Daily Devotion for February 25, 2014
EDSA Memorial Day (Philippines)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"
To Spread Cheer
Holy God, as I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more cheer than gloom, spread more joy than despair. Let me remind those I meet that our final existence will be total joy, and that we may taste this joy through the Spirit even today. Never let me become so indifferent that I will fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child, or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget momentarily all the temporary unpleasantness in their lives. And in my final moment, may I hear You whisper, “When you made My people smile, you made Me smile.”
[Tasting the joy of the Spirit in our lives]
For the Church
O gracious Father, I humbly pray to you for your holy church, that you would be pleased to fill it with all truth. Where hypocrisy exists, help those who suffer it to see their fault and correct it. Where disputes exist, let them be resolved in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, help us to establish and nurture it through your mighty power; where it is in want, provide for it; and where it is divided, reunite it. All this I pray for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever lives to intercede for our very souls, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
God of mercy, swift to help: as my lips pour forth your praise, fill my heart with the peace you give to those who wait for your salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Exodus 12:1-14 (ESV) (excerpts)
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. . . .
Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. . . .
This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”
Matthew 21:1-5 (ESV)
The Triumphal Entry 
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
Notes on the Scripture
Chapter 21 marks a clear division in Matthew. If we divide Matthew into five sections, this is the opening of Section Four, “The Death of the King.”
The setting is Jerusalem at Passover. We could compare it to the Vatican at Easter, or Times Square on New Year's Eve. It was the most important feast day in the Jewish year. Jewish men who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem were required to attend at the site of the Temple, and every pious Jew in the world wanted to attend. (Acts 2:7-11 details 15 nations or regions from which Jews had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost, a less important feast.)
To get an idea of the crowd, a Roman governor a few years later counted 250,000 lambs sold. By regulation, a sacrificed lamb was supposed to be shared by at least ten men, the basic unit of worship in Judaism. (A synagogue, for example, might only be built in a town where there were ten Jewish men of age — a rule still in effect today.) So there were by this calculation 2.5 million men — not counting women and children, who often came — crowded into and around a city of perhaps 30,000 to 125,000 inhabitants.
I doubt many people believe that there were 2.5 million men in Jerusalem for Passover in the Herodian era. The governor might have over counted lambs, and people may have bought lambs for less than ten men or for purposes other than Passover sacrifice. But putting aside the difficulties of counting people 2,000 years ago, Jerusalem and the surrounding lands were undoubtedly packed to the gills. This explains the crowd Jesus will encounter entering the city from a minor side road. The countryside was littered with campers.
Bethphage must have been a tiny village, for its location is lost to time. (It has been recreated, and a church built, where people believe it stood, but at the time it could not have been much.) Bethany was about a mile from the wall of Jerusalem, so Bethphage is assumed to be about halfway down the road. But this is not even the main road, the Jericho Highway, but a secondary road running over the Mount of Olives.
Matthew's account naturally emphasizes the events as fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy, and he has a good one, for Zechariah 9:9 predicts that the Messiah will come riding the colt of a donkey. This is undoubtedly a prophecy of Christ, for Zechariah 9:10 continues,
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
Differences among the Gospels on the animal(s) Jesus rode
This note is not really about the meaning of the Scripture. Skip it unless you are just interested in more technical details about the Gospels and how they are translated.
Matthew appears to speak of both a colt and a donkey, that is, two animals, but this is likely a bit of confusion in the translation. The Greeks used the word “and” copiously; its function is often different from its use in English. Also, as we have seen in the Psalms, it is common in Hebrew to say one thing twice in two different ways, and that is certainly how we should read the prophecy from Zechariah.
Some Greek manuscripts use plural endings and others, singular endings, to apply to the beast(s). And as to translation, although our English reads, “Untie them and bring them,” the word “them” is supplied by the translator; the Greek says only, “Untie and bring.” The best reading of Matthew is probably that “colt” and “donkey” are two descriptions of one animal; and this is bolstered, not contradicted, by the other Gospels.
Mark and Luke do not say anything about it being a donkey, but the detail would not have had the meaning for their intended audiences that it had to Matthew's. Mark's gospel was primarily intended to prove the resurrection and divinity of Jesus to the Gentiles of Rome, and Luke intended a more thorough general account of Christ's life for the evangelism of Greek Gentiles. Matthew, however, intends to demonstrate to Jewish audiences that Jesus was the Messiah of the Hebrew prophets. So he includes the prophecy of Zechariah, and thus (like John) includes the detail of “a donkey” to show that Zechariah's prophecy was fulfilled by Christ.