Mark 11:1-11 (Click to read passage)
For this week’s devotions, we’ll be following the events of Jesus’ life the week before the crucifixion. This time period is known as Passion Week. During the week, we read about Jesus’ time in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration. We will read about Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, his debates with the religious leaders, Judas’ betrayal and the Last Supper. Most importantly, we learn about the things that lead to Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and how the Son of Man prepared for his suffering.
All four gospel accounts tell of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as a significant event. The city was bustling with travelers gathering in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, Jesus sent his disciples ahead to get a young donkey. The disciples put their cloaks on the donkey and placed Jesus on it. Others spread cloaks along the road. As word got out of Jesus’ arrival, more people gathered along the road leading to Jerusalem. Some collected palm branches and waved them in the air. Mark tells us that at some point, people came together and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
In order to understand this event, we need to understand the cultural background of what was going on. Although the people living in the region were ruled by the religious leaders and had a local king, they were under the authority and control of Rome. The Jewish people in Judea at the time were fiercely independent. To the Romans, the area was a known as hotspot of insurrection and for its strange Jewish religion that insisted that people believe in one God without compromise. Roman soldiers assigned to the area were on high alert knowing that a rebellion could occur at any moment. To the Jews living in Judea, many yearned for independence and dreamed of a day when the Promised Messiah of the Scriptures would come, drive out the Romans, and bring God’s kingdom on earth.
It is in this context that Passion week begins. Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem on a donkey wasn’t something that was decided at the last minute. It was a deliberate decision. Hundreds of years before, the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 9:9) wrote of how the Messianic King of Israel would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey and this Messianic King would sit on the throne of the ancient King David. This was something the Jews in Jesus’ day must have understood when they saw Jesus coming to the ancient capital city of David riding on a donkey. For years, Jesus had been going about preaching about the kingdom of God and healing people. Was this the time when the promised Messiah would finally take over? Was this the time when he would take the throne and be crowned
the ruler over God’s Kingdom? There was good reason for us to think the crowds were thinking this way.
First, the way the crowds were gathered was the way a crowd would welcome a victorious king after a battle. Word would be sent to the city telling its inhabitants that the king was returning and crowds would gather and welcome the king in. Second, the shouts of the crowds were significant. “Hosanna”, when translated means, “save us”. They likely were hoping to be saved from Roman occupation. Third, the shouts of the crowds were the shouts of anticipation of the promised Old Testament King. This king was to be a descendant of David who would rule on David’s throne forever. Fourth, the waving palm branches were also dangerous symbol. A few hundred years before the Roman occupation, Judea was an independent state governed by the religious leaders and living under the laws of Moses. The symbol of this state? Palm branches. People were essentially waving flags of independence against the Roman occupation.
Why was Jesus doing this? What was Jesus trying to communicate? The Gospel writers didn’t just tell us what happened. They were also telling us what these things meant. Jesus was acknowledging that he is the Messiah. If he wanted to deny this message he could have. But instead of going quietly into Jerusalem, he went in a way to fulfill prophecy. When the crowds praised him, he received it. Jesus was declaring himself to be King.
But Jesus wasn’t here to over throw the Romans. He wasn’t going to be the Messiah the crowds wanted. He was going to be the Messiah the world needed. He was not coming to establish an earthly kingdom here on earth yet. He was going to establish the kingdom of God first in people’s hearts. He was not going to save the Jews from the Romans. He was going to save the world from their sins. He was not going to wear a crown of gold, but to wear a crown of thorns. Instead of conquering the world with vast armies, the king was going to humiliated and die on a cross to save his people.
Questions for Meditation:
- What does it mean for you when you call Jesus your king?
- What comfort does it bring you knowing that Jesus is your king who died for you?
- Are there times that you may think God should do things differently than what you see now? Are there expectations that you have about how God should do things?