Mark 11: 1-11
And so, our highest holy time begins. And not with a whisper, but a bang! Well, kinda.
Through most of the gospel of Mark, Jesus has been traveling—sneaking—around the countryside. He has been “proclaiming the good news of God,” healing, performing miracles, and casting out demons. But he has been adamant that the recipients of all he has been up to stay quiet about it. Even the evicted demons are told to shut up (this tactic seems to work for the demons, but not so much for the humans, who often go on to freely tell about their healing to anyone who’ll listen).
Back in chapter 8, when Jesus and the disciples arrive in Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man, though it takes two attempts before he can see everything clearly. The former blind man is sent home and told not to even go into the village. This is followed by Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, which he and the other disciples are ordered not to tell anyone (and we see that Peter’s understanding of that title and Jesus’ understanding are diametrically opposed; the disciples vision remains blurry).
But there is no shushing happening today. Today, Jesus takes up a very public performance. Having arrived in Jericho, about 3,500 feet below Jerusalem, Jesus and crew are about to make the long trek up to the great city when Jesus stops to ask Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, what he can do for him. Bartimaeus has addressed Jesus loudly as “Son of David,” a highly politically charged title. Bartimaeus, a fellow Israelite, is naming Jesus as his king and Jesus is answering to it.
After Bartimaeus’ sight is easily restored, he joins Jesus “on the way,” perhaps laying his begging cloak on the path of the colt carrying his king. Cloaks and leafy branches spread on the road and the shouting of hosannas welcome the arrival of royalty. But, this is no ordinary king. How many in this crowd know Jesus’ definition of leadership?
“…whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to
be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,
and to give his life a ransom for many.” (10:43-45)
How many know that his throne will be a cross?
Then, rather anticlimactically, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the powers that be ignoring him for now. He goes to the temple, has a look see, and returns to Bethany with his disciples since it is already late. Tomorrow, however, the fireworks will begin in earnest.
Jesus here is evoking an alternate reality and placing it alongside the deathly reality of Roman kingship, and the expectations of many of his fellow Israelites. I am reminded of similar practices performed in deathly places. In Torture and Eucharist, William Cavanaugh describes how the persecuted church would gather briefly outside known places of torture in Pinochet’s Chile to perform the Eucharist. Life set over against death. I remember watching a video of a child survivor of the Holocaust, as an adult, touring the concentration camp she had been imprisoned in. She recalled her realization one day that it was the Sabbath. She tells of how she had begun to sing “Shalom Aleichem” (Peace be upon you), traditionally sung as the family gathers around the table on Friday night. She describes how other children came out of the woodwork to sing it with her, and how it gave them comfort and reminded them of who they truly were.
When the time is fulfilled, this is what Jesus does—he dramatically transforms our deathliness with life as God intends it. There are so many ways his Body, the church, can practice life with one another and the world as God would have it be, if we are willing to risk ridicule and more. Practice hospitality, operate from abundance, love our enemies…
Ride on King Jesus!
You, Lord, are worthy of our praise,
of our lives.
Parade again through our mighty assumptions
in Your bold, life-giving Way.
Help us to follow you on that Way.