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Mark’s first-century biography – page 31

Now when they (Jesus, his disciples and a crowd, c. AD 30) draw near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sends out two of his disciples and states to them, “Go down into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied-up, on which no one has ever sat. Release him and bring him. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say that the Lord has need of him and immediately he sends him out here.’” 
Jesus begins the final week of his life on earth. He nears Jerusalem outside whose walls he would soon be crucified. As if to mark the darkness of the world around, Mark names two villages, Bethphage and Bethany, whose names confirm sorrow in the scene. Respectively, ‘house of unripe figs’ and ‘house of misery’. The Mount of Olives also had dark aspects – a former place of idol worship to achieve success - and a huge cemetery there still.

Jesus sets about enacting a kind of public performance or ‘play’. But why? And what does it all mean – two disciples, a pre-arranged tied-up and untrained colt, the initial objection, the response to “the Lord’s need”, the colt’s release mentioned three times, the entry into Jerusalem and death?

And they came away and found a colt tied-up at a door outside on a two-way street, and they release him. But some of those standing there stated to them, “What are you doing, releasing the colt?” But they said to them just as Jesus had said, and they allowed them.

Maybe this arranged ‘play’ had something to do with history? The Bible as a whole, written over a period of more than two centuries (BC 2000 to AD 100), uses past historic incidents to teach about now and reality and the future.

‘He did not come to judge the world/ He did not come to blame/ He did not only come to seek/ It was to save he came.’ (Gospel song) 
The historic event which connects with Palm Sunday is in the Bible’s book of Zechariah, dated circa BC 520. This is part of the poem which he wrote: 

“City of Zion, be full of joy! People of Jerusalem, shout!
See, your king comes to you. He always does what is right.
He has the power to save. 
He is gentle and riding on a donkey. He is sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

And they bring the colt to Jesus and throw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. And many spread out their clothes on the road, and others leafy branches cut from the fields. And those leading and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 

Sure enough, the crowd with Jesus realised what this ‘play’ was all about. This man, this colt, were what Zechariah had written about 500 years earlier. This man was going to do what Zechariah had prophesied in his book.

But I hear you say, “this confirms that Jesus was just a good actor – nothing more – he arranged this and arranged his (apparent) death and (apparent) resurrection…” But I wonder, “What about the distant unseen tied-up colt? Who put it there? And why did the words given to the two disciples lead to its release for the Lord’s use?”

And he came in into Jerusalem and into the temple. And having looked around at all things, it being already long after the hour, he came out - into Bethany with the twelve. 

Darkness still. Back to Bethany, the ‘house of misery’. What was dark in Zechariah’s day? His book recorded messages from the LORD God about the LORD’s opposