Jesus enters Jerusalem. 11:1-11
We now come to the final days of Jesus' ministry prior to his arrest and crucifixion. The story of Jesus' final days begins with his entry into Jerusalem as the long awaited messiah. Some recognize the import of the moment, but for most, it is business as usual.
v1-3. Jesus is travelling on the pilgrim's road from Jericho, a road which climbs some 800 meters to Jerusalem. The road passes near to Bethany, over the Mount of Olives, down to the Kidron Valley and by the small village of Bethphage just outside of Jerusalem (more properly a suburb of Jerusalem). On the side road leading to Bethany, Jesus gets his disciples to go to the village and collect a colt. The fact that "no one has ever ridden" it, serves to highlight its sacred task, Num.19:2, Deut.21:3. The detailed recording of this, along with the other seemingly unimportant observations, serves to provide clues on how Jesus' entry into Jerusalem fulfills messianic prophecy, eg. Jesus is the king who comes with a shout of acclamation, cf. The Oracle of Judah, Gen.49:8-12. So, by these signs Mark lets us into the secret that Jesus is the long-promised coming king.
v4-6. The disciples follow Jesus' instructions to the letter - they go, they untie, and they say .... There is nothing to say that Jesus hasn't prearranged the hire of the colt, but at the same time, Mark's attention to detail reveals a supernatural knowledge of messiah's ordained destiny in Jerusalem.
v7. In place of a saddle the disciples place their outer garments on the colt - a kind of makeshift throne for the coming king.
v8. The spontaneous reaction of some of the pilgrims demonstrates great respect toward Jesus. For similar expressions of respect see 2Kin.9:12f, 1Macc.13:51. Yet, their response is not necessarily a recognition of his messiahship. It could just be a salute to Jesus the prophet, entering Jerusalem to fulfill his prophetic mission. Of course, Mark writes with the eyes of faith and so for those with eyes to see this is indeed the coming of the Davidic king.
v9-10. The pilgrims sing / chant Psalm 118:25f, one of the Hallel Psalms used liturgically during Passover and Tabernacles, Psalms 113-118. The word "hosanna" originally meant "save us", but was by now an acclamation, something like Hallelujah. The "he who comes" can mean the pilgrims, since they are the blessed ones, yet Mark sees Jesus as the coming one, the blessed one. In v10 Mark reshapes the pilgrim song to reveal that the coming one is the messianic king of the Davidic line.
v11. The story ends in an anticlimax - Jesus enters Jerusalem, surveys the temple complex, the crowds disperse and Jesus moves off to Bethany with the twelve.
The subtlety of shadows
The coming of Jesus to Jerusalem is a further self-revelation of Jesus the messiah. Yet, the subtlety of the revelation maintains the messianic secret. From our perspective, we see the king coming to receive his kingly crown, acclaimed by his people. His glorious enthronement, of course, is no glory from a human standpoint, for he comes to the cross. What is clear to us is anything but clear to the pilgrims. They at least recognize Jesus the prophet, but certainly not the messiah.
The acted-out parable of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is a further public disclosure of his messiahship, yet it is a disclosure for those with eyes to see. Few, other than the disciples (and even then we are not sure that they read the signs), see the significance of the event, yet the event is recorded to draw the reader to faith. The reader is asked to respond in faith to Jesus the messiah, the king who rides toward his coronation, acclaimed by the pilgrim crowd. Even nature bends to his lordship for he rides on an unbroken colt.
The subtlety of Jesus' self-revelation is still with us today. For us he remains the "coming one", coming to the Ancient of Days to claim his throne along with us his saints. In a sense he is already there and we are there with him. In another sense he is still coming, still journeying toward that day of his enthronement. We can easily miss the signs, be transfixed by the energy of the moment, even diverted by religious enthusiasm, or worse, by church business.
Life is a journey to glory, so let us not miss its eternal purpose.
1. Why record seemingly unnecessary details such as a colt "no one has ever ridden"?
2. What is the significance in the "one who comes" and his "coming kingdom"?
3. What application should we draw from this incident?
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