Mark 11:1-11 – The Triumphal Entry
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom ofour father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
It’s tempting when reading this story to move straight to the fun bit – when Jesus gets on the donkey and everyone starts praising him and singing hymns and putting their palm branches in His path. This time when I read it I reflected on the first six verses.
Jesus calls two of the disciples to him and gives them some very strange instructions. If someone gave me instructions like that, I would be full of questions and I’d be really reluctant to carry them out. I’m a real conformist. I hate breaking the rules. I’m hopeless when someone is playing a practical joke on someone and I’m in the room when it’s playing out – I always want to warn the person who’s about to be tricked! Jesus tells the disciples to go into a village, untie someone’s donkey and lead it back to him. A modern equivalent would be for him to ask you to go to a nearby town and take someone’s brand new bike they’ve just had delivered!
A theme running through Mark’s gospel is the authority with which Jesus does things. The disciples seem fairly unquestioning in going to do this strange thing (although Mark may have left something out there! I wonder what their conversation on the way to the village was?) Jesus does give them something to hold onto, however – “ If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” They take Jesus’ authority with them.
When God calls us his request of us can often sound ridiculous, impractical and sometimes even impossible but we have to trust in his authority, his care, his plan for us. God always gives us promises (of which there are hundreds in the Bible) to hold onto as we walk into his will, into the unknown.
There’s a nice link between this passage from Mark and the previous chapter – the healing of Bartimaeus:
And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. – Mark 10:50
Tom Wright writes of this:
The cloak…was the man’s security. Shade in summer, warmth in winter, it functioned as the outer shell, like a small tent, in which the few possessions the man had could be kept in such relative security as a blind man could expect…
There may be many things, not just possessions, which function for us as the cloak functioned for the blind man. And when Jesus calls, the sign that we are ready to do business with him is that we fling it aside. ‘It’s time to shed the cloak’.
– Lent for Everyone – Mark by Tom Wright p106f.
I never noticed before that it seems from the passage that the two disciples who go and get the colt are the same two who put their cloaks on it for Jesus to sit on. The disciples are putting their trust and security in Jesus. This is a rare occasion when they are completely following Him (of course the contrast is especially stark when it comes to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday).
What is my ‘cloak’, my security?
How can I let go of my cloak and let Jesus do what he wants with it?
What can I give to Jesus?