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?’ say, ‘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,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The King of Kings
The account of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark strikes me as one which emphasizes Jesus’ authority as king in much the same way that Matthew did as we read it previously. However, when reading Mark I was struck more how Jesus knew his rights to absolute authority, but kept his identity under wraps. No more. In this passage Jesus lets the crowd adore him and he rides into town on a colt. Taking an unridden horse or donkey was a kingly act, but making sure it was a donkey and not a white stallion also communicates something. Jesus will not retake Jerusalem from the Romans. At the end of the passage he does not check out the temple in order to restore its worship. He will tear down the temple system through his death and resurrection. A lot of his actions and declarations in his final week before his crucifixion will proclaim the Jewish sacrificial system to be fulfilled in Jesus. Holiness will be fulfilled by those set apart as disciples of Jesus, whilst the lack of holiness within the nation of Israel will be exposed.
For readers today we need to ask how we respond to the clear demonstration of Jesus’ authority and rights as king. Do we surrender our whole life to him? In America I see a church that pays lip service to Jesus, but as David Platt says, we lack the radical commitment. As Francis Chan says, we lack a crazy love. We wave our palm branches quickly and half-heartedly so that we can get home for the big game. We pray to Jesus that he will help us with our agenda, and we forget him when we feel relief. People in Jesus’ day were no different. They think he is coming to Jerusalem to set up David’s throne. The disciples think he will establish them as governors and leaders. Within seven days these same crowds will turn on him as a great disappointment and they will support the Jewish political elite as they crucify him. Mark more than the other gospels emphasizes the suffering in the days that follow. Are you willing to follow the King of the Universe when he calls you to examine yourself and see your sin and change through sacrifice? Do you just want relief from your present circumstances? If you just want relief, your cries are as hollow as the cries of the masses on Palm Sunday.
I know I want so many things that you do not want. I know that I also do want the life you give. I know your kingship leads to suffering in the same way a patient suffers under the scalpel of the surgeon. However, do we want to be better when it hurts to admit our despair, guilt, shame, fears, lusts, anger, and pride. I wish for a strong King at conversion who would just suck all that away. But you call us to a free-will relationship where we are covered by grace and we volunteer the changes. The more I bring the sin before you, the deeper you go. The deeper you heal me, the deeper my love for you grows and you reveal yourself to me. Help me not to sing shallow songs of triumph without surrender to your agenda. In many ways I would choose relief over real change. Change my desire and transform my heart.
- What does Jesus choose to ride and why?
- What did the people shout?
- What did the people expect?
- What area of your life do you need to examine today?
- How authentic is your desire that Jesus do what he wants with your life? How can you examine God’s will for you more?