Lent 2020 - Week Six Devotional

December 28, 2021

Mark 11:1-11


This text is the sacred text we read every year on Palm Sunday. It is the beginning of the end, the beginning of Jesus’ final week. For many, I imagine this text to be familiar; however, when we take time to slow down with the text, there are several details that cannot help but jump off the page. 

For example, I am struck by Jesus’ pattern to send his disciples out in pairs (v. 1). Jesus frequently asks challenging things of his disciples, but he never asks them to do so alone. This text is no exception. 

I am struck by the note that the colt will have “never been ridden” (v. 2). This is a small detail, but an important one, for animals used for sacred acts were supposed to be clean, reiterating the holiness of this powerful moment. 

Another detail that cannot be overlooked is how risky and radical both Jesus’ actions and the crowd’s actions are. Processionals like this one had historically been reserved for government officials and war heroes. Jesus was neither of those things, and yet the people treat him as such! To make matters even more significant, 150 years prior to that moment, a Jewish war hero by the name of Simon Maccabeus processed into Jerusalem after a battle that helped secure Israel’s peace. 

The people at that time responded with a conqueror’s parade and threw palm branches and coats in the street with shouts of “Hosanna!” Simon’s parade and Jesus’ parade look almost identical, which makes it easy to wonder if the people once again were hoping for a military victory against Rome, which would have certainly been enough to make Rome nervous. 

So What?

This text is significant because, in many ways, the radical nature of that moment lays the groundwork for the crucifixion. Before we consider the complex political layers to this story, the parade might simply appear to be an indicator of the people’s love and appreciation for Jesus. 

However, when we take into consideration how politically risky this was with the echos of previous military parades, we are able to see that Palm Sunday was Jesus making an intentional statement that likely served as the tipping point for his arrest and murder. During this parade Jesus accepts the title of the Messiah and peacefully challenges the empire of the day. 

Now What?

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, he peacefully protests the oppression of the empire. He does not show brute force or act in violence, as the people expected in a Messiah. Instead he is peaceful, convicted, gentle and intentional. I think this is a challenging reminder that we are called to align our lives with the call of the gospel instead of the empire, and that from time to time, such an alignment may require bravery and peaceful action. 

I also think this text can remind us that we are called to walk through challenging seasons together. Jesus sends the disciples out in pairs to retrieve the donkey, and then the disciples stick with him throughout the parade and into the night. So may this remind us that we cannot get through hard days alone. We need one another, especially in our discernment about how to be people of faith. 

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