What could be left to talk about or think about in the story of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem? A few days before Passover. On the back of a donkey – and “a colt, the foal of a donkey.” With a “very great crowd” all around, chanting “Hosanna” and waving leafy branches from stately trees. And throwing their cloaks on the ground for him to walk on. What haven’t we seen in that already? What do we still need to see?
That’s always one of the main questions with these scripture texts we study, and especially with the ones that are extremely familiar, as this one is. So that will no doubt be one of the things we’ll want to get into as we are studying Matthew 21:1-11 this Sunday, April 3 – the fifth Sunday in Lent, and the Sunday before Palm / Passion Sunday. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a couple more questions we might want to think about or discuss in class:
It’s probably a good idea to give some thought to what we already know about this text, and from where. What experiences have we had with it? [For instance, did we have to memorize it as children, or were we in the annual church pageant? Or did it show up in books we read, besides the Bible, and did they have illustrations, and do those illustrations shape how we see the scene? Or do we remember a sermon on it that has stuck in our heads since? Or …] How have those experiences shaped the way we read the text today? What have they helped us understand about the text? What have they kept us from understanding, do we think?
If this event were happening today, how would it probably appear to us? Who would be taking part? Who would be on the sidelines? How would it be covered in the media, or social media? What opinions would people have about it – or, would we ourselves have about it? Why do we think all that? What does this show us about the way we think about the story – or, about our own world?
[Maybe more personal] Are there different ways to imagine this event, as translated into today’s world? Can we ourselves imagine it differently? Why or why not? Does this show us anything about ourselves? What?
Have we ever thought about how this event is connected to the rest of the events of Holy Week – to Good Friday, for instance, or to Easter? What is our understanding of that connection / those connections?
Our lessons this quarter are all centered on “freedom” and “redemption.” In light of that, what would we say this story – or, we might think of it as, this part of the story – have to do with freedom? Are there different ideas or meanings of “freedom” “in” the story? What are those?
[A little more personal] What do we ourselves mean by “freedom”? Do we see that meaning in this story? Or, does the story push us to think of freedom differently than we usually do? How? How do we feel about that?
[Maybe a lot more personal] Would we say Jesus was free in this story? Why? What about any of the other characters? Why?
Image: “A Family Around a Table,” Julius Paulsen (1919), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
2 responses to “Reflecting on Matthew 21 1-11”
I love the Ignatian Spirituality working through your reflection. “Imaginative Prayer” and a contemplative Lectio Divina approach. Awesome! Thanks for encouraging such a deep look into scripture, making it a personal journey. (I know this is not a new approach for you, but I just wanted to say thank you)
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Thanks, Tim – I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but, now that you mention it, I definitely see it!
And speaking of that … in case you haven’t read this book … you might really enjoy it: James Martin S.J. Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone (HarperCollins, 2021) – which, as you might imagine, has a pretty detailed treatment of that Ignatian approach, but also a lot of other good things.
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