Jesus On a Colt

Today’s lectionary reading comes from Mark 11:1-11. This is Mark’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

On a personal note, I’ve always found this particular story a little bit odd. The scholar in me knows that it is included as a way to bridge between the early prophetic writings (ie Zechariah in this case) and Jesus (more on that momentarily). But beyond that, it just seems a little strange considering what happens in the following days.

One thing is clear as we come into this story. Jesus is approaching Jerusalem for what he knows will be his final days before the passion (note, for explanation of “the passion” see here…God bless you wikipedia). Things are wrapping up, but due to the tone of this particular passage, it would seem that they are going to end on a high note. However we know the ending don’t we? Despite the positive note that we see here, things end rather badly.

In his commentary on Matthew Henry discusses the importance of Jesus loud public entry into the city. He’s not coming in quietly. Rather he comes in full view of everyone, in a very public spectacle. Jesus knows what’s going to happen, but he shows no fear of the city itself nor the powers present within it.

It would seem that the people really respond to him as well. We hear them crying out Hosanna and shouting blessings. They recognize that Jesus represents the throne of David promised by God 1000 years prior (verses 9-10). Ironically, the crowds are quickly dispersed as the days go on. I’ve heard it said that some of the very same people were present in the mob crying out for Jesus to be killed just a few days later. So what happened? When I reflect on this idea, and think about how quickly the crowds turned against him, I find myself convicted. Specifically, this reminds me at just how easy it is to turn from Jesus when the going gets tough. Sure it’s easy to be on the “Jesus team” when things are looking good, but do we support him when the tides turn? Or do we change our tune from Hosanna to Crucify him! Keep in mind that even the disciples failed this test. They may not have been crying out against him, but they weren’t standing with him either.

Now, that being said, I’ll return the small point I made in the beginning…the whole colt thing. Why is this significant? Why is this detail of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem important enough to be included in all 4 gospels? (Note, that there are few things that are mentioned all 4 times, so this is a pretty big deal). Well, as I mentioned before, Zechariah talks about this very situation in ch 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, o daughter Zion! Shout aloud, o daughter Jerusalem! Lo your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This entire chapter of Zechariah talks about the coming king and  and salvation for the people of God. We know that the words of the prophets are a big deal to the people of Israel, and we see a pretty direct prediction. I’m reminded of portions of the Nicene Creed which talk about Jesus life being in accordance to the Scriptures and that God speaks through the prophets. It’s really a way of seeing that God’s been working this direction for a long time…for reference, Zechariah was active approximately 500BC.

So in retrospect, it seems hat there is a lot going on in this passage, and on a final personal note, maybe I shouldn’t underestimate these passages that, at first glance, seem insignificant.

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