Today we pray through Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem to prepare for Palm Sunday. Jesus chooses to ride in on a donkey, consciously fulfilling a prophecy of the Messiah:
“Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
This symbolized that Jesus was the anointed one sent by God to save Israel from their enemies. This is not the only prophecy Jesus fulfills here. He is also the long-awaited return of God’s own presence to the temple. Ezekiel envisioned this day:
“And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city…and I fell upon my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (Ezekiel 43:2–5).
To summarize centuries of expectations and stories, Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem means that God has returned to deliver and purify his people and claim victory over their enemies. But when he shows up, he pronounces judgement not Israel’s enemies, but on Israel’s leaders. He declares the temple “a den of robbers” and compares Israel to a dead fig tree (both images taken from Jeremiah). A whole history hinges on this event, when Jesus both fulfills and confounds all expectations.
- Read Mark 11:1–25.
- Ask God to continue and complete his saving work in you.
- Walk into Jerusalem with cloaks and branches beneath your feet. Hear the crowds shouting What is their tone? Why do they greet Jesus like this? Hear Jesus’ puzzling curse to a tree. Enter the temple and feel his outrage as he flips tables and shuts down the business being conducted. Survey the confusion and chaos.
- Reflect on all the meaning and history packed into this short story. If Jesus is both the King sent to judge and deliver and the presence of God himself, what do his actions mean? What is the source of his outrage?
- Talk with Jesus after he “cleanses” the temple about things in your own life and world that need similar cleansing. Where do you see injustice, greed, or false and fruitless religion? Reflect on the consequences of such sins—how they affect our selves, our earth, and our fellow human beings. That Jesus “cleanses” means that he both judges these evils and saves us from them. Receive this by praying: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!”