Mark 11.1-11

They were now approaching Jerusalem, and when they reached Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples with these instructions: “Go to the village opposite, and just as you enter, you will find tethered there a colt which no one yet has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you doing that?’ say ‘Our Master needs it, and will send it back here without delay.’ ”

So they went off, and found the colt tethered to a door outside in the street. They were untying it when some of the bystanders asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”

They answered as Jesus had told them, and were then allowed to take it. So they brought the colt to Jesus and spread their cloaks on it, and he mounted. And people carpeted the road with their cloaks, while others spread brushwood which they had cut in the fields, and those who went ahead and the others who came behind shouted, “Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the Heavens!”

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10 responses

  1. If this “brushwood” is in fact palm branches, as the version I was more familiar with had it, or at least “leafy branches” then the season is appropriate to the Feast of Tabernacles, when the King would traditionally be present in Jerusalem, to come to the Temple and read:Deuteronomy 17.14–When you come to the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and dwell in it, and then say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me;” you may indeed set as king over you him whom the Lord God will choose. One from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not multiply horses for himself, or cause the people to return to Egpyt in order to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never return that way again.” And he shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he greatly multiply for himself silver and gold.And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, from that which is in charge of the Levitical priests, and it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brethren, and that he may not turn aside from the commandments, either to the right hand or to the left; so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.——————Herod, of course was a foreigner and a devote of Hellenism, as were his children, one of whom did later come to the Temple and read this passage, weeping when he reached the part about “one who is not your brother,” whereupon his supporters in the crowd shouted, “You are our brother!”About that colt. If that were your colt, wouldn’t you want to know who this “Master” was? What would the disciples have said?And what’s this the crowd (apparently those who came with him) are shouting about “the coming kingdom of our father David”?

  2. Personally, it would take quite a bit for me to obey a Master who told me to steal for him. But Jesus was a unique case. Sight unseen he knows exactly where the colt is and tells them just what to say when challenged. My understanding of all this was that his disciples were used to Jesus just mysteriously knowing things and issuing incomprehensible orders. By experience they had learned to trust him. Given long Jewish tradition of waiting for a revived royal line to emerge and reestablish the great (in their minds in fact not really so great) kingdom of Israel. Using that mental template they tried to understand this astonishing man but his life shattered the template. Today we still try to listen and sometimes we hear new baffling commands–now we call them “leadings.”

  3. Alternately, this elaborate psychodrama was well planned in advance and the guy with the cold was complicit in the whole thing and the charade designed to create plausible deniability if the wrong folks happened to witness the transaction.Who knows. I don’t think we’re supposed to be able to unpack the mechanics of historical events. We only have Mark’s witness.

  4. David,Of course it’s possible that Jesus was just a cheap con artist, but the hypothesis isn’t one that I take seriously. It seems inconsistent with the bulk of the evidence. But more than that if I did think that Jesus was a con artist I wouldn’t bother to read the New Testament. So, I’m a bit puzzled as to why you would bring up the hypothesis.

  5. Interesting spin on my comment Richard. Because at no point did I accuse Jesus of being a cheap con artist. I accused Jesus of being a subversive under threat of arrest engaged in public acts of civil disobedience which required some forward planning. While I have no real issue with healings, nature miracles, resurrections and the like being taken as miraculous I don’t feel an especial obligation to see this passage as depicting a miraculous intervention by Jesus.Underneath my speculations I made another point. That attempting to reconstruct the historical events not actually depicted in the gospel is from my point of view only minimally helpful. The gospel of mark is not an historical account so much as a faithful witness — and by witness I mean not an eye witness account but a witness to who Jesus is and what God was doing through him. From that point of view, I don’t really think this passage is saying a whole lot to me. It is transitional leading to the next passages — the triumphal entry the passion and resurrection.

  6. Well, if Jesus did as you propose make a prior arrangement with the owner of the colt to take it and then put on a show of having prophetic powers to his dim-witted disciples then I’d call him a con man. Since Mark is the oldest gospel I do look to it as the best evidence we have about the historical Jesus and I am interested in trying to reconstruct a picture of what he was really like. But enough of this. I agree that our discussion is unproductive.

