Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Matthew 21:1-22 - Coming to Jerusalem

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Jesus enters Jerusalem and spends the night in nearby Bethany, returning to the city in the morning. He probably stays at the house of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. But his arrival in the city is different this time; there are huge crowds and a lot of noise and celebration. The city is excited.

Matthew 21:1-22 describes the scene and some interesting events, the donkey and her foal, the cloaks and branches placed on the road by the crowd, the chanting and shouting, the upheaval in the temple courts, the healings, the conversation with the chief priests and teachers and the fig tree incident.

Things are clearly coming to a head now. In the past Jesus has slipped away and avoided the limelight. This time he makes no effort to moderate it or calm things down. This is not "gentle Jesus, meek and mild".

We follow a king, indeed he is the King of kings. His authority and power is all over this passage. He has the authority to use the donkey. Is he making use of what is not his? Or is he demonstrating that everything in the universe is his to command and employ? The crowd understands his kingly status, calling him the Son of David (the greatest king in Israel's history, the father of wise Solomon).

He takes authority over the activities in the temple courts. It is not a place for trading and profiteering. As so often before, he takes authority over blindness and lameness; where Jesus is, all will see clearly and walk freely. He speaks authoritatively to the religious leaders too, wasting no time in lengthy conversation but walking away.

He even demonstrates authority over a fruitless tree. It's no coincidence that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel. The nation has not borne the fruit that was expected of it and now it will wither. Forty years later the temple will be destroyed by the Roman army after a terrible siege of Jerusalem, and all Jews will be made to leave the city. It will be redeveloped as a Roman town and Jews will not be allowed to enter.

Jesus tells his astonished disciples that believing prayer will bring about anything they ask, not only the tearing down of a nation but even the tearing down of a mountain.

How should we respond to such an awesome king? He has authority over everything. Through him and in him, so do we. Our one goal, therefore, should be to keep Jesus at the centre of all we do and say and think and are. "Without me", he said, "You can do nothing".

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