time
to announce the establishment of his kingdom. Moreover, Jesus made special
arrangements to ride into the city rather than walk as pilgrims usually
did. A donkey awaited him, “tied at the door out in the open street” for
his disciples to fetch (Mark 11:4). Jesus’ choice of mount was symbolic
as well as intentional, for his entrance into David’s city on a donkey
enacted ancient prophecies about the coming of Israel’s Messiah-King:
to the daughter of Zion,
these messianic prophecies, Jesus was publicly proclaiming his identity.
your salvation omes.”
Lo, your king
comes to you;
and victorious is he,
riding on an ass,
colt the foal of an ass.
of entering the city would have also recalled to the crowds the occasion
when Solomon, King David’s son, rode his father’s mule from the site of
his anointing at the spring of Gihon into Jerusalem, where he was crowned
as David’s successor to the throne (1 Kings 1:32-40). Now Jesus was greeted
with a great crowd hailing him as “Son of David” and celebrating his kingship
a colt “on which no one has ever yet sat” (Luke 19:30). Animals that had
not been yoked or broken for common use were ritually clean; since this
colt filled the Old Testaments prescriptions (see Numbers 19:2 and 1 Samuel
6:7), it was suitable for sacred or royal use.
As the crowds
cheered, they spread their cloaks on the ground in Jesus’ path, perhaps
remembering how garments had been spread under Jehu’s feet when he was
hailed as king after he had been anointed by Elisha (2 Kings 9:13). Reflecting
on this Palm Sunday scene centuries later, St. Andrew of Crete wrote,
us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion.... [L]et us spread
before his feet, not garments.... but ourselves, clothed in his grace,
or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ
must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him.
“Hosanna to the
Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9) cried the crowds enthusiastically, lauding
Jesus as subjects laud their king and praising him for the great works
and miracles they had seen him perform (Luke 19:37). “Hosanna” is the Greek
form of the Hebrew entreaty hosa na, meaning “Save (us), we beseech you”
(see Psalm 118:25-26; 2 Samuel 14:4). Originally a cry for help, over time
it became an invocation of blessing and even an acclamation of praise.
In the Sanctus of the eucharistic liturgy, the church has taken up the
crowd’s cry: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna
in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). So we proclaim the kingship of Christ
each time the memorial of Christ’s Passover is celebrated.
accepted the crowd’s acclaim — but he still rejected the kind of kingship
they envisioned. Fired with nationalism, many Jews looked for a warrior-king
who would deliver them from Roman domination. But Jesus did not come on
a warhorse to establish an independent Jewish state. He came on a mission
of peace, astride a young ass. The crowds understood his kingship no better
than the disciples did (John 12:16).
made it clear that he did not come as a political king or liberator, he
still claimed the honor and praise that belonged to him. He refused to
quiet his followers when the Pharisees were scandalized by their messianic
acclamations. “If these were silent,” Jesus told the infuriated Pharisees,
“the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:39-40). “So obvious is his messiahship
that if men refused to recognize it, nature would proclaim it. In fact,
when his friends were cowed on the hill of Calvary the earth trembled and
the rocks split [Matthew 27:51]” The Navarre Bible: The Gospel of Saint
scholars believe that Psalm 118 depicts a celebration in the temple of
a king’s victory. The crowds welcomed Jesus with a festal procession, palms
branches, and the cry, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who come in the name of
the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13; see also Psalm 118:25-27).
So they may have expected that he would enter the temple with the words,
“Open to me the gates of righteous” (Psalm 118:19) and declare his kingship
at the altar.
chronology, Jesus did proceed immediately to the temple when he had entered
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. But there he behaved quite unexpectedly,
driving out all who bought and sold sacrificial animals and overturning
the tables of the money-changers (Matthew 21:12).
and exchanging foreign currency were necessary services provided for Passover
pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and pay the annual temple
tax. In fact, there were already four marketplaces selling sacrificial
animals that were approved by the Sanhedrin, which were conveniently located
in the area near the Mount of Olives. But under the high priest Caiaphas,
the court of the Gentiles, the outermost precinct of the temple, had also
been turned into a trading place—an abuse that hindered Gentile worshippers
from praying there.
the traders, Jesus was defending God’s intention that all people could
worship at the temple, Gentiles as well as Jews. For God had said,
foreigners who join themselves
It is likely that,
in addition to wanting to preserve the temple as a place of prayer, Jesus
was disturbed by the corruption and excessive desire for gain that had
come to surround the commercial activities carried out in the temple precinct.