  7. We have no evidence showing either 1) that this wasn’t done by prophetic powers or 2) was intended to be a demonstration of prophetic powers.The presence of secret supporters in Jerusalem–or Jesus’ possible membership in some sort of Jewish “monastic” order with facilities there–is another possibility.I like this scenario: “The Messiah wants it!”–“Okay, be sure to bring it back when he’s done with it!” Even if the incident didn’t go precisely that way, there probably were areas in Jerusalem where people were not so happy with the Roman presence as the High Priest (who was at this point, as everyone should know by now, a Roman appointee chosen from a class of prosperous, secularly-minded collaborators), and this area, if Jesus sent disciples there expecting assistance, would be one.—————————-David:We’ve seen a lot of very dubious attempts at historical reconstruction of this period. Most of them failed by modern scholars’ identification with the elite classes and their perspectives. If “the poor” got their token recognition, they were sentimentally conceived as the “hard-working, worthy poor,” with no recognition of the literally intolerable conditions the system was subjecting them to. (I don’t know what Aramaic words Jesus had available, but when they translated him to Greek it came out “Blessed are the destitute.)When I first read these books as children I got a sense that life was not idyllic at this point, that Jesus standing up for the poor was subversive, that the authorities were both oppressive and inhumanly cruel. Reading Crossan’s stuff–with the necessary grain of salt–and particularly William Herzog–returned me to that early reading but made a stronger case for it.It was Herzog who clued me in to the fact that the Resurrection was not about Eternal Life–something which many traditions intuited without the need of such demonstrations–but about vindication. Precisely this man gets resurrected because his particular mission is God’s will for us.And if that is so, those historical details, elusive as they often are, are still important clues to the significance of the message.

  8. I disclaim any knowledge or theory about what actually happened here, but my thoughts run thusly:If a colt is really needed, one will be found. We might not expect onlookers or even the colt’s owner to simply acquiesce in its taking, but if the cause is just and carried on innocently, they will likely discern that spirit is present and waive objection.Dave Carl

  9. Richard. By all means show me where in the text it says anything about anyone other than us 21st century readers interpreting these events as prophetic. I see no evidence that Mark or Jesus or his disciples viewed this in that way.Forrest. I agree with you the resurrection is about vindication not eternal life. But keep in mind that Paul writing before Mark, interprets Jesus’ resurrection as the first fruits of our own future resurrection/vindication and so it is also incidentally about eternal life — or at least new life post-mortem.I admit there is a place for historical reconstruction, I use it myself from time to time (but my own approach leans much more toward the literary-critical than the historical-critical). But I think the scholar you cite for resurrection-as-vindication is doing something other than what we (including me with my skepticism) were doing here. We were trying to reconstruct the historical events depicted in scripture and fill them gaps in with our own stuff — me with Jesus-as 1st century revolutionary and Richard with Jesus as 1st century prophet. IMHO he likely was a bit of both.But this scholar is not trying to reconstruct events so much as cultural norms. How would 1st century pagans Jews and Christian converts understand the apostolic witness? How would Mark’s readers understand the empty tomb? It is a different game altogether.

  10. Paul takes this as the first fruits of Jewish apocalyptic’s expected resurrection of the righteous dead (everyone else due to be roused for Judgement festivities, of course.) And then concludes, ~’the rest will be getting up any day now.’ But he is certainly taking this to mean that Jesus is officially among the Righteous, regardless of his ceremonially-defiled condition.Herzog would agree that people inevitably always see these events in the light of their contemporary perspective. But it’s important to keep in mind that they took place in an alien setting, with a considerably different meaning to the people who participated in them.Jesus was not a 21st century rebel or nonviolent activist (although there are examples of nonviolent popular action in the period.) But there were striking similarities between his world and our “3rd world;” it isn’t all a matter of how contemporary peasant-rights advocates like to see things. Those similarities become more significant if we’re playing the game fairly and we still find them.We always knew it was about “the least among us.”

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