Today’s reading 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, 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.’”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“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!” 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.
It is the week of Passover, and Jesus and his Disciples are nearing the city of Jerusalem. Before entering, Jesus tells his disciples to go and retrieve for him a young donkey. Jesus tells them exactly where the donkey is, that the donkey has never been ridden before, and that the owner of the colt will graciously allow the disciples to borrow it.
Here we see Christ’s omniscience. He knows all about the donkey – where it is and who owns it. He also knows the heart of the owner, who must be a believer in order to understand that the Lord has need of his colt. The demonstration of his authority is so subtle in this passage, but it serves as another reminder that Christ is all-knowing – that Christ is of God.
But why a donkey? Why would Jesus, the Son of God, ride into the city on a donkey? Wouldn’t someone of power and authority ride a horse? Surely a horse is symbol of great power. I mean, in all the movies we watch, the kings and great warriors and leaders always mount the largest, strongest, and most beautiful horses. Their steed is a symbol of their authority and power.
Now imagine a man, claiming to be the all-knowing and all-powerful Son of God, riding into town on a donkey. According to culture, that doesn’t make any sense! But Jesus is not bound by our culture and our expectations, and he demonstrates that here. Jesus is bound only by God’s ultimate plan, and we understand that further when we look to Matthew 21. Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy, which Zachariah had declared hundreds of years prior to this moment.
He rides a donkey that has never been ridden before. It’s perfect and clean, like the animals used for sacrifice on Passover. These sacrificial animals are supposed to be the most perfect and the most clean, to serve as an offering to God. While we have already seen that this donkey symbolizes the humility of Christ, we may see how it represents the clean sacrifice that Christ is. Just as this perfect and clean donkey humbly carries Christ, Christ will soon bear the weight of the world, as he is the perfect and clean sacrificial lamb. Thus we see the significance of Christ’s entrance into the city during the week of Passover. This entrance foreshadows what is to come, as he has already told us in Mark chapter 10.
Up to this point in time, Jesus had been performing many miracles throughout the region.
Word had spread and people from all over desired to catch a glimpse of this miracle-worker. When the people saw Jesus in Jerusalem, they began to lay their clothes on the ground before him. This is a sign of submission to their king, whom they believe has come to save them and overthrow their enemy. They wave palm branches in the air to symbolize their joy at the coming of their Lord, and they shout Hosanna – a cry of praise, a cry of deliverance. All of this they do, knowing that Christ their Messiah has come to heal and to save. Yet their demonstration of praise and worship is empty, for they do not understand God’s plan. These people, those who praise Christ as he enters the city, are the same people whom days later demand that he be crucified.
But how could this be? How did it escalate like this? How could it happen so fast?
Because it was in accordance with God’s divine plan. Prior to his entrance into the city, Jesus had not really allowed huge public spectacles to be made of him. So why did he allow it now? Because Jesus knew the ultimate plan – of his death and resurrection. Jesus understood that this entrance would escalate the events leading to his crucifixion because it would provoke the hatred of the Jewish leaders by threatening their leadership. Thus, his arrival and the spectacle it created were all in accordance with God’s will.
Furthermore we look to verse 11. Jesus enters the city and goes to the temple courts, but after looking around he decides to leave, for it apparently it is too late. Why? Why did Jesus go to the temple if only to leave? This seems like such an anticlimactic ending to this passage, but it is building the suspense of what is to come later on in verse 15. In verse 11, we see that Jesus is preparing to confront the Jews about their sin, and in verse 15 Jesus does exactly that by entering the temple, turning over the tables, and accusing the Jews of exploiting his house of worship.
This is a personal attack. Here Jesus isn’t authoritatively attacking the enemies of the Jews, be they Romans or pagans. Here Jesus is directly attacking the Jews themselves! Once again, his actions are counter to what the people expected and desired from the man they had just hailed as king.
And because Jesus didn’t do what the sinner wanted him to do, the sinner crucified him.
We are that sinner.
It’s so easy for us to praise God, to worship him, and to cry out to him, when we want something from him or when situations appear to be going our way. It’s so easy to think that what we want is always what God wants, and that if we praise him and simply ask, He will always grant us the desires of our heart.
But just like the people in this passage, we wave our palm branches on Sundays when we go to church, and days later when Christ condemns the sin in our hearts, we scream crucify him at the top of our lungs.
Often, our desires and our sin blind us to the goodness of Christ and the wonders of God’s plan, and we let them. We must understand that when we don’t seek Christ daily in order to live in accordance with his will, we will never desire the things of God and we will remain forever blinded by our iniquities.
Jesus lived in accordance to God’s plan. He desired what God desired, and he continually sought guidance and wisdom from God through prayer. We must do the same. We must follow the perfect example set before us, and come to terms with this simple attitude:
It’s not about me.
It’s not about what pleases me, what I think is best for me, what I deserve for myself. It’s not about praising myself for I what do. It’s not about my desires and my will.
It’s about God.
It’s about what pleases God, what God knows is best, what God deserves. It’s about glorifying God in all we do. It’s about God’s desires and God’s will.
It’s never been about about me. It’s always been about God.
Brooke Dickens ’16 lives in Cabot House is a staff writer for the Ichthus.