As we begin to turn our focus towards the last few weeks of Lent and draw closer to Easter, this week's reading is taken from Mark's Gospel chapter 11:1-11. It is full of echoes from the Old Testament, perhaps some of which may be lost on us today. However, as you read the passage try to imagine being present: what do you notice? Is there a phrase or word that strikes you as important? What is God saying to you as you hear this fascinating moment that we celebrate on Palm Sunday?
Click here to read the passage - www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+11%3A1-11&version=ESVUK
Responding to the Passage
During Mark's Gospel account we hear a whole range of responses to Jesus. There are those who opposed Jesus, often the religious elite of the day. There were the constantly bemused and bewlidered disciples. There were the broken and outcasts in society who saw in Jesus hope and liberation from the life they were living. We also see the inquisative crowds who were often gathered around Jesus: some looking for the miraculous, some hoping Jesus was the new military leader they had longed for, some who just liked to join with the rest of the crowd...
As you read the passage again, what do you hear now? What might this be saying to you about those you know and love, some who passionately follow Jesus, others who oppose him, others who are longing for hope...
Take a moment to be still... If God lays someone on your heart pray for them... give thanks for them... and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them the one the crowds celebrated on that first 'Palm Sunday.'
“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!”
Questions you might want to ponder...
Why is there such a focus, in this passage, on finding 'a colt on which no one has ever sat'? Are there any Old Testament passages that might explain this?
We often call this the 'Triumphal Entry,' but as you read it, do you get the sense of a triumphal entry?
'Many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.' John's Gospel talks about branches of palm trees in 12:13, whilst Mark makes a specific mention of leafy branches cut from the fields... Why might this be important? What might it tell us about the people in the crowd who have gathered?
What does the word Hosanna mean? Why were they shouting that, and calling out about the coming kingdom of David?
Prayer to pray
Lord, this week we remember how you entered Jerusalem in triumph, and were proclaimed as King by those who
spread their cloaks and waved their branches as you rode in humility.
May we also praise you as our King, as our Saviour, and follow you in the way that leads to life in all its fullness.
The reading for this week comes from Mark 13. This is a rather unusual text which has a distinct end-time flavour. I have copied out a helpful introduction from a commentary (Say to this Mountain, Mark's Story of Discipleship).
The Text in Context
Background: The Judean Revolt
Jesus’ second great sermon (13:5ff) alludes to events in Mark’s own historical moment: the Judean Revolt of 66-70 C.E. In June of 66, an insurrection against Roman rule began in Jerusalem, the culmination to decades of widespread social unrest and percolating armed insurgency. Temple sacrifices on behalf of the emperor were halted, both the Judean clerical aristocracy and Roman cohorts were driven out of the city, and the public archives (including records of debt) were burned. The rebellion spread to the surrounding provinces. In November, the Roman counterattack began under Gallus, the Roman Legate of Syria. But the imperil forces were successfully repelled by the nationalist fighters, and for a few short years many parts of Palestine were liberated from Roman rule.
A provisional government was set up, despite fierce internal power struggles, and the rebels began preparing for the next siege on Jerusalem that would surely come. A massive Roman counterinsurgency commenced the following summer, immediately retaking most of Galilee and moving south in a vicious scorched-earth campaign. Because of civil war in Rome, however, the military effort stalled, so that the final assault on Jerusalem was not begun until the spring of 70 under Titus. In the meantime there were internal coups and counter-coups between the radical anti-clerical and moderate rebel factions.
To those Palestinian Jews loyal to the Temple-state, the terrible social and political upheaval of the war with Rome no doubt portended “signs of the end” (see 13:4). But from Mark’s perspective, the rebellion merely represented the “beginning” of yet another cycle of violence (Mark 13:7f). With the Roman siege of Jerusalem imminent (13:14a), rebel recruiters were going throughout Palestine summoning patriotic Jews to Jerusalem’s defences (13:6,21f).
For Mark, only once voice could compete with their persuasive call to arms – that of Jesus. His apocalyptic sermon, with its cautionary refrain to “Watch out!” (13:5, 9, 23, 33) suggests that Mark’s community was critical of both imperial collaborators and nationalists. Its nonviolent stance, refusing to cooperate with either the Jewish guerrillas or the Roman counterinsurgency, earned it persecution from both sides of the war (13:9-13). The disciples, representing the anxious concern of a community caught in the war, pose a double question to Jesus (13:4)
When will this be
and what will be the sign
that these things are to be accomplished?
The sermon’s two parts provide Jesus’ response accordingly: The first half (13:5-22) addresses the “time” the second the “signs” (13:23-37). Both parts reiterate the counsel of the prophet Daniel, who two centuries earlier during the Maccabean revolt had urged the faithful to resist both the imperial beast and the delusions of militant nationalism (Daniel 7-11). At the heart of the sermon is Jesus’ call to abandon Jerusalem (Mark 13:14b-20) because of the apocalyptic conviction that a truly just social order cannot be established by the sword. The disciples are instructed to “wait and watch” for the fall of the powers (13:23-27) and a genuine transformation of the world (13:28ff).