The city quakes


Matthew 21

File:Christ entering Jerusalem icon.jpg

Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. 14th Century icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery of Mount Sinai.

10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The city was shaken. The word translated here as turmoil is used again by Matthew when Jesus dies, the temple curtain is rent and the earth shakes. He also uses it when the angel descends to open the tomb, the earth quakes, and the guards shake with fear. It shows up in Hebrews with reference to the shaking of heaven and earth (quoting Haggai 2:6), and in Revelation describing the falling stars as when the fruit drops when the tree is shaken by a gale. We hear the word also in Isaiah for the shaking of the foundations of the earth on the day of wrath and in Psalm 68 for the quaking of Sinai when God descended upon it. This translation ‘turmoil’ doesn’t seem quite the right word. The city quakes. This is not just the buzz of rumor and curiosity; this is fear that a new king has come.

The city is shaken. The pilgrim crowds coming in from the countryside are exultant. The demonstration with the donkey and the cries of the crowds reflect ancient rituals of the king riding up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city of kings and priests, the city of wealth and power, is shaken just as it quaked in fear when the magi came and asked for the newborn king. Now the child they tried to murder is grown and arrives to claim his inheritance as the Son of David and Son of God.

The city is shaken. This city that slays the prophets. This city that resists God’s reign. This city that thrives on wealth and power, not justice and mercy. This is a city in partnership with Rome, not the city of God set on a hill, the righteous communion.

The city is shaken. “Who is this?” they ask with trepidation. “The prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,” the pilgrims joyfully answer. God is coming to reclaim his city. God is coming to deliver the nation. God is coming to set right the world!

But the city doesn’t want change.

Jesus is trouble. He is always trouble. Trouble for the green zone but mercy for those outside the walls. Trouble for pharaohs but redemption for slaves. Trouble for ‘the seeing’ but light for the blind. Trouble for the victors but hope for the vanquished. Trouble for the “righteous” and grace for sinners. Trouble for the temple system but power for the community of believers.

The city is shaken. They have reason to shake. The world is being reborn.

“This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee”!

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”


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