As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 11:1-25
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 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. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
Jesus knew his Messianic vocation would lead him to Jerusalem. Finally, Mark brings us to his story’s climactic moment, when Jesus would confront the rulers, powers, and authorities of his day and become subject to death. The conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders has been increasing since the beginning of Mark’s tale, and Jesus has spoken directly and descriptively about this on three occasions (Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-32, 10:32-34). He will enter the city, be rejected, handed over to the religious authorities, condemned, and the Roman occupying forces will then humiliate and kill him. The future is dark and foreboding, and the disciples are rightly confused and even afraid. But Jesus foretells one more event: after his death, three days later he will rise.
Jesus’ prediction of his rejection, death, and suffering did not make much sense to the disciples. They did not think this was how messianic movements were supposed to end. As they entered Jerusalem they expected a coronation, not a crucifixion, a celebration, not a condemnation. Things had been going so well. Jesus had done so many wonderful things. Crowds met them wherever they went. They were Jesus’ closest associates, his entourage, riding the wave of his fame. Jesus had given them authority, and they had cast out demons and healed diseases. They had announced the coming kingdom of God, and they thought this would be the moment the kingdom fully arrived, when Jesus would take the throne of his ancestor David, expel the Roman oppressors, and set things right.
The disciples were not alone. A crowd had gathered, and they prepared to receive Jesus as a king. Jesus is a king, but he is not the king the world expects. Long ago, Solomon had ridden into Jerusalem on a mule for his coronation (1 Kings 1:38-48), and Zechariah the prophet had spoken of a day when Jerusalem’s king would enter the city humble and lowly, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). An unused animal was fit for divine use according to tradition (Numbers 19:2, Deuteronomy 21:3, 1 Samuel 6:7), and in the first century, it was common practice for royal figures to make temporary use of someone else’s animal if they had need.
Some Bible scholars and historians have argued that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a kind of satire, a way of contrasting his movement with the Roman Empire. During the observance of Passover (which would take place during Jesus’ final week), the Jewish people would enter Jerusalem and remember when God delivered them from Egypt. In order to quell potential uprisings, the Roman governor and a garrison of soldiers would march into the city on battle horses and in chariots as a show of strength. They would then occupy a fortress standing above the temple complex, looking down on those gathered in the city for worship. When Jesus enters Jerusalem he sends all kinds of signals about who he is, and who he is not. The difference between Jesus and someone like Pilate, the Roman Governor, was plain for all to see.
When Jesus enters the city he is greeted with shouts, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The crowds spread their cloaks on the road and wave palm branches, signifying peace. The crowds did not know what the days to come would bring. Jesus did.
As people of faith, we know the end of the story. Jesus is risen from the dead. Jesus is the descendant of David who sits upon his throne forever. He is our king, humble and lowly, filled with love, and willing to lay down his life for his people. Jesus brought peace, and his kingdom is everlasting, unlike the kingdoms of this world. But first, Jesus must pass through the valley of the shadow of death. He must bear the burden of our sin upon his shoulders in the taking up of his cross. He must suffer and die in order to ransom, redeem, and renew.
And we must walk with him, and remember.
Father, as I look ahead to Palm Sunday, prepare my heart and help me to think carefully about the passion and suffering of Jesus. Grant me clarity with regard to the difference between the kingdom of Jesus and the kingdoms of this world, and help me to see how Jesus is now my True King, ruling and reigning in my life. Send your Spirit and help me to live today as a citizen in his kingdom and to celebrate him as my redeemer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.