April 10, 2011 - “The Parables of Holy Week”  -- led by John Weicher


Matthew: Ch. 20-22


Having finished Justin Martyr’s First Apology three weeks before Easter, the class turned to the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and what happened immediately afterwards.  Matthew’s is the gospel that cites all sorts of prophecies from the Hebrew Bible, but doesn’t quite make sense of some of them – most notably, what Jesus rode as he entered Jerusalem.  Matthew has him riding on both a donkey and the foal of a donkey, somehow, not recognizing that Zechariah is following the common Hebrew Bible practice of “Parallelism,” saying the same thing twice, in different words. 

Neither Mark nor Luke have any problem with this; they say he rides on a colt, period.  Neither does John, quoting Zechariah simply as referring to a donkey’s colt.  (For that matter, neither does Justin Martyr, fond as he is of quoting Matthew.)  John, however, is the only writer to mention “palm leaves.”


Peter has called our attention to the oddity of Jesus knowing where to send the disciples to find the donkey, and the apparent password that “The Master has need of him.”  In The Man Who Would be King, Dorothy Sayers imagines a plausible story to explain this.  The leader of the Zealots (Baruch, not a historical person, but imagined by Sayers) sends Jesus a message, asking whether he comes in peace or in war – if in war, the Zealots will rise up and follow him; if in peace they will wait for another Messiah.  Jesus is to respond by sending disciples to a particular house, where there will be both a horse and a donkey, saddled and ready to ride.   If he comes in war, he should ride the horse; if in peace, he should ride the donkey.  And thus Zechariah ‘s prophecy is fulfilled in the ordinary course of events.


Once he arrived, Jesus was very busy: first cleansing the temple, and then having 10 verbal encounters with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the priests, a lawyer – one after another.  As Dottie said, “they are at him and at him.”  All of his responses are pointed criticisms of his questioners.   One can imagine the increasing frustration and fear of the scribes and the Pharisees.


Eight of the 10 passages in Chapters 21 and 22 also appear in Mark, the exceptions being the Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32) and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), and they are in the same order.  Six are in Luke, also in the same order; he omits the cursing of the fig tree and the greatest commandment, as well as the two omitted by Mark.