Pilgrims were exploited by money-changers, who charged an inflated rate
of exchange and by merchants who sold animals for exorbitant prices. Such
practices, Jesus declared quoting Jeremiah 7:11, made the temple “into
a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13). Perhaps he also intended his actions
to be a reminder to the dealers that “You cannot serve God and mammon”
to him, to love the
of the LORD,
to be his servants, . . .
these I will
bring to my holy
make them joyful in my
of prayer . . .
for my house
shall be called a house
all peoples. (Isaiah 56:6-7)
of the merchants from the temple is a fulfillment of the prophet Zechariah’s
vision of the messianic age: “There shall no longer be a trader in the
house of the LORD of hosts on that day” (Zechariah 14:21). It also provided
a hint that the sacrificial system, which was at the heart of Judaism,
was about to become obsolete. An eternal sacrifice—Jesus’ death and resurrection—would
supersede the burnt sacrifices that had been offered constantly in the
temple for so long. In fact, when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by
the Romans in A.D. 70, the practice of sacrificing animals ended.
had expelled the merchants and moneychangers, “the blind and lame came
to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14). This description
of the messianic works Jesus performed is a familiar refrain heard throughout
gospels: “[A]ll those who had any that were sick with various diseases
brought them to him; and he laid hands on every one of them and healed
them” (Luke 4:40). In it we also hear echoes of Isaiah 35:4-6, that “the
eyes of the blind shall be opened, and . . . then shall the lame man leap
like a hart,” and Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist’s disciples, “Go and
tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the
lame walk. . . . And blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Matthew
But some did
take offense at Jesus: The chief priests and scribes were indignant when
they saw the wonders Jesus did and heard the praise the children gave him
(Matthew 21:15). Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 to them in reply: “Out of the mouth
of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise.” With this reference
to infants glorifying the Lord, Jesus was giving another hint—this time
of his divinity.
Those who controlled
the temple commerce and profited from it—among them perhaps Caiaphas, his
father-in-law, Annas, and their families—were angered by the disruption
of business when Jesus cleansed the temple. Moreover, they feared Jesus,
because the people listened attentively to him. After Jesus cleared out
the temple, they sought a way to put him to death (Mark 11:17-18; Luke
19:45-47). Plans unfolded quickly:
the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of
the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in
order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. . . . Then one of the twelve,
who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What
will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces
of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
(Matthew 26:3-4, 14-16)
Jeanne Kun is President
Association and a senior woman leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Promises Fulfilled, The Word Among Us Press, Copyright
© 2006. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
for the King?
with hope and expectation)
upon the fresh spring air
welcome the king who
Jerusalem’s walls that day
soon his bleeding feet
trip over the same rough paving stones
had echoed his praises,
hammer blows will rend the stagnant air
with dust and the smell of sweat &
cries of mockery
greet Israel’s king
he’s hung high upon a cross
the city walls,
this strange Messiah.
when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of
Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village
opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with
her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If any one says anything to you,
you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.”
4This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble,
and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.”
went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the ass and the
colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. 8Most of the
crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the
trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him
and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is
he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10And when
he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”
11And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in
the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the
seats of those who sold pigeons. 13He said to them, “It is written, ‘My
house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.”
the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15But
when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he
did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of
David!” they were indignant; 16and they said to him, “Do you hear what
these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect
leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
also Mark 11:1-11, 15-19; Luke 19:29-40, 45-48; John 2:13-22
1. How do Jesus’
preparations and entrance into Jerusalem add to your understanding of his
messianic role? Why do you think it was important for him to make such
2. What adjectives
would you use to characterize the attitude and mood of the crowd as Jesus
entered Jerusalem? What might this indicate about the crowd’s expectations
3. What clues
does Matthew give about how Jesus responded to the crowds’ acclamation?
How do you think Jesus’ disciples might have felt as they watched their
4. What statement
about himself and his mission was Jesus making by the cleansing of the
temple? What does the presence of the blind and lame and children in the
5. Why, in
your opinion, were the chief priests and scribes so indignant toward Jesus
(Matthew 21:15-16)? Is their reaction surprising to you? Why or why not?
6. Why did
Jesus compare himself and his own body to the temple (Matthew 26:61; 27:40;
Mark 14:58; John 2:20-22)? How has Jesus’ sacrificial death replaced the
temple sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:11-14)?
Living the Word
1. The Pharisees
were hard-hearted in their view of Jesus, refusing to consider that he
might truly be the Messiah. Recall a time when your hard-heartedness caused
you to miss God’s presence and action in your life. When did you recognize
the need to repent?
2. What is
your reaction to public expressions of devotion to the Lord? How free and
open are you in expressing your love for Jesus and your commitment to him
in front of others?
3. Is the description
of Jesus’ actions in the temple surprising to you? Disturbing? Why or why
not? Has this scene altered your conception or expectations of Jesus in
any way? If so, how?
4. Zeal for
his Father’s house consumed Jesus when he cleansed the temple (John 2:17;
see also Psalm 69:9). To what do you zealously devote your energy, time,
attention, and resources?
5. Why do you
think Jesus wanted God’s “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13; see also Isaiah
56:7) to be a place where people showed respect and reverence? What are
some ways you can encourage respect and reverence in your church or worship
6. “Your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,” wrote St. Paul (1 Corinthians
6:19). How have you experienced Jesus “cleansing” you to make you a more
fitting temple for his Spirit to dwell in?