The last Sunday in March we began Unit 2, “What the Prophets Foretold.” Palm Sunday is the setting for the lesson texts from Matthew and Zechariah. Matthew often quotes the prophets to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of scripture, and several symbolic actions that day are derived from the Old Testament and have messianic undertones. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. We cannot be certain from Matthew if Jesus rode the female donkey or the colt, but Mark 11:7 and Luke 19:35 make it clear that He rode the colt which had never been ridden. Laying branches and cloaks in the path of the donkey was part of coronation processionals. Shouting “hosannas” to the “Son of David” come from the part of the Psalms which were sung or recited at all major Jewish festivals (118:25–26). The crowd that gathered certainly understood that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah. Matthew 21:10 has a word that loses a lot in translation; the Greek word is seio, from which we get our word “seismic.” It means “to shake.” The word is used five times in the New Testament, and three of those are in Matthew: 1) when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem the whole city was shaken, or put in turmoil; 2) the earth shook when Jesus died on the cross; 3) the guards at the tomb shook when they saw the angel. These were seismic events.
In lesson two, Isaiah 56:6 and Jesus in Mark 11 address a problem that had plagued Israel for a long time. The temple was intended to be a “place of prayer for all people,” but the temple compound was arranged in such a way as to restrict participation. Unbelievers were not allowed in; Gentile believers who had not converted to Judaism were restricted to the outer court; Jewish women could approach as far as the Court of Women; the men of Israel could assemble in the inner court; and only the High Priest was allowed to enter the temple itself. By Jesus’ day merchants had set up business where worshippers should gather. Sellers of livestock and money changers provided a legitimate service for pilgrims to obtain sacrificial animals and the proper coins for the temple offering, but their activities cluttered the worship areas. Isaiah and Jesus called for opening the holy space for all people and nations. We might ask ourselves about the barriers, visible and invisible, that we erect to protect our sacred place.
In lesson three, Jeremiah tells of a king that the LORD will raise from the house of David; and Zechariah describes a crown of gold and silver to be placed on the head of Joshua the priest, who as king would rebuild the temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians. Then the Gospel of John says that a crown of thorns and a purple robe were put on Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew), the King of the Jews.
The Bible text on Easter Sunday is from Hosea and Luke which speak of the third day. The women who went to the tomb were not expecting what they found. And where were the eleven?
Lesson five begins with the fourth Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah (Isaiah 52–53). It must have sounded like a strange prophecy in that day; but the Gospel writers, and we, clearly see Jesus. In Luke 24 Jesus enabled the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the other disciples later, to understand the scriptures as they relate to Jesus. The Gospels and Epistles had not yet been written, so the scriptures referred to are the Hebrew Bible: Law/Torah, Prophets, and Psalms/Writings (24:44). Those were the scriptures for Jesus, the first disciples, and the early church. According to what Jesus told them that day, each Old Testament division speaks of Him.