April 9, 2006 - Year B - Palm Sunday
Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16
11 • 1 When they drew near to Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples with these instructions, 2 "Go to the village on the other side and, as you enter it, you will find there a colt tied up that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you: 'What are you doing?' give this answer: 'The Lord needs it, but he will send it back immediately.'"
4 They went off and found the colt out in the street tied at the door. 5 As they were untying it, some of the bystanders asked, "Why are you untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them, and the people allowed them to continue.
7 They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat upon it. 8 Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread leafy branches from the fields. 9 Then the people who walked ahead and those who followed behind Jesus began to shout, "Hosannah! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David which comes! Hosannah in the highest!"
11 So Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. And after he had looked all around, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
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• 11.1 See notes on Matthew 21:1.
From Jericho to Jerusalem, Jesus "goes up" with the people who will celebrate the Feast. Many are from Galilee, the province of Jesus, and, on seeing him among the pilgrims, think he is about to proclaim himself as the Messiah.
Until then Jesus refused to be proclaimed, because many people expected from their Messiah a liberation very different from that which Jesus brought them. At this moment when he is finishing his mission, the time has come for Jesus to define himself publicly. He is the Anointed of God and there will be no other after him.
Jesus was sent by God to all people, but above all he came as Savior of the Jewish people. He came precisely when this people needed to be saved, because things were not working out well for them. The prophets had announced a conciliatory king who would visit the people on a donkey, as peaceful people did, not on a horse as the generals of that time did. That was why Jesus wanted to enter Jerusalem this way. Jerusalem was a big city. Though the enthusiasm of the Galileans shook the city, it did not conquer it.
The Jews did not expect their Savior to be so meek. Throughout their history, God had saved them from oppression, hunger, and the irresponsibility of their famous leaders. This time he came in person, to show them the real path to salvation through pardon and non-violence, but they did not recognize him. The people of Galilee, who spontaneously mounted a triumphant entrance for Jesus and hoped for a political announcement from him, would later deny him.
12 The next day many people who had come for the festival heard that Jesus was to enter Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him. And they cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!"
14 Jesus found a donkey and sat upon it, as Scripture says: 15 Do not fear, city of Zion, see your king is coming sitting on the colt of a donkey.
16 The disciples were not aware of this at first, but after Jesus was glorified, they realized that this had been written about him and that this was what had happened to him.
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• 12.1 Matthew and Mark also relate the incident at a supper when Mary showed her passionate love for Jesus. She loved him with all her strength, and her love, far from blinding her, made her sense and respect the mysterious personality of Jesus.
Not all the apostles understood her gesture, because they still had much to learn about loving Christ.
Like Judas we often speak of giving to the poor. Yet the Lord's command is not to give but to love. To love the poor is to reveal to them their call from God, and to help them grow as persons by overcoming their weaknesses and divisions and by fulfilling the mission God entrusted to them. The poor will live the Gospel and witness to it in the world. If we are not among them, we need conversion and true poverty to discover with them the Kingdom. How can we really love the poor unless we have passionate love for Jesus? When we do not, we prefer to speak only of giving to the poor.
Six days before the Passover. Mark and Matthew give the impression that this supper happened two days before the Passover, not six (Mt 26:2; Mk 14:1). The evangelists also disagree regarding the date of the Passover. While John declares that Jesus died on the eve of the Passover (Jn 19:14), the other three say that the Last Supper took place on the same day that the Jews celebrated the Passover. According to a very ancient tradition that various Oriental churches still maintain, Jesus could have celebrated the Last Supper, not on Thursday, but on Tuesday. His trial would then have lasted two days: Wednesday and Thursday. (That seems much more probable than having all the sessions of the double trial of Jesus in the one morning of Friday). He would die on Friday, as all the texts affirm.
A possible explanation for these disagreements might be the following: The Passover is celebrated in accordance with the new moon which is not a fixed date, nor is it determined according to the same criteria by everyone. Hence, in certain years some religious groups celebrated it three days before others. Jesus could have celebrated the Passover on the eve of Wednesday, while the majority of the people celebrated on the eve of Saturday.
Three hundred dinarii would be nearly a year's salary for a laborer.
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1. This story that begins a third section of Mark can be read as a parable. The horse (yes, kingly horse) is Judah tethered in homes. Jesus comes to release the authority of Judah back into Jerusalem to reclaim the scepter of Judah.
In Mark Jesus is not humble, but a tornado of activity deliberately moving toward a showdown with the religious authorities of the day.
2. This parable also evokes a reminder of a military coup - as when Jehu emerges to rule. There everyone took off their garments and laid them under his feet (2 Kings 9).
Theodore Jennings in The Insurrection of the Crucified has us remember easily overlooked parts of the history. Here he reminds us, "...we can recognize its importance in Mark's narrative on account of the prominent place accorded to Elijah throughout the Gospel. Like Jesus, Elijah and Elisha were prophets from the territory to the North of Judah, the land which in Jesus' day is Syria, the Galilee and Samaria. Like Jesus (and unlike the 'writing' prophets), Elijah and Elisha were known principally as wonder-workers whose talent extended even to the raising of the dead."
3. To enter Jerusalem (place of peace) is to enter Jericho (promised land) again. This time there is not a need to march around three times, loudly blowing trumpets for the walls to first fall before entry. Here Jesus enters after the shouts of "save now" have gone up. Here he enters and the wall will fall later.
What other connections do you make with this story beyond untethering, coup, end of exodus?
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