[Monday’s Passion Week Reading: Matthew 21:12-19]
This, on Sunday: “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Jesus and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’” (Matthew 21:8-9)
This, on Monday: “And the blind and the lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. And…the children [were] crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’” (Matthew 21:14-15)
It’s a detail I’ve only this year caught, despite all my years of reading the Passion Week accounts: What the crowds shouted on Palm Sunday, they shouted again on Monday. And while I suspect the cries on Monday were a little more muted in strict auditory terms, the statement being made by the crowd is no less loud than the one made the day before. In some ways, it’s louder. Because while it’s one thing for the people to yell “Hosanna to the Son of David!” in the street, it’s quite another to do so in the temple, which is exactly what they did that Monday long ago.
Context, as always, is a wonderful thing: “Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.” As the merchants ran, Jesus nipped at their heels with another word: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’” And having cleared the temple, there was room for it to become just that. In came “the blind and the lame” – those who couldn’t afford even a pigeon to offer God in return for mercy. They had only their pleas, their prayers. They had only themselves.
And “he healed them.”
And soon “they were crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’”
Because while on Sunday they had been giddy to stumble upon a king who they supposed – like David – was about to bring home victories along the lines of giants toppled and tens of thousands slain, they were coming undone in joy over the idea of a king who was willing to confirm the truth handed them years prior in King David’s breathless poetry: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”