During this special Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks, we are going to have a regular series of reflections published on our website which will prompt us to reflect on important passages of St Matthew’s Gospel, and learn more about them. We are very grateful to Dr Natalie Watson, a contemporary theologian and writer, for offering these reflections for our community.
Expectation and fulfilment are key themes in Matthew’s Gospel. Time and time again we read that Jesus is the one who has come to fulfil what has been foretold and promised by the prophets of the Old Testament. But what if the fulfilment is not what we expect or imagine? Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is the beginning of the final part of Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew speaks of a very large crowd who have come to see, but to see what? Jesus rides into Jerusalem, and the crowds shout: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ How soon everything will change, and the same crowds that welcomed the Messiah riding in one a donkey will shout ‘Crucify him!’ Matthew tells us that ‘the whole city was in turmoil, asking ‘Who is this?’ This was certainly not what they were expecting. The question: ‘who is this?’ is central to Matthew’s Gospel. And soon they – and we – will see who this is. They will see Jesus being tried by the religious and secular authorities of the day, judged by the crowds who are shouting ‘Hosanna’ now, and sentenced to a shameful and public death on the cross. ‘Who is this?’ ‘The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”’ Throughout his Gospel Matthew tells us that Jesus is the one who is to come, the one about whom the prophets spoke long ago, the Messiah who came to save his people Israel and all people. In Jesus God fulfils what he has promised. In dying for us on the cross Jesus takes us beyond what we can expect or imagine: those who follow him will inherit eternal life.
God, in Jesus you fulfilled what you promised long ago. Help us to follow you.