Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday: Triumphal Entry By Night: Mk. 14:12-31

Today we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Lent as a season is a call to follow Jesus, and the gospels make it plain that this means following Jesus to Jerusalem where He was crucified. This road to Jerusalem culminates in Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem amid acclamations and palm branches, but Mark goes on to show us a second triumphal entry. And today we consider why.

Royalty Previewed
Mark records the first entry in chapter 11 and the second entry in chapter 14. We should begin by noting that both triumphal entries are preceded by recognitions of Jesus’ royalty. In Mk. 10:46-52, Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus in Jericho. Not only does Jericho remind us of the conquest under Joshua, but Bartimaeus calls out and addresses Jesus as “Son of David” (Mk. 10:47-48). In Mk. 14:3-9, Jesus is anointed with very costly oil. Jesus says that this anointing is for his burial, but we know that the burial of Jesus is the beginning of His enthronement. Jesus alludes to the royal undertones of this action by referring to the anointing/burial as “this gospel which will be preached in the whole world” (14:9).

Royalty Enacted
In Mk. 11:1-6 there is a curious amount of space used to describe how two disciples go ahead of Jesus into Jerusalem to find a colt, details about their interaction with those who wonder what they are doing, and Christ’s authority over it all. Likewise, and this is where the parallels become unmistakable, in Mk. 14:12-16, Jesus again sends two disciples ahead into Jerusalem this time to find a room to celebrate Passover. Again they are given detailed instructions about how to interact with those they see and speak to, and Christ’s authority over it all. In both stories Jesus sends His disciples as royal attendants, as messengers of the King. And in both stories, the authority of the King extends to all of the details.

The King Enthroned
In Mk. 11:7-10, Jesus rides into Jerusalem publically, unmistakably in the form of an ancient Israelite king (e.g. 1 Kg. 1:33ff, 2 Kg. 9:13). This regal procession goes all the way into the temple (Mk. 11:11, cf. Ps. 118) where Jesus begins inspecting the house of God and finds it defiled with robbers (MK. 11:15ff). Jesus comes to make His Father’s house a house of prayer and mercy (Mk. 11:17, 25-26, 12:33, 40), but because it is full of robbers who devour widows houses (Mk. 12:41-44), Jesus declares its destruction (Mk. 13:1-2). In Mk. 14:17, Jesus goes into Jerusalem by night and begins inspecting His house of friends which includes a robber who will betray Him (Mk. 14:18-21, cf. Jn. 12:6). Here, despite the betrayer, Jesus offers prayer and true sacrifice in the meal that memorializes His own death, and yet Jesus foretells that this “house” will also be struck and the stones will be scattered (Mk. 14:27ff). Both houses will be struck, but the difference is Jesus. Where Jesus is, there is healing and mercy and fellowship (Mk. 14:3).

Jesus is Still King: From Glory to Glory
What does all this mean? Why the second triumphal entry? And what does it tell us about the first?

Jesus is still King: Clearly, Mark would have us see that Jesus is still King in the daylight and at night. He is King when He is surrounded by admiring crowds and He is King when He is seated quietly at dinner with a few close friends. He prepares the way, he plans ahead, and rules the details. He is Lord; He is Teacher.
Jesus is still King because He is establishing true worship. The first triumphal entry seems a bit odd at first. Jesus rides into the city like a conquering king, goes into the temple, and after looking around, leaves anticlimactically as it is getting late (Mk. 11:11). Jesus seems to miss the opportunity to do something really great. And the second entry into Jerusalem underscores this. What would you do with that opportunity? But the Last Supper is the new covenant in the blood of Christ, true sacrifice.

Jesus is still King because He is not threatened by those who will deny Him. Instead, he ministers to them. If the first triumphal entry is conquest (Mk. 10:46), then Bartimaeus is the type of Israel being healed and following Jesus (Mk. 10:52). The disciples are still blind (Mk. 14:29, 31), but Jesus will heal them too. Frequently we are still blind. We are disciples, vying for positions in the kingdom (Mk. 10:35-37). And we don’t see where Jesus is leading us. We don’t see that greatness is serving.

But there is also a maturity dimension to this. Jesus is still King because He is David grown up. He is the son of David come to have mercy on us. A son takes up the mantle of his father, but a faithful son also glorifies his father. This is another way of saying that sons are called to grow up and become older than their fathers. Jesus doesn’t deny His own sonship and therefore doesn’t deny His Davidic lordship, and His public triumphal entry is not a failure. But it is the glory of youth, the glory of strength and beauty. And part of the lesson of the triumphal entry by night is the glory of maturity, the glory of old age, the glory of wisdom. And wisdom sees the power of sacrifice, the authority of mercy, communion, and worship. From the glory of public acclamation to the glory of sacrifice and service, Jesus is still King.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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