1 When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone should say to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ reply, ‘The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.’” 4 So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it. 7 So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area. He looked around at everything and, since it was already late, went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Note: the gospel above is the gospel proclaimed at the beginning of the Palm Sunday procession. The longer Passion Narrative (also proclaimed) is covered later next week on a day by day progression.
Context. Immediately before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we have the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus. He exhibits great faith in Jesus as he cries out for Jesus to have mercy on him. Unlike the earlier two-step cure of a blind man (8:22–26), Jesus does not use saliva or touch this man. Instead, he sends Bartimaeus on his way with the assurance that his faith has healed him (10:52; cf. 5:34). Bartimaeus exhibits the type of faith that forms the basis for healing. He also cries out the truth that Jesus is the merciful Son of David, and the crowd cannot silence him. Such faith points to the success of Jesus’ ministry, despite the voices of opposition and the misunderstanding of those closest to Jesus. This final healing miracle concludes the ministry of Jesus outside Jerusalem.
Commentary. Mark’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem shares at least a one aspect with the account of the Transfiguration event earlier (9:2–8). It is another heady moment on the otherwise long and arduous “way” of Jesus to his saving passion and death. What is revealed privately on the mountain top is proclaimed on the final stretch to Jerusalem, the holy city of God. Whereas God the Father rightly proclaims Jesus as the Son, the people’s acclamation will be clouded by their expectations of the long-awaited Messiah will be.
The details of Jesus’ arrival there (vv. 7–10) carries all the hallmarks of the coming of Israel’s Prophet-Savior (e.g., “See, your king shall come … riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass,” Zech 9:9) The scene of Jesus’ telling the disciples to go into the village and obtain a “colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.” is often tied to Zechariah 9:9, a verse Matthew specifically cites – but not so Mark. Perhaps it is because of his largely Roman audience? Yet Mark, in his sparse style, includes enough to paint the entry as one of a royal personage, a king, and a Messiah.
Still, most scholars believe Mark’s first readers would not be able to miss the obvious connection: Jesus was the longed-for Savior of Israel. In its own way, the crowd here, mimics Bartimaeus shouting out to Jesus: “Hosanna! The reign of God and of our father David has begun with Jesus’ coming!” But do they understand? Does their reception and greeting come with faith, the healing faith of Bartimeaus, or will they be counted among the opposition and those who misunderstand.
The crowd’s acclamation combines two pilgrimage psalms (118:26a; 148:1). Psalm 118 was a part of the liturgy of the Jewish celebration of the Passover seder, where reciting the Hallel (Psalms 115–118) follows the drinking of the third cup of wine (m. Pesah. 10:1–7). The structural counterpart occurs in Mark 14:26 as Jesus and the disciples sing the final hymns before leaving the upper room after Last Supper to go from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. The line that parallels the clause of Ps 118:26 acknowledges Jesus’ arrival as a sign that the “kingdom of David” is coming. Placed parallel to the psalm citation, this expression reminds the reader of the announcement that inaugurated Jesus’ ministry in Galilee: “The kingdom of God has come near” (1:15).
Some interpreters have suggested that Mark’s narrative poses a dilemma. Why do authorities not intervene when the crowd expects Jesus to inaugurate the kingdom of David? This question assumes that the crowd has identified Jesus as the one about to establish that kingdom by claiming the authority of David for himself. Many scholars note that Mark, however, has avoided any suggestion of a triumphal entry by confining the demonstration to the road leading up to the city. Yet this understanding does not give due consideration to the parousia – a word modern Christians associate with the second coming of Christ and the so-called “rapture.” Yet parousia is a term that describes the arrival of the great king to his city. The people do not wait for the king to enter the gates, they go out onto the road, greet the king, and escort him back to the city.
Jerusalem is also the city of Jesus’ death, this triumphal moment passes in a few short verses. After a night’s rest at Bethany with the Twelve, Jesus returns to the city for the final days and the final act of the Gospel drama (11:11–12).
- Philip Van Linden, C.M., “Mark” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 926.
- Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1994) 8:655-60