What I’m Thinking: Who is This?

Even in a moment we call the “triumphant entry,” Jesus chose his own way: one which marked his power with humility, and his royalty with compassion.

Here’s a transcript:

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and so the lectionary turns to the description of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem found in the 21st chapter of Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 21:1-11). I suspect you know this story.

Jesus told a couple of his disciples to find him a steed and actually specified the place that they were to look. They brought it to him — or in Matthew’s gospel there’s actually both a donkey and a colt — and Jesus proceeds to ride in through the city gates and up through the streets. A gathered crowd put their cloaks on the road in front of him, they waved branches in the air, and they shouted “Hosanna!” (or “Save us!”), “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Hail to the Child of David!”

Now at the close of Matthew’s account, there is a question that some of the visitors to Jerusalem, people who I guess had been unfamiliar with Jesus’ career up to that point. They said to those around them, “Who is this?” and the response was that this is Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee.

“Who is this?” is the fundamental question of Christianity. The four who wrote gospels were determined to use that means to explain who Jesus was. They had different ideas of how to go about it, but that was the goal: to explain to their readers, each of whom thought they had some notion of who Jesus was, but to get their readers to come deeper and more close to the full meaning, to the full identity, the full person and power of Jesus.

And therefore I think it’s worth looking at who Jesus described himself to be as he made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Matthew make sure to quote the passage from Zechariah about the king coming into the city, but humble upon a donkey, upon the foal of a donkey. Jesus could have selected a horse, because there are plenty of texts in the prophets, in the Psalms, in other places that would describe the entry of a monarch, of a ruler into the city with a far more triumphant steed. Perhaps he might even have come up with a chariot somewhere.

But that was not what Jesus chose. When the people asked, “Who is this?” Jesus was also trying to answer that question. Yes, said Jesus, I am the Anointed One, the special one, the one promised by God. But I am the Anointed One in a way that comes in humility, that comes in tenderness, that comes in compassion, that comes as an expression of the love of God and not as an expression of violence and war and tumult.

“Who is this?” Jesus sought to answer at least a part of that question, but you and I are still faced with it each day. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth, the one who comes humbly into the city which he plans to rule in love?

Who is this?

As we begin our Holy Week next week, let us continue to ask ourselves that question and draw nearer to the truth of who Jesus is.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , , | Posted on March 27, 2023

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