Lectionary Year A
March 24, 2002
Matthew 21:1-11

Step IV: Context


A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) Since the Gospels spend so much time, energy, space and ink on these stories of Jesus' last week on earth, it is evident that they command much attention of the early church. The New Testament's fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies must have been a big part of what the early believers remembered and esteemed lots, too. Jesus' portraying what kind of a Messiah He wanted to be must have occupied a major role in the early Christians' recollections, as well. The Mark, Luke and John versions of this story are similar, except they lack verse 5's citing Isaiah and Zechariah, which John 12:15 does allude to, and John says Jesus found His own donkey to ride, and verse 11's answer to the question of Jesus' identity. Mark 6:15 reports the people wondering about Jesus' identity and offering the various explanations that He was John the Baptist resurrected or Elijah.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) The Old Testament passages cited in this pericope seem to attempt to anchor Jesus' activities in the Old Covenant of God's promise of a Messiah. Here, Jesus' actions get explained via Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9, Psalm 118:26 and 148:1. The spreading of coats on the ground is also reported in II Kings 9:13, Jehu's investiture as King.

(DH)Is 62:11 "Say to the Daughter Zion, 'See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, his recompense before him.' They shall be called 'The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD.'"

Zech 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king is comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.

2 Kings 9:13 Then hurriedly they all took their cloaks and spread them for him on the bare steps; and they blew the trumpet, and proclaimed, "Jehu is king."

Ps 118:25 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) These Greek originating philosophical thinkers would surely find this story confusing. Imagine their chagrin when hearing of Jesus' choosing to approach Jerusalem, of all places (!), via such demeaning mode(s) of transportation. Their vexation might have perplexed them no end. However, Jesus' ability to come by His preferred mode of travel might at least have intrigued them. Then, too, the Old Testament passages cited could have given them cause for taking a second thought of this epic. Of course, the Son of David designation might have come back around to speaking their language for a change in this pericope. The question and answer in the final two verses of this text must have provoked them to some discussing of these elements, surely. The crowds' praising Jesus could have interested them some, at least.

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