Jesus' life and ministry were so contrary to what Israel expected and what we might expect. But C.S. Lewis makes the keen observation that unexpectedness is really what we should expect! "Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match - all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go farther from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring. Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed."
Jesus' arrival at Jerusalem is not at all a quiet, inconspicuous affair. What is surprising and so uncharacteristic of Jesus is that he orchestrates a very public and noisy entrance into the city of Jerusalem that can only set the stage for confrontation with the Jewish leaders. "Jesus makes sure that his arrival is noticed." But what does Jesus want people to know about him as he comes into Jerusalem in this way?
Read Mark 11:1-11 and use the questions below to help you meditate on this Palm Sunday passage.
1. Take a moment and read Mark 8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34. What did Jesus say would happen to him when He and His disciples arrived in Jerusalem?
* In light of this, how might you have expected Jesus to approach and enter the city?
* And what do you think the disciples expected to happen when they arrived in Jerusalem?
2. How do you understand Jesus' acquiring a donkey colt? Was the owner of the colt among those who were with Jesus at the time? Did he have friends in Bethphage or Bethany who would know him as "Lord" (Simon the Leper, Mark 14:3; Lazarus, John 11:1-3; Jesus returned to Bethany that evening, v. 11)? Had he made previous plans with someone in one of these places? Or was it entirely a supernatural event orchestrated by the Holy Spirit (Exodus 12:35-36)? What do you think?
3. Why does Jesus note that the colt he wants has never been ridden? (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; I Samuel 6:7; also, compare Luke 2:26-34; 23:50-53; parallels in Matthew)
* There seems to be a disproportionate amount of attention given to untying a donkey's colt. Consider Genesis 49:10-12. What might Mark be telling us?
* What is the prophetic promise given to Judah in Genesis 49:10-12 that relates to Jesus and his coming?
4. The events of our passage today are unmistakably predicted in Zechariah 9:9-10; take a moment to read that text.
* Who and what is promised in this passage?
* What statement is Jesus consciously making as he mounts this colt and rides into Jerusalem?
* What is strikingly unusual about someone riding a colt of a donkey, especially one who claims to be a king?
5. Before we unpack the particulars of this parade into Jerusalem, how would you describe this crowd? What is the atmosphere?
6. Why do many people throw their cloaks on the road before Jesus while others thrown down branches cut from the fields? What is symbolized by this? (cf. II Kings 9:12-13)
7. As they begin to make their way into Jerusalem (Bethany was two miles away and Bethphage was even closer to the city), what do the people shout and what does this reveal about their hopes? (consider Psalm 118)
* How was Jesus' kingdom different from the popular understanding of "the coming kingdom of our father David"?
* Can you imagine yourself in that excited crowd? What do you imagine it would be like to be one of those accompanying Jesus into Jerusalem?
8. Up to this point in Mark's gospel, Jesus has deliberately concealed his identity. He silences demons who clearly know who he is (1:24-25, 34; 3:12); He often tells those He has healed to not tell anyone (1:44; 5:43; 8:26); and He even commands the Twelve not to divulge their knowledge that He is the Christ (8:30). Why do you think Jesus now deliberately makes a public statement about His identity and welcomes the excited anticipation that He was in fact the promised king, the Son of David who would usher in a new era of Israel's sovereign independence?
* What did Jesus intend to communicate by his dramatic entry into Jerusalem?
* What would be missing in the Gospel if Jesus did not enter Jerusalem in this way?
9. In what way is Jesus' arrival at Jerusalem a corrective to the popular notions of a conquering king and Son of David? How will Jesus fulfill the prophecies about ruling the nations (Genesis 49:10) and bringing an end to war and speaking peace to the nations (Zechariah 9:10; compare Isaiah 9:1-7)?
10. How was Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem so unexpected and what does that tell you about Him and His rule as King in your life?
May the Lord deepen your love for Him in view of His suffering for us! And I hope to see you on Sunday!
1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) p. 48.
2 R.T. France, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002) p. 428.