Who is this?
‘Who is this?’ the people ask, as the Lord enters Jerusalem. And the reply comes back: ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth.’ Jesus is given many different titles in the course of Matthew’s account of the Passion. Some are proclaimed in joy and faith, others in cruel mockery. When he enters the city, the crowd acclaim him as a prophet and as ‘Son of David,’ recognising a king who comes to his people humbly, riding on a donkey. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is in stark contrast to the power of Rome, or the pomp of Herod’s court. He is modelling a different kind of leadership and authority.
When Judas greets Jesus as ‘Rabbi’ – Teacher – it is a traitor’s signal. When the High Priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ and the Son of God, he describes himself instead as Son of Man – the Messiah who has come to fulfil the Scriptures, and who will be seated at God’s right hand. The claim is blasphemous to the Jews; it is enough to seal Jesus’ fate.
Jesus’ last title – King of the Jews – is nailed above the Cross, as a dire warning to any other king who might be tempted to rebel against Roman rule. And yet, the Roman centurion and his squad recognise Jesus as a ‘Son of God.’
The Passion story prompts us to ask, ‘Who is Jesus for me?’ In normal times, the liturgy invites us to enter into the story. We sing ‘Hosanna’ with the crowds as Jesus enters Jerusalem; we walk with him to Calvary; we wait quietly on Holy Saturday for the Lord to burst from the tomb on Easter Sunday. This year, we cannot celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week together. Instead, we are called to enter individually into the Lord’s Passion; to walk prayerfully with him in our own homes; to share his suffering in our own hearts, knowing ourselves to be in communion with one another and with the Church around the world. We witness to our faith in Christ by our care and compassion for one another, and we wait in hope for new life.