If Jesus walked into your life today, wouldn’t you be?
Countless Christian artists have painted Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem: examples range from a 10th-century ivory from the Ottoman Empire (in the Met) to Norman Adams’ very modern rendition of this story in the late 20th century… and likely beyond. Each evangelist also paints the story differently. For Matthew, whose version we hear this year, central to the narrative is the apparent paradox of royal humility: at his own behest, Jesus, King of the Jews, enters the city of Jerusalem riding a beast of burden. This is explicitly to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah, who foretold, Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Yet, in spite of Zechariah’s insistence on the humble nature of this king, the people expect great things from Jesus Christ: Hosanna to the Son of David, they cry, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! If Jesus is that just savior of whom Zechariah speaks, then, they reason, he must be powerful indeed; as Matthew notes, when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Yet, within a few days, the crowd will turn on Jesus, crying Let him be crucified! Little do they suspect that Christ’s true victory will come, not during the cries of Hosannas in the highest that point to the crowd’s own expectations of the Messiah, but rather, poignantly, in the triumph of the cross, that instrument of torture and humiliation that seems to belie any royal lineage, yet serves as the quintessential vehicle for God’s love for humankind.
If Jesus walked into our lives today, would we be shaken? One certainly hopes so… shaken, yes, yet, one also hopes, open enough not to impose our own expectations of salvation, open only -- only, only -- to the love that had its full expression on the cross at Calvary.
To view the Ottoman Empire ivory mentioned above, click here.
To view Norman Adams' modern version of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, click here.
To view a range of images across the centuries, click here.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: Wordle