March 28 – The Gospel of Matthew – Chapter 21

Read Matthew 21:1-46

As we approach the Easter season, we will find ourselves contemplating the many events leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection at the hands of the Roman state and Jewish religious leaders.  Matthew 21 begins with Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem. “Triumphal” is in quotes because it was absolutely triumphal in eternal ways, particularly when looking back on it from the perspective of 2021.  In many other ways though, it could have easily been viewed as anything BUT triumphal, and examining some of these small details in Matthew 21 reveals an eternal truth: God despises the proud and exalts the humble.

The beginning of the chapter fulfills a prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 –  foretelling the coming of a king “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus riding on a donkey was also a key demonstration of His coming in peace. A donkey (which was usually used for agricultural purposes) likely connected with poor people and signified a servant King, one coming to give hope, and to save and serve the oppressed, poor and sick.  Jewish people of the day would have expected their king to arrive with much fanfare and circumstance, in a more regal fashion. Jesus turned that idea on its head.  Instead, people celebrate His arrival with simple palm branches, shouting “Hosanna!”, meaning “save, rescue, savior”.  ‘Hosanna’ was used as an exclamation of praise, agreement, or adoration to God. God exalts the humble.

Other stories show us the same thing – Jesus turning tables over, clearly rebuking those seeking to profit from the temple’s important role in Jewish society. It begs the question, ‘If God despised that practice so much, why would the Jewish religious leaders allow it in the first place?’ God despises the proud.

We see Jewish leaders challenging Jesus’ sovereignty, but Jesus defies the religious leaders’ demands and self-proclaimed “authority”. He refuses to answer their question, then tells them two parables.  The first was designed to show them that, in spite of their ‘expertise’, they had failed to see John the Baptist as sent from God.  He tells them “the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you”.

Ouch.

The second parable results in Jesus telling them that “The stone that the builders rejected” (Jesus) will be the stone that crushes anyone on whom it falls. Matthew tells us that the leaders knew that Jesus was talking about them. God despises the proud.

What does this mean for us?  Let us embrace the heart of a servant leader, one who comes in peace.  Pray for God to reveal areas in your life where you are proud.  Is your pride causing you to miss the work Jesus is doing around you?  Will you join Him?  Let’s BE the church that follows Jesus’ example of SERVING the broken and sick, and to lead those around us with LOVE.

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Craig French

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