We’re back this week and the Liturgy of the Word opens with a reading from the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah tells us that our King will come to us “humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Of course, this is the prophecy that was fulfilled when Jesus took a donkey and rode it triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The response from this Sunday’s Psalm confirms that our King would be God.
The last few lines of this reading clue us into the meaning of Jesus’ mission and the rest of our Readings for this Sunday. “He will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem; the bow of war will be banished.” How will this come? By a domination of present worldly powers? By the strength of his arm that will deliver us from earthly oppression? No. It’s much better than that:
“He will proclaim peace for the nations. His empire shall stretch from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.”
This is exactly what St Paul tells us in our Epistle Reading from his letter to the Romans: “Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you.” What does this mean; that we should completely neglect worldly affairs? No, but it does mean that they should all be subordinated to our spiritual affairs. This is one of the central themes of Christianity. “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26).
A few verses earlier in the same passage from St Matthew, St Peter tries to stop Jesus from intending to give His life. Jesus gives St Peter one of the strongest rebukes in the New Testament, and arguably the whole Bible: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men,” (Matthew 16:23). This is exactly what ‘man’ wants: to cling to his earthly existence that he can see, touch, and enjoy, even though it will one day end, instead of pressing on in faith for an existence and state of being that we will see more clearly, touch more really, and enjoy without limits… forever; without end! This is why Jesus adds, in the same passage still, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Matthew 16:24-25).
This is one of those mysteries of the Kingdom that Jesus talks about in the Gospel this Sunday: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.” When Jesus speaks of the “learned” He is primarily talking about the Sadducees, the scribes, and the Pharisees. They were the ones who were most commonly “learned” in Jesus’ time. They were learned, but very proud because of it. Their learning and high status in society made them more wealthy and prestigious, which made for a wealthy and comfortable life, which Jesus’ doctrine sought to destroy by necessity. This pride blinded them to see Jesus’ salvation as any kind of salvation at all. Instead, they saw it as threat and sought to kill Him and they did.
This Sunday, when we stand at the foot of the Cross of Christ, sacramentally through His Body and Blood, let us thank Him by receiving Him with humble and gracious hearts; for this is what He desires: To come into you and make His home there in your heart.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me,” (Revelation 3:20).