Our reading for Monday, April 15, 2019 is Mark 11:1-11.
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'” 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. – NIV
Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday which recalls the occasion of Jesus’ “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem. Each of the gospels records the event. There are some notable differences between the accounts due to perspective and purpose behind writing the account to different audiences at different times, but it is remarkable the similarities between the accounts.
I find it ironic tradition refers to the event as a “triumphant entry” as the motivations behind the accolade was not for truly for honoring Jesus but for varied and conflicting motivations. Some expected Jesus to use his popularity to initiate a rebellion against Roman dominance. It was good that he didn’t as later in 70 A.D. such a revolt proved disastrous resulting in the destruction of the temple and the slaughter of thousands. Unfortunately we want what we think we want immediately.
Others in the crowd may have merely been curious, others to support morally a dissident movement to irritate the religious hierarchy and still others willing to join a party whenever the opportunity presented itself. God had something else in mind. The drawing of a crowd was meant to offend the religious establishment and cause them to fear instability and Roman reprisal. Others wanted to retain their privileged position, respect and authority which a popular uneducated iterant and self-proclaimed rabbi threatened. Jesus’ populist entrance served as the beginning of a series of events orchestrated by Jesus to precipitate his betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion.
Some would be surprised to hear the events were contrived or manipulated by Jesus, but recall Jesus’ words in John 10. 18 where Jesus claims “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The evidence of Jesus’ control of events is displayed in the securing of the colt upon which he rode into the city. When his disciples explained that “the Lord needs it” the owners willingly released the animal to them. Had it been prearranged by Jesus at an earlier visit or did the Holy Spirit move the owner’s heart? Believe what you will but it is certain Jesus knew they would have no trouble obtaining the animal for his use.
Then there is the choice of a colt over a stallion. Jesus’ entry on a horse would indicate something different from what his transport by donkey would imply. Those expecting he would raise a rebellion should have gotten the message. His choice of a colt only reinforced his testimony before Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. His kingdom would be a spiritual one with the anticipation of final rule later upon his Second Coming. This was to be the initiation of a faith community that would invite the world to salvation and a voluntary submission to his Lordship.
Jesus was in control of events all along. He willingly took the suffering we deserved and by his resurrection calls us to abandon our demands on life for his Lordship. Jesus is not conformed to popular conceptions of who he is or what his life and teachings are to mean. His truth is unchanging and the expectations are for us to respond to his invitation to follow him; he does not follow us. The triumphant entry is only a triumph if we heed the invitation by receiving the truth and surrendering our lives to his leadership. The crowd quickly abandoned their accolade and soon facilitated his death. We must make certain we do not impose our agendas upon Jesus but follow him for who he is – the Lord of life.