Today’s reading launches with Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem, where the crowds celebrate “The prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” Jesus is not celebratory at the Temple, though, and launches a multi-day assault on the religious leaders’ practices, teaching, and management.
Question and response drives the plot in the first two chapters: the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and scribes, attempting to entangle Him in His words. By the end of chapter 22, “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” Jesus then turns on His harassers: warning the crowd of the hypocrisy, blindness, and arrogance of their religious leaders. Woe to them! For “whoever exalts himself will be humbled…”
As elsewhere in narratives, repetition can be a way for an author or speaker to convey meaning, and there are at least three repetitions to note today. I’ve already mentioned the “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites!” which constantly recurs in chapter 23. Earlier, in chapter 21, Jesus concludes a series of responses to the chief priests and elders by twice asking, “Have you never read…,” then quoting Scripture. Later, Jesus reiterates His point from chapter 17 that with enough faith, mountains can be moved.
Finally, the crowds are prominently featured today. They surrounded Jesus on his arrival in Jerusalem, cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” in the temple and struck fear in the hearts of the Pharisees. The crowd was astonished by Jesus’ rejoinder toward the Sadducees and was Jesus’ audience for His stringing “Woe to the scribes and Pharisees” sermon. Pay attention to how these crowds figure into the events to come.
Our verse for this week is Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Matthew 21 through 23. Now let’s read it!
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?