By Doris Hayes
The man who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey
THE FIRST reading from Zechariah (9:9) is the one which Matthew says was fulfilled when Jesus rode into Jerusalem before his death. (Matthew 21:5) The King who cares, "humble and riding on a donkey" proclaims peace for the nations. The Kingdom which Jesus preached is of the divine King who is "abounding in love". He "supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down" (Psalm 144). Matthew always shows how Jesus fulfils the law and the prophets, who often speak of God humbling the proud and raising up the lowly. That is the theme of the prayer and preaching of Jesus in today's Gospel.
"The learned and the clever" from whom God's revelation is hidden are the scribes and pharisees, who have obscured God's word in the law by many accretions, accumulated through the oral tradition, making exact observance impossible for ordinary people.
"The man who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). Jesus blesses the Father for revealing "the mysteries of the Kingdom" (Matthew 13:11) to his disciples, who are "mere children" because of their acceptance of the word of God, realising their utter dependence on him.
They are the "poor in spirit" who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" of the beatitudes. It was the lowly people who followed and became his disciples, the rich and powerful who rejected him. Earlier, in his reply to John the Baptist, Jesus had said that "Good news is proclaimed to the poor", showing that he was "the one who is to come" (Matthew 11:3-5).
"The yoke" is a familiar biblical image for shouldering the burden of God's law. Jesus assures his followers that he does not come to impose new obligations. The knowledge he gives them of the Father will make it easier for them to do God's will.
In this context Jesus gives them the supreme revelation of himself: that he alone makes the Father and his will known, for he is the Son who alone knows and is known by the Father. It is the Spirit of Father and Son living in Christians which enables them to live in the way which Jesus taught. Jesus is both exemplar and enabler. "Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest," is his loving invitation.