Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Matthew Chapter 21

GAME ON!  This chapter begins with Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (vv. 1-11)- an event that we celebrate on Palm Sunday that then begins Holy Week. And this entry puts into motion the immediate events that will lead up to Jesus’s Passion and Death.  The Messiah has been welcomed into Jerusalem- they cry out “Hosanna in the highest.”  Word study: Hosanna is a Hebrew word, an acclamation that means, “Save us!”  At this point, those gathered there greet Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

Jesus is all business. He cleanses the temple (vv. 12-17), has this symbolic episode with the fig tree (vv. 18-22); engages the temple authority and silences their pride (vv. 23-27); tells two parables in response to the chief priests and other temple authorities (vv. 28-41); and then finally closes with a… what would you call it… warning maybe; prophecy maybe (vv. 42-26). Whatever you call it, it was enough to set the chief priests and Pharisees in motion to begin planning the arrest and execution of Jesus.

Let’s back track and look at some symbolism. Jesus has entered the temple and is about to turn the whole thing upside down. He is about to fulfill the Old Covenant and usher in the New Covenant. That New Covenant will be one that transcends the Old and everything associated with it: the temple, the temple authorities, the corruption, etc. So, he turns the table of the money-changers (vv.12-13). Then he curses the fig tree. The image of the fig tree comes from the Prophets Jeremiah (8:13) and Hosea (9:10). Both use the image to signify the Old Covenant that God made with the Israelites. Remember, Jesus is about to fulfill and transcend the Old. When he curses the fig tree (vv. 18-22), he is sending a message the Old is on the way out. And something New is beginning. Finally we have the image of the cornerstone (vv. 42-46).  Remember that the center of Jewish life was the Temple and the key of any building is the cornerstone. Jesus is about to transcend the Temple and He is about to become the New Temple, He is the New Cornerstone. Yet he will be rejected by his own people; but others will embrace him; and upon Him they will build a new Church- the Catholic Church.

Point for Prayer
“Lord of the Holy City, you took possession of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Then you cleansed the temple and so aroused the anger and hostility which led to your death. I have seen your gentleness, meekness and humility. Here I see your power and bravery. May I learn from your example how to blend these differing values. May I have the grace to make it so.” Amen. (from The Kingdom and the Glory, by Father Alfred McBride, 126)