Psalm 118 Mark 11:1-11
Every once in a while I like to read a mystery. It is a good exercise of the mind to try to figure out “Whodunit?” Whether the characters in the book know the perpetrator or not, being the reader has its own rewards.
But with today’s reading, the question is not “Whodunit?” With this mystery the question is, “Why did you do it?” There is only one person that we are asking this question. We could ask Jesus this question. But I don’t think we would get an answer.
I mean Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to be beaten, killed, and rise again. He did not just say this once. He said this prediction twice in this Gospel of Mark (8 & 10). Yet we know that the disciples did not understand this prediction until after Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead.
What are we to make of this story of Jesus entering Jerusalem? Do we have this story so that the kids can wave palm branches? Do we have this story because Mark needed some filler in his telling of the good news? Or is that we really don’t know what to make of this story?
There is the idea that Jesus was deliberately provoking the Romans. This idea comes from the fact that the Roman governor would parade into Jerusalem while riding a horse and leading a legion of Roman soldiers to the Fortress Antonio. In this case it was Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor and he was providing reinforcements for the upcoming Passover crowds that would be in Jerusalem.
We know that Jesus did not back down from the religious authorities. When they asked him questions, Jesus would ask them questions in return. When they tried to set him up for trouble, Jesus would spring their trap. So, it is plausible that Jesus could have been an antagonistic towards the Romans. But we don’t know if that is true. As we attend the Good Friday service this week, we will hear what the Romans did to Jesus. I am not sure if they wouldn’t have treated Jesus the same way, no matter what he did when he entered Jerusalem.
Another idea is that Jesus was showing that he was the king. Just by riding the momma donkey into Jerusalem, Jesus was showing that he was not like Pilate, or even the Roman Emperor. We don’t know how Jesus knew the 2 disciples would find a willing owner of a donkey to let them borrow a donkey. But they did borrow a donkey. And Jesus did ride the donkey into Jerusalem. Why did you do it, Jesus?
With the festival of Passover starting at the end of the week, what was the deal with the palm branches and the coats being laid in front of Jesus’ donkey? When the three major Jewish festivals occurred all Jewish men were required to make the journey to Jerusalem. Our celebration of Palm Sunday has the children waving the palms. What are our men doing, why aren’t the men laying the palm branches down in the aisles of the churches? Was this recording of Mark showing a spontaneous celebration as the Jews were preparing for that week’s festivities of Passover? It seems like a mystery.
“Why did you do it Jesus?” Why did you just enter Jerusalem and then turn around and leave? We know there was no celebration or gathering of people in the Temple when you got there. It was late in the day and you turned around and went back to the Mount of Olives. We know from Zechariah 14:2-4 that attacks against Israel’s enemies were started on the Mount of Olives. So, Jesus, were you planning your attack on the enemies of Israel?
We won’t know why you went to Jerusalem, unless we go to the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. At the Maundy Thursday we will hear about Jesus’ new command to love as Jesus has loved us. Then at the Good Friday service we will hear how Jesus loved us. These services will help us to understand the importance of what happened when the women visited the tomb of Joseph Arimathea.
But it is all a mystery at this point. I hope we all get a chance to hear why Jesus went to Jerusalem. For it is when we realize the reason Jesus went to Jerusalem that we can praise. God is wanting us to realize what Jesus did for us. I hope after this week that you will be able to praise God for what Jesus has done for you.
So what does this mean for us? It means that we can praise God. Will you join me this week to gain a better understanding for what we have to praise God? It sure will help us understand Easter a whole lot better. Who knows, maybe we all can learn to ask of Jesus, “Why did you do it?”