Matthew 21:1-11

To be honest, I have never liked this story. If I were Jesus, at this point, I would stand up on that donkey and say, “You know what, you hypocrites! You’re singing my praises now, but at the end of this week you are going to demand my crucifixion, so just BE QUIET! I don’t want your cheers or your praise. You are fickle and fake. Go away and leave me alone!” (harsh, I know, but seriously…) I wonder why he received their praise. I wonder why he didn’t scold them. How could he be so patient? Why would he want the praises of people who would later turn on him, kill him?

Throughout Matthew’s gospel, he takes great pains to connect Jesus with Israel’s history and her prophets. The passage from Zechariah 9 that Matthew uses here in this story, describes the judgment God will bring on Israel’s enemies, and how God will save God’s people, deliver them from their enemies… through a king who comes, “gentle and riding on a donkey.”

The people were expecting deliverance, cheering “Hosanna!” or “Save!” They were expecting the Romans to be sent packing. They were expecting Messiah to end their suffering and give them independence again, a kingdom like David’s and Solomon’s. Wealth, power, liberty, the good old days. But as I read the stories that Matthew includes before and after the Triumphal Entry, and Jesus was constantly defying people’s expectations—the last are first and the first are last in His Kingdom. Workers get the same pay whether they get up at the crack of dawn and work all day or if they work only one hour. Temple ministers are kicked out in favor of children and babies. Everything about Jesus and His Kingdom are upside down and backwards. It makes no sense.

I’m sure Jesus knew that, that he was very confusing to people. Perhaps that is why he could patiently receive the people’s praise as he rode into Jerusalem. He knew their hopes and dreams, even if they were misguided. In the story immediately before the Triumphal Entry, Jesus healed two blind men. With their sight restored, they joined the procession into the city—disciples and those who had been healed, people who had heard of Jesus but had never seen him before, some who had heard him teach, some who had helped him during his ministry, maybe even some who didn’t like him, who thought he was a fraud. It was a screaming crowd, ushering him into the great city to take his throne! But Jesus knew he was going to his death, a death that would truly save and deliver.

It makes me wonder: Have I been blind? Do I need new eyes to see the Truth here? When have I expected one thing from God and received another, only to be disappointed? When have I been blind to God’s work in my life? When have I praised God one moment, and then turned away the next?

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