Read: Mark 11:1-11
As we turn the page from chapter 10 to 11, the story shifts dramatically. The words of prophecy and prediction begin to come into focus as we move into Passion Week. John Mark carefully weaves the narrative for us as he guides us along his perspective of these challenging, and ultimately most important days.
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. A fitting day to remember the long-prophesied entry of the King of kings! Take a moment and put yourself in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago. I know it’s hard, but the trip is worth the effort. That’s where I’m going.
Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho on their way to Jerusalem. The 18-mile journey includes an ascent of over 4,000 feet* — a 4.5% grade for the civil engineers in the audience. For the cyclists or runners, this kind of grade will wear you out in a hurry! The location of Jerusalem was no accident, it was chosen for its military vantage point. For those who are making the journey, the difficulty of the ascent is not insurmountable, but it slows you down, forces you to reflect as you walk.
Jesus sends His disciples out:
“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. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” Mark 11:2-3
I’m not a rancher and have spent very little time around livestock, but it’s odd that the disciples can just walk up to someone’s animals, pick one, tip their hat, and walk away. Something like, “No worries, we’ll bring it back when we’re done.” Like borrowing someone’s car without asking–just not something I can comprehend. But there we have it.
The synoptic gospels all provide a slightly different perspective on this event, which is truly fantastic. Matthew includes the donkey and the colt (Matthew 21:2). Luke recalls just the colt (Luke 19:30). All agree that Jesus will return what He’s borrowed. No argument.
What is interesting is the entire episode is quite controversial. As recorded here, we’re pointed to the prophesy in Zechariah 9:9, which is fine, but the rest of the reference supports the disciples’ notion that Jesus is about to take over as King.
Excitement mounts. Could this be the moment? The hope of all these years, finally fulfilled. Yes! Shout hosanna! Lay your coats down! Here is the King of kings, the One we’ve waited for!!
He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. Mark 11:11
The band was ready to play, the music was building to a fantastic crescendo, then silence.
As a child, I remember Palm Sunday, the fun we had laying down palm branches and reenacting this particular scene. I never thought twice about the event, it’s just what you do before Easter.
Today I have a different perspective. I feel the weight of the events that are coming, I know the rest of the story. I believe John Mark wanted us to appreciate that Jesus was not going to fit into any cookie-cutter, simplistic version of a Messiah that we want. He is not bound by rules and not obligated to follow the path we’ve chosen.
His character embodies love and care for all people.
Somehow that was conveyed to the owner of the colt with simple words from His disciples. The scene is heavy, deep, surreal. The silence deafening. What now, Jesus?
Wait and see.