Connections 04.02.2023: Who Is This?

Matthew 21:1-11

There are Scriptures we can hear spoken aloud in worship—and sung about in hymns—and acted out in children’s pageants—and taught about in studies and sermons—and however many times we’ve heard these stories of our faith, we may notice something we’ve missed every single time before.

Like: “Who is this?”

Many of us have heard and sung and watched and learned and taught the story that is recorded in Matthew 21. We have probably even waved palm branches and shouted “Hosannahs” as we acted it out on the Sunday before Easter. Jesus’s “triumphal entry” into the city of Jerusalem is a familiar scene, leading to the last supper and Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Beginning in the village of Bethphage, Jesus prepares to enter Jerusalem for the festival of Passover and for the final time in his life. He sends his disciples to fetch a donkey, then he sits on the animal—an unlikely ride for a king—to go into the holy city. On the way, the other Passover pilgrims lay their coats and leafy branches on the road before Jesus. They sing “Hosannah!” (which means “save us”) and “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This may have been a traditional pilgrim song that they sang every year at this time, but readers of Matthew’s Gospel know that Jesus is the one who comes in God’s name, and the one who can save us.

This is where the pageantry of the Palm Sunday story usually ends: palm branches waving, “Hosannahs” echoing, coats on the ground, and the unlikely king Jesus riding into the city on a pitiful-looking donkey in a parade of pilgrims all apparently praising him (for now). In all the times we’ve heard, sung, acted, watched, learned, and taught this story, we may not have paid much attention to verse 10: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’”

Our cities are still in turmoil, and “Who is this?” is still a good question, even for those of us who think we know the answer. After all, the people in the crowd in Jerusalem praising Jesus on the parade route will be shouting “Crucify him!” soon enough. Who is this person who calls himself Lord, who knows just where the donkey will be waiting, who fulfills the prophets’ words, who joins the parade like a king and accepts the people’s praise? Who is this person who still comes in God’s name and still answers our pleas of “Hosannah”?


  • What Palm Sunday traditions are meaningful to you? Do these traditions help you imagine yourself participating in Jesus’s triumphal entry? What do you imagine about that event?
  • Palm Sunday may also help us think about the ways Jesus enters into our own world today. How does Jesus seem “triumphant” today? What is still surprising about him compared to what we often hope for from our leaders?
  • Meditate on the question “Who is this?” What questions do you have about who Jesus is?
  • Who are the people in our own time and our own communities who have questions about who Jesus is? Why do you think this is an important question especially when our cities are “in turmoil”?
  • How would you answer the question “Who is this?” How certain are you of your answer? Is there more you still hope to discover about who Jesus is?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


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