Have you ever come into the middle of a conversation, and it sounds really interesting, and you try to get what everyone is talking about, from the context?
I mean, first you are quiet and you just nod your head, “mmhhm, mmhhm,” and you hope no one has noticed you have just inserted yourself. Inside you are scrambling to piece it all together. But, at some point you realize there is just too much you don’t know, you have too few puzzle pieces for you to understand what’s going on.
I think that is how we hear the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We try to get why this event is so momentous it shows up in all four gospels as the commencement of Passion Week. But, there is just too much important background information that is missing for us to really grasp the importance—and symbology—of what was happening in this scene.
First, we will look at the passage, then I am going to tell you four stories, so you will have all you need to understand what is going on. Then we will go back to the passage and piece it all together.
(There was something going on with my microphone, so throughout this talk you will hear glitches. Hopefully, the talk itself will overcome that minor annoyance)
Triumphal Entry, Mark 11:1-11 Grace and Peace, Joanne
In order to really get what this passage is about, you’ll need to look in a mirror for a few minutes. First, before you look in the mirror (maybe have it behind you), hold your hands above and below your head until you can just see them with your peripheral vision.
Turn to look at the hand above, so you can really see it.
Can you see your other hand anymore?
Move your other hand up just enough so you can just see it with your peripheral vision.
Okay, now, as you keep your hands in that position, turn around and look in the mirror.
Notice the position of your hands.
Your hands represent a perspective—you can see some things, but you can’t see all things.
By turning to your higher hand, you lost sight of your lower hand, and had to move it. You have to literally give up seeing some things so you are able to see other things.
Hang on to that. This is exactly what Mark has been trying to get to with this chapter, and with the lesson of Bartimaeus. You’ll see this same lesson echoed throughout the ChristianBible.
In the passage that comes before this one, Mark talked about a scribe who had asked Jesus about the greatest commandment. And he was impressed with Jesus’ answer.
Jesus was also pleased. He told the scribe he was very close to entering the kingdom of heaven. With such a warm endorsement from a scribe, this was a rare teachable moment. The right moment, in today’s passage, for Jesus to talk about Messiah. And to teach His disciples the difference between a false reading, and a true reading of scripture.
In this half-hour video, I’ll give a talk that falls into three divisions:
I Christ for the World, Mark 12:35-37
II Court of the Women, Mark 12:38-40
III Coins of the Widow, Mark 12:42-44
At the end of this teachable moment Jesus had with His disciples, you and I will learn that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
It is God’s pleasure to give to us. Then, real lovers of God, worship Him by joyfully sharing His spiritual and material wealth with others. In this way, they uphold the receiver’s dignity and deflects attention from the giver.
What do you and I have that we can now see God is calling us to share with someone else, as a matter of generous love towards God Himself? This kind of sharing ends up making all of us richer.
The Widow’s Mite Mark 12:35-44 Grace and Peace, Joanne YouTube Channel
Yet, first century Christians continued to struggle and wrestle with this very difficult issue, so both Peter and Paul helped them by explaining Jesus’ teaching. Peter said, “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution.” Paul summed it up like this:
Believers render to all what is due them
In fact, the whole verse says,
Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”
Romans 13:7 (NIV)
Every believer has a dual citizenship: in the country you live in and in the kingdom of God. Even when our government does not govern the way we feel is wise, or good, or even honest, it still regulates and stems crime, and promotes the public welfare.
You and I are obligated to pay our taxes, to be mindful of the laws and rules we arecalled to uphold, and to be involved in the process of public policy making by voting.
This is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Jesus Himself paid His temple tax even though He was Lord of the temple and Lord of the Sabbath. We also have responsibilities to our families, and to our work. We are to be people of integrity, being honest in our labors, doing what is right, even at personal cost, even when we do not always agree with those who are in authority over us. God requires us to do what is right.
Jesus gave a great answer, really.
That’s not what left the Sanhedrin’s delegation drop-jawed—‘utterly amazed,’ as Mark described them.
What took their breath away is what Jesus said in-between the lines. Give a listen, and find out how . . .
Did you ever have a sense of destiny? What about childhood promises you made to yourself—when I grow up, I will always have a clean house, or I will never get hurt again, or I will make all my own decisions. Childhood dreams and childhood vows drive us a lot more than we realize. In this YouTube talk, we’re going to see how the disciples’ theology drove them a lot more than they realized, too.
Recap: So, this chapter began on a high mountain, both figuratively and physically. Peter, James., and John had the transcendent experience of seeing Jesus glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah, and hearing God speak personally to them to listen to Jesus, God the Son. Very soon after, Jesus and these three found themselves in a valley, again, figuratively and physically. From their peak spiritual experience, they found themselves plunged into the chaos of overwhelmed disciples, a demon-possessed boy, an angry crowd, and a desperate father.
Evidently, there was a house nearby. Jesus took His disciples aside, once they’d entered the building, to explain why they’d experienced such failure in casting out the demon. This is where Mark picked up the narrative, again.
Seasoned With Salt Mark 9:30-50
[Jesus in Peter’s house | James Tissot, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
At its birth, the church was a group of 120 Jewish people receiving the Holy Spirit in a cataclysmic event, the compression waves of which would reverberate across the whole earth. Then, on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 faithful Jews who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks—thanksgiving for the first harvest—now became the Holy Spirit’s First Harvest of many to come.
In those first days, Luke recorded,
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
(Acts 2:42-47 Common English Bible CEB)
Later, in his first letter to the mostly Gentile believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul taught how this “breaking of bread” should be.
“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
“Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8 CEB)
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks participation in the blood of Christ?
“And is not the bread that we break participation in the body of Christ?
“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 CEB)
Bearing in Mind
The Passover meal had become infused with new meaning through the sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection of Messiah. Through Jesus’ work on the cross, a way had been opened for a new people, a new kingdom, a new culture, a new relationship between God and humanity, a healing work that would ultimately reconcile the cosmos to the Creator.
All these things were to be remembered in the celebration of the Love Feast. Paul enjoined,
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.”
(1 Corinthians 11:23-28 CEB)
Bonded as One
In honor of our Lord,
Let us remember, as we break bread together.
Let us confess our sins, that we may “keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Let us praise God, as we thank Him for our redemption.
Let us be one, for the Lord has made us one loaf by His Spirit.
[For the scriptural quotations, phrases in boldface are my own emphasis]
[Cover art: front cover of “Love Feast” a Passover Seder infused with the Gospel]