Today’s Word: ‘demonstration’ as in… Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a planned political demonstration.
Although mostly familiar, the story of the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem has some fascinating surprises. In Mark’s gospel (11:1) this is a prearranged ‘counter-procession’ planned in advance by Jesus. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem from the east, he sends two of his disciples to retrieve a colt, one that has never been ridden; a young one. They do so, and Jesus rides the young colt down the Mount of Olives into the city surrounded by a crowd of enthusiastic followers who spread their cloaks, strew leafy branches on the road, and shout: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!”
This counter-procession is a planned political demonstration. The meaning of the demonstration is clear, and draws heavily on symbolism from the prophet Zechariah in the Jewish scriptures. According to Zechariah (9:9), a king would be coming to Jerusalem (Zion) “humble, and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
In Mark’s gospel, the reference to Zechariah is implicit—Jesus says they “will find a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.” This king, riding on a donkey, will banish war from the land: no more chariots, no more war-horses, no more bows. And commanding peace to the nations, he will be a king of peace.
This procession of Jesus was deliberately counter to what was happening on the opposite side of the city. But Jesus’ counter-procession into Jerusalem was also a counter-narrative. In fact, the entire gospel message is a counter-narrative. Mark begins his subversive gospel by writing this: “The beginning of the good news (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
The gospel writers are telling a counter narrative right under the nose of the Roman Empire. It’s a very different and subversive story that challenges the dominant story of the empire.
Next we’ll see how the entire gospel of Mark is actually arranged to follow the steps of a coronation of a Caesar.