Wavering Like Palms

Palms (Palm Trees)

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent 2 of His disciples, saying, “Go to the village ahead of you. Just as you enter it, you’ll 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, tell them ‘The Lord needs it, and will send it back here shortly’.”
So 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 coats over it, Jesus sat on it. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt, many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches from palms that they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead of Jesus and who followed Him shouted: “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!”
Jesus entered the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, He went out with the 12 to Bethany.

There are a few things that stood out to me when I read this:
1) A colt that’d never been ridden before. Why would the fact that it’s never been ridden before even matter? The notes in my Bible gave several references (Numbers 19:2, Deuteronomy 21:3, 1 Samuel 5:7) that pointed to the red heifer, a heifer, and cows, all having to do with no defect or blemish, never been under a yoke, etc. Actually, it’s sort of interesting when you look at it: They’d give it to the priest, and it was to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. This was a purification rite intended to cleanse God’s people defiled by contact with the dead. But it is unique because the animal was killed outside the camp, versus on the altar like the other sacrifices. The blood was not drained because it constituted a necessary cleansing ingredient (cleansed by His blood?). The priest himself became unclean while making this sacrifice, and had to be purified, but not by using the same procedure (He took on our sin).
This would in turn transfer the impurities from the defiled person onto the heifer. Just as the heifer was slaughtered outside the camp to attain purification for the defiled, so Jesus, who bore the sins and impurities of all humanity, was killed outside Jerusalem in order to achieve redemption through His blood for all sinners (Hebrews 9:13-14, 13:11-12)

2) The colt, Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem, the loud praises and crowds laying down their coats and palm branches:  I found a similarity to this in 1 Kings 1:32-48, where, David told Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and some others to take his (David’s) servants with them and have Solomon his son mount his own mule, and take him down to Gihon. There, Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet will anoint him (Solomon) king over Israel. They’re told to blow the trumpet and shout, “Long live King Solomon!” Once this is done, they’ll go up with him to come and sit down on David’s throne and reign in his (David’s) place. So with Solomon, you had a new king, accompanied by the Priest and Prophet. Jesus was all 3: King, High Priest, Prophet.

The people also recognized Zechariah’s prophecy when they yelled out about Jesus and David’s Kingdom (Zech 9:9-17).

3) Jesus went into the Temple, looked around at everything, then left because it was late. I just think it’s odd that He arrived in Jerusalem, went to the Temple, looked around at everything, then left to Bethany with His 12. So what, nothing else? He just left? I only mention this because in Matthew’s account, Jesus drove out those making money and argued with the officials some (rebuking them), then left to Bethany. Luke mentions that Jesus kicked out everyone dealing with money, taught there daily, and nobody found fault in Him. And John just paraphrased details, nothing about even entering the temple.

Reflection:

  1. If you were in charge of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (like an events planner or something), what sort of entry would you have planned?
  2. Read Numbers 19:2-13 and compare it with Mark 11:1-11 (above). How does Jesus identify Himself in His request for the colt?  In what way does this request confirm His identity?
  3. Read 1 Kings 1:32-48.  Compare it with Mark 11:1-11, also. How does the manner in which Jesus entered Jerusalem confirm His character?
  4. When Jesus rode that colt into your life, how did you respond? What other means did (or does) Jesus use to reach you?
  5. Look for a moment at the people’s responses in the text. All the way up to this point, the people mostly saw Jesus as just a healer, Elijah, or a prophet. Yet here, they are recognizing Jesus as more, possibly even the Messiah! But then, later in Mark 15, many of these same people were yelling (no more than 5 days later) “crucify him!” Why do you suppose they continued wavering back and forth so often?
  6. Many people tend to waver back and forth in their faith and acceptance of Jesus even today. Why do you suppose this is? What do you think it would take for them to make a decision about Him and keep to it?

Maybe you’re one of these people who continues wavering back and forth in your faith. Why do you, and what needs to happen for you to make and keep to your decision about Jesus, whichever decision that may be?

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