Red Letter Year: 5/10

Matthew 21:1-17

When they came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, Jesus told two disciples, “Go into that village and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them and he will send them immediately.”

This happened to fulfill what was said by the prophet: “Tell to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look, your King is coming to you, humble, riding on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples did as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds went before him and followed him shouting, “God save the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! God save the whole world!”

10 As he entered Jerusalem, the entire city quaked, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds replied, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

12 Jesus entered the Temple and threw out all who bought and sold in the Temple. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are are making it into a hideout for thieves!”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the senior pastors and Bible teachers observed the miracles he did and heard the children in the Temple singing, “God save the Son of David,” they were furious 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes. Have you never read that, ‘out of mouths of toddlers and babies you have gotten the best praise of all?’” 17 Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.


A few things to note about this passage:

  • Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey, not a war horse. This was a deliberate move to show his entrance was humble, peaceful, the opposite of what a conquering hero would do.
  • Matthew accentuates this peaceful entry by leaving out phrases from Zech. 9.9 that talk about a “triumphant and victorious” appearance. Despite how we have come to label it, this was not a triumphal entry, it was a humble entry. He does accept the praise of the people as a king would, but he does so as a humble king.
  • Jesus continues in this mode even as he clears the Temple. We tend to think of the Temple clearing scene as Jesus kicking some butt, but if you read it carefully, he rearranges the furniture of his house, he does not lay a hand on anyone. He does exhibit authority – he calls the Temple “my house” but even here Jesus is acting as just the sort of serving leader the previous readings (especially the ones from this week) he has been teaching about.
  • Jesus sends away the sellers – those who are exploiting religion and the poor, as well as the buyers – those who either accept such mistreatment or are duped into it.
  • Once the Temple is cleared of its market crowd, a new group takes their place. The blind, lame, and children enter Temple. All of these were typically not allowed into the Temple. Jesus didn’t just kick people out of the Temple, he let others in. He healed those who needed it and enjoyed the praise of the children.

Red Letter Year: 5/9

Matthew 20:17-34

17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. 18 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. 19 Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked.

She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”

“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

29 As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. 30 Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 “Be quiet!” the crowd yelled at them.

But they only shouted louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

33 “Lord,” they said, “we want to see!” 34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.


Having just told a parable showing that the kingdom of God in unlike self-interested economic practices, Jesus reiterates that he is going to be arrested, executed, and resurrected. The last time Jesus brought this up, Peter rebuked him and earned a stern response from Jesus. This time no one counters him directly, but the mother of James and John tries to change the subject, asking  Jesus about what will happen after he drives out the Romans and takes over rule of Israel. Her sons are quick to assure Jesus they are ready for key leadership roles in his new political regime. This shows that they still did not understand what Jesus was about. His response tells us that the self-interest of all political rulers is an assumed fact for Jesus, he has not come to challenge them within the confines of their own systems. His challenge is broader and deeper and involves creating a community that serves as a prophetic witness against all constructions of power founded on self-interest. This means his kingdom must be built on a foundation of self-sacrifice, of service, of authority that takes joy in the flourishing of those it serves, not in its control of them. This passage reminds us that followers of Jesus (even ones closest to him) are as prone to grasp and flaunt power as others are and that such moves are self-defeating for those who want to do kingdom work.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.