Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 21:1-13
March 23-29, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
“Go into the village ahead of you and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her, untie them and bring them to me” (Matthew 21:3).
Ten year-old Nathan slid the patio door of his Phoenix home open and stepped onto the patio. It was a sunny seventy degree day. The sparkling waters of the pool beckoned but Nathan knew it was a frigid fifty degrees. He decided to walk to the pool anyway and there he discovered his three year-old cousin floating face down. Nathan yelled for his mother, jumped into the pool and pulled his cousin out. He immediately began CPR, which he had learned in his Cub Scout troop. By the time the fire truck arrived the cousin was conscious. Nathan was called a hero by his family and the press. Two months later he received a plaque from the fire department officially declaring him a hero.
Jesus has many titles attached to his name e.g., Lord, Son of Man, Savior. One title that isn’t usually given to Jesus is “hero.” Rarely do people plan on being a hero. It happens on the spur of the moment when they are at a specific time and place to accomplish a heroic act. By that definition Jesus isn’t a hero. The cross was an intentional demonstration of the depth of his love and a picture of what the cost of being his disciple might be.
Whatever happens today remember the cross. We are people who are loved deeply and completely. Nothing is able to separate us from that love.
Loving Lord, we don’t want to become heroes, but we do ask that you will enable us to be intentional in our words and actions of love for others. Amen.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
“This took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the prophets” (Matthew 21:4).
We may argue about how involved God is in our daily lives. Some Christians believe that God answers prayers to provide a parking space near the front door of the supermarket. Others argue that God leads us and is with us but doesn’t get involved in too many of the day to day events of our lives. There are Christians who believe that everything is predestined and we are like puppets on a string, while others assert that free will reigns.
One thing we do know is that God has a plan. Matthew underscores this truth by linking Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with the Old Testament prophets. We are part of God’s plan. As Luther wrote in his explanation to the Third Article in his Small Catechism, the Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified us. The Lord has brought us into God’s family and filled us with the Holy Spirit so that we may be empowered to share God’s love and grace with others.
We don’t know the details of God’s plan, but we don’t have to know. The only knowledge we need is to know that we are part of that plan and that the Holy Spirit is using us every day to bring God’s plan to fruition.
Powerful Lord, we are your children and servants. Use us to accomplish your purposes and to bring in your kingdom. Amen.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
“The disciples went and did as Jesus directed them” (Matthew 21:6).
The disciples did not know what was happening as preparations were made for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The times were both exciting and troubling as the forces lined up against each other. Oh, they had their suspicions and their hopes. But, they also had their doubts. They were troubled by Jesus’ predictions of his death.
We live in uncertain and troubling times, too. ISIS poses an increasing threat to the world. Racism has reared its ugly head and demands to be addressed. Identity theft is on the rise, and our elected leaders appear to be unable to compromise and lead. We are not sure where it will all end.
In the troubling times of Holy Week the disciples did what they could—they obeyed Jesus. When he directed a couple of his disciples to fetch a donkey and her colt, that is exactly what they did. This is not a bad plan of action for us, also. Instead of fixating on the turmoil around us, we can seek to discern the Spirits guidance of follow wherever the Spirit leads. Faithful obedience is the mark of people who identify themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Guide us ever great Redeemer, Pilgrims through this barren land. We are weak but you are mighty; help us with your powerful hand.” Amen.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
“They brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them” (Matthew 21:7).
Several Biblical scholars maintain that Jesus was entering Jerusalem from the East at the same time that Pontius Pilate was entering from the West. Soldiers of the Roman army marched before and behind Pilate. A rag-tag-band of disciples and well-wishers surrounded Jesus. Pilate sat atop a powerful war horse, while Jesus was seated on a donkey that was still nursing its colt. The contrasts between the Roman Empire and the kingdom of God could not be starker.
We live in a society that worships power and prestige. Force is what makes things happen and gets things done. In the face of power and prestige, love and grace seems inadequate. Yet, when God’s people choose the path of love and grace over power and prestige, great things happen. The world becomes changed for the good.
Each day we chose to live by either power and prestige or love and grace. Sometimes the decisions are not easy to make. Yet, choosing the way of Jesus enables us to be used by the Spirit to continue the world’s transformation.
Almighty God, you find power in love and grace. Enable us to use that same power as we strive to live for you, love you and serve you as we serve others. Amen.
Friday, March 28, 2015
“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road” (Matthew 21:8).
The crowds were excited to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem. We have no way of knowing how many there were, but it appears to have been a good sized crowd. It was probably large enough to have caught the attention of the religious and political authorities. The crowd made it evident that Jesus was attracting a following—and that was dangerous. With such a following Jesus posed the threat of an insurrection in the eyes of the Romans. The crowd possibly sealed Jesus fate more than his upsetting the tables in the temple.
The crowds most likely did not turn on Jesus and yell for him to be crucified. That was probably a paid group of rabble rousers that was gathered by the religious authorities. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book The Last Week, contend that the crowd continued to be favorable towards Jesus. Because of the crowd, the authorities needed to find a traitor who would lead them to Jesus when the crowd wasn’t around.
That raucous crowd who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with cloaks, palm branches and shouts of “Alleluia” were certainly quiet, however, on Friday. The gospel writers don’t record a crowd standing at the foot of the cross.
Aren’t we a lot like the crowd—and the disciples? We like the Jesus of answered prayers, inspiring worship and miraculous successes. When we see the cross ahead of us, though, we pause, ask ourselves if we heard Jesus correctly and sometimes turn back. Perseverance, tenacity, and a certain stubbornness are needed as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Precious Lord, we realize that discipleship is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. Give us the ability and the desire to go the distance with you and for you. Amen.
Saturday, March 29, 2015
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9)!
There are times when words of praise and thanks roll easily off our lips. Like the crowds who welcomed Jesus, life is good and hope is high; it appears that a new day is dawning. But then there are those other days.
Sometimes life doesn’t meet our expectations. We are disappointed and we are tired from the struggle. Pain, sorrow or grief may be our constant companions. It is difficult to lift our hands in praise or to utter words of thanks.
Yet, nothing has changed at the center. Jesus still entered Jerusalem as the King of kings and Lord of lords that he is. God’s kingdom has broken into our world and we have been gathered by the Spirit to be God’s people. The reasons for praise and thanksgiving are still present—and always will be. May the reality of what God has done, is doing and will do be the inspiration for our praise and thanks.
Loving Lord, thank you for the grace you pour into our lives and your love that overwhelms us. We never want to stop thanking and praising you. Amen.
Sunday, March 30, 2015
“When he entered Jerusalem the whole city was in turmoil” (Matthew 21:10).
Today we march into our church buildings waving palms and singing God’s praises; re-enacting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Today is a special day. Excitement is high. The same question that was on the minds of those Jerusalem pilgrims is on our minds, “What is Jesus going to do?”
We who have read the end of the book know what Jesus did that last week of his life on earth. We know that he confronted the forces arrayed against him with the power of love and peace. We know that Jesus chose to take the path of the cross.
We aren’t sure, though, what Jesus will do today or in the days ahead. How will the gospel of love and peace be demonstrated in the challenges that face the world and our nation? In what ways will we experience God’s presence and see the gospel at work in our lives? We may experience some personal turmoil as we wait expectantly. Still we enter this day confident that God will act, expecting to be surprised and excited at the possibilities.
God of surprises, move in our world and in our lives. Surprise us with your grace and love. Amen.