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On the day I recall the best, he had designed several pieces of creative diversion for our sub that morning. At lunch, he entertained the rest of us better than usual, encouraging us to join in. Even on the way back to the classroom a time when teachers parade their students for the observation of principal and peer Mike was out of line, both literally and metaphorically. But he had saved his crowning moment for the time our substitute opened the door of the classroom for us to reenter. By now, the little seven-year-old was jumping up and down, laughing, and talking loudly to the boys behind him. When he reached the door, he never looked forward. He flashed us his best Watch this! smile, picked up speed, and skidded on the well-waxed floors right up to the teachers desk and the feet of Mrs. Kennemer.
Needless to say, the decision was one Mike immediately regretted. He took in his predicament gradually. He stared at her shoes, then slowly raised his eyes the length of her body to meet her stern, disapproving expression. The rest of us, having seen Mrs. Kennemer, had already stopped laughing. We all stood in fear. Authority had arrived.
There is a bit of this type of tension in Jesus entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11. For the first time, Jesus seems to be ready to go public with his rightful position. For three years he had wandered the countryside of Galilee, teaching and preaching. Yet, with almost every major miracle, he had issued the warning that what he had done was not for publication. With every bold confession of faith, he had warned the believers to keep silent. The entry, therefore, adds a well-placed exclamation point to his teaching. The cadence with which he approaches Jerusalem only one week before his death is to the beat of a different drum.
That descent into Jerusalem was not a simple mans meek statement of humility. It was not the entrance of one bent on maintaining the peace. Rather, Jesus had come to Jerusalem to disturb the peace. When he entered Jerusalem that day, he did so as the King, playing directly (and intentionally) into the hands of his accusers, the expectations of his disciples, and the excited tenor of the people. Zechariah 9:9 had predicted the day:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariahs predicted monarch was not for Israel alone. This King would rule from sea to sea (Zecharaiah 9:10). It was a massive piece of land the Lord had promised to Joshua (Joshua 1:5f)the very land that Rome now ruled. Israel had waited long, in constant expectation, for the fulfillment of this vision. Not even in the days of David and Solomon had the land extended this far. Yet, with every coronation, as the king had entered Jerusalem on the back of donkey, the question may have clung in the air: Is this the one? Surely, then, the symbolic message of Jesus coming that day could not be missed. Jesus was King; His intent was to rule; His purpose was to reign. He exercised power over all the world and all people. There would be no king before Him.
No wonder, then, that the simple entry escalated into such a frenzy. The people rolled out the red carpeta road paved with cloaks and palm branches. They cheered and shouted to their new-found king for delivery from oppression: Hosanna! (literally Save!), they shouted.
For those who looked on or participated, the acknowledgment of authority was clear. Unlike Luke and John, who mention the Pharisees ire, Mark lets the picture of authority stand unchallenged.
Jesus will return one day to reclaim his temple. He will be coming to inspect our hearts. |
His entry had roused the interests of a city, but his intent was not yet clear. Though he had indeed come to rule all the world, it was not Rome he had come to wrestle from power. His immediate destination testified to that. He went to the temple (Mark 11:9). Later the next day, he returned there again, an angry landlord inspecting damaged property. My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, he quoted (Isaiah 56:7), but you have made it a den or robbers (Jeremiah 7:11).
Jesus word choice makes clear his emphasis. My house. All nations. But you... If he possessed the temple of God, he could clearly judge its use. The King of all nations had arrived in Jerusalem to represent all his constituents. The temple had been designed to signify Gods place and rule over the world. When Jesus overturned the tables and ran the merchandisers from the temple, he was claiming the authority to act as the landlord. He was also declaring an adversary that was out of line. He had come to restore the kingdom they had destroyed.
His authority, of course, was under question. By what authority are you doing these things, they asked (11:28)? Though he refused to answer directly (11:33), he told them a parable (12:1f). In the parable, a landlord had sent his son to collect the harvest from his tenants. Recognizing the son as the heir, they had not only refused to pay, they also killed him in order to claim the vineyard as their own. To misuse the gift(s) of God is to steal what is rightfully his. These men were imposters. They had no power. Jesus was claiming it all.
His challengers did not miss the meaning. Instead, they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them (12:12). Marks readers do not miss the meaning here either. The scene is packed with dramatic irony and foreshadowing. Just as Jesus claims his rightful position, the reader recognizes that a dark day approaches. The conflict is building. The climax of the story soon will arrive. The gauntlet has been thrown down. The enemy has been accused.
We, like the Pharisees, should guard our hearts. We must remember whose we are. Jesus will return one day to reclaim his temple. He will be coming to inspect our hearts.
For the Pharisees, Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem with the authority of a substitute, untried and waiting to be challenged. In the absence of the landlord, the players in the drama had seized a false authority. They had acted out their subordination with arrogant hearts. They showed off for one another and vied for position. Claiming the classroom as their own, they had become unruly tenants who deserved eviction. Too late, in the fever of their mob mentality, they would skid all the way to the foot of the cross.
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© 1999 Karen Alexander. Used by permission.