When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task. He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away. Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.” The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them. Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:1-11, Common English Bible).
There is a group of Scriptural books we Protestants don’t generally have in our Bibles called the Apocrypha. There are 14 of these books that our Roman Catholic friends use that we Protestants do not see as Holy Scripture. Just because we do not view them as Holy Scripture does not mean there is not something we can gain from reading and even studying them. It is important, however, to note that we do not study these books as Scripture but they are valuable because they can teach us some of the history of the Israelites.
The books of the Apocrypha happen during the period that theologians and Biblical historians generally call “The Intertestamental Period.” They occur historically after the end of the Old Testament but before the first writings of the New Testament. They provide us with insight into that period.
1 Maccabees is one of these books. This book along with 2 Maccabees in particular point to the things that happened in Israel’s history in the years immediately prior to Jesus’ birth.
There is one story in 1 Maccabees that would have been familiar to Jews during Jesus’ life. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem it would have been a scene that would have made most any good Jew would have remembered. The first story was an important part in the history of Israel.
Jerusalem and the temple had been lost to the Seleucid Dynasty. The Seleucid leader was named Antiochus who forbade all Jewish religious practices and brought Hellenistic practices into the temple including the sacrifice of swine on the altar. The Jews were outraged.
A Jew named Judah Maccabees raised an army that sought to defeat Antiochus and the Seleucid Dynasty. When Maccabees won Jerusalem he came riding into Jerusalem on a stallion amid waiving palm branches along with cloaks and palm branches on the ground covering the road as Maccabees came into the city.
The story is a familiar allusion. When one reads both stories there is really only one noticeable difference between the two stories beyond the entering riders. Maccabees came riding into Jerusalem on a stallion. Jesus came riding in on the fold of a donkey. It is an important distinction.
Maccabees rode into Jerusalem on a stallion, a symbol for a conquering hero. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the fold of a donkey. The donkey being a symbol we have actually scene once before in Jesus’ story as he and Mary rode into Bethlehem on a donkey. The donkey is a symbol for one who comes in peace.
Here are two stories that are very much the same and at the same time are also very different. The Jews saw Jesus coming in and remembered the story of Judah Maccabees. They still today celebrate Maccabees and his victory over Antiochus. They celebrate the victory as Hanukkah. Hanukkah is Maccabees, the conquering hero’s legacy.
The Jews missed the donkey. It is the key symbol. Jesus didn’t come to conquer the Romans as the Jews had hoped. He came as the Prince of Peace. And, Jesus too had a legacy. We who believe in him are that legacy.
How do you demonstrate to the world your part in that legacy.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved