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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Passion Sunday - Liturgy of the Palms - April 9, 2017



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Matthew 21:1-11

The parallels are Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-18. [ NOAB]

Matthew follows Mark but he changes the emphasis significantly by adding the fulfilment citation in vv. 4-5. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: The approach to Jerusalem seems to be up through the wilderness of Judea by way of Bethphage, a village on the slope of the Mount of Olives, probably near Bethany. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “Jerusalem”: The capital of Judea, and the religious centre of the people, because the Temple was there. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “Bethphage”: The specific location cannot be identified. [ JANT]

Verse 1: “Mount of Olives”: It is linked to messianic and eschatological fulfilment in Ezekiel 11:23 (“ the glory of the Lord ascended from the middle of the city, and stopped on the mountain east of the city”) and Zechariah 14:1-4 (“See, a day is coming for the Lord, ... On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward.”). [ JANT] Because it had no water supply of its own, there were only a few villages on its slope. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “colt”: While this word normally refers to a young horse, it can refer to the offspring of any member of the horse family.

Verse 3: “The Lord”: NJBC says that this stresses Jesus’ foreknowledge and lordship. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: Mark tells us that the animal will be returned; Matthew does not. [ NJBC]

Verses 4-5: The quotation is a combination of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9 [ NOAB].

Verse 8: “spread their cloaks on the road ... cut branches from the trees”: Palms were normally connected with the fall Feast of Tabernacles. The cloaks mentioned here were therefore for a different purpose: to associate Jesus with the kingship of Israel: when Jehu was proclaimed king, “they all took their cloaks and spread them for him on the bare steps” (2 Kings 9:13). See also Leviticus 23:39-40 and 2 Maccabees 10:5-8 (Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah). [ JANT]

Verse 9: “Hosanna”: The Hebrew means “save now” (as in Psalm 118:26). A form of this term is earlier used in connection with King David ( a widow appeals to him in 2 Samuel 14:4 saying “"Help, O king!”), making it clear that Jesus is the Davidic king. [ JANT]

Verse 9: “Son of David”: Jesus is also referred to by this title in 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30. [ JANT] It repeats the thought of “your king” (v. 5). [ BlkMt]

Verse 9: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”: From the halel (praise) psalms (Psalms 115- 118), recited during Passsover according to rabbinic tradition. [ JANT]

Vers 10: “the whole city was in turmoil”: It is strange, given the earthquake-like level of turmoil, that v. 11 is not messianic. [ JBC]

Verse 11: The crowds do not address him as messiah. [ JANT]

Verse 11: “the prophet”: Jesus accepted this title: see Luke 4:24. One Jewish expectation was that a prophet like Moses would be sent by God: see Deuteronomy 18:15,18. John the Baptizer denied that he was this prophet: see John 1:21 [ BlkMt]

Verse 11: “from Nazareth in Galilee”: Matthew favours Galilee over Jerusalem. [ JANT]

Psalm 118:1-2,19-29

In Jewish liturgical tradition, Psalms 113-118 were used in connection with the great festivals. At the Passover, Psalms 113-14 were sung before the meal, and Psalms 115-118 were sung after it. [ NOAB]

JBC sees this psalm as not involving a king.

Verse 1: See also 106:1; 107:1; 136:1. Note that v. 29 repeats this verse, forming an envelope round the psalm. [ NJBC]

Verses 2-4: “Let Israel say ... Let the house of Aaron say ... Let those who fear the Lord say ...”: These are probably actual directions to the various groups in the congregation. [ NOAB] The same sequence is found in 115:9-11. A similar sequence appears in 135:19-20. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “house of Aaron”: i.e. the priests. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “those who fear the Lord”: To CAB, Gentile converts.

Verse 6: This verse is quoted in Hebrews 13:6. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-14: While it is difficult to be sure whether the language in these verses is literal or figurative, it is tenable that the speaker is a king who has come to the Temple to offer thanks for a victory. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-13: The desperateness of the king’s situation. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “gates of righteousness”: This may have been the actual name of a gate of the Temple. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: A voice from within replies that only the qualified may enter the Temple. Psalms 15 and 24:3-6 state who may enter the Temple. [ NOAB]

Verses 21-22: The king answers that God has borne witness to his character by delivering him (see also 18:20-24) when others have given him up. [ NOAB]

Verses 22-29: To CAB, these verses tell of the people’s acclaim of the one who earlier had been rejected by the ruling monarch. This was David’s experience at the hand of Saul: see 1 Samuel 19:31. He is now installed as God’s chosen ruler over his people.

Verses 23-24: These verses are frequently quoted in the New Testament, e.g. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:7-8. They were very important for the early Church in their attempt to understand the rejection and execution of Jesus by his people. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 23-25: The choir joyously acknowledges what God has done. [ NOAB]

Verse 24: “made”: NJBC offers acted. He points out that the Hebrew word is the same one as is translated as “does” in vv. 15-16. The reference is to some act of Yahweh to save his people or to punish the wicked. See also 119:126.

Verse 25: “Save us”: The Hebrew word is Hoshianna (Hosanna). [ NOAB]

Verses 26-27: The suppliant is admitted with a choral blessing. [ NOAB]

Verse 26: To NJBC, these words were probably spoken by the priests, welcoming the righteous into the Temple.

Verse 26: “in the name of the Lord”: This recalls the battle context of vv. 10-14. [ NJBC]

Verse 27a: There is an allusion here to the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22-27. [ NJBC]

Verse 27b: This may be a liturgical direction. [ NOAB] To CAB, the branches touching the altar symbolise the worshippers sharing in the power and blessing of God, who is enthroned there. To NJBC, the mention of “procession” and “branches” brings to mind the Feast of Tabernacles, in which olive branches were used.

Verse 28: The king makes his act of thanksgiving. [ NOAB] This verse paraphrases Exodus 15:2b. [ NJBC]

Verse 29: The choir begins a hymn of praise. Psalm 136:26 is similar. [ NOAB]

© 1996-2016 Chris Haslam



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