Matthew 21-26: Lessons of Holy Week

When you follow the Church year, you can miss some things. 

After 25 years of being Catholic, I have gotten used to the Jesus story moving pretty much directly from Palm Sunday, when Jesus enters Jerusalem, to the Last Supper-Crucifixion-Resurrection Triduum. So what I was reminded of tonight was that Matthew puts some really significant stuff in between.

Palm Sunday starts in Matthew 21. Last Supper starts in Matthew 26. (Story ends at Matthew 28.) So what happens in between?

Well, for one thing, Jesus commutes from the suburbs. At least that’s what it sounds like, because he goes into Jerusalem and straight to the Temple, teaches, then leaves town for a nearby city, Bethany, from which he returns in subsequent days. Hopefully the traffic is better than the Howard Frankland.

He also unfurls some of the central parts of his message. Like the Great Commandment (love God with all you’ve got and your neighbor as yourself). Like Matthew 25, which I haven’t gotten to yet but know is the one time He really talks about final judgment. Stay tuned or read ahead.

But the main themes of the teaching of the five chapters, the week, are two-fold, I’ll posit:

1) Woe to the religious powers that be, because it’s the people that they have been keeping out that God is moving to the front of the line.

2) The crowds don’t know what to make of this guy. They marvel. They are amazed. Not at the miracles, but at what He says. We lose the marvel for having heard it all our lives, but in the context, it’s clear that He doesn’t at all fit the script.

Today, there’s a weird sort of race to the bottom going on among Christians. Not the truly humble kind, but the idea that if we claim to be oppressed by others, we must be the outsiders Jesus loves on. Don’t be fooled.

If your claim to being outcast is that secular society doesn’t do what you say…big whoop. Tell it to the martyrs and religious prisoners of faith that are very much a reality around the world today. That’s just part of the deal.

But if you’re being told you don’t qualify for God’s love and mercy, that you don’t fit or measure up…that’s who Jesus wrapped himself up with the whole time. And if you’re inclined to remind those people why they don’t fit in, you’re the ones he spent Holy Week calling out. Go check for yourself.

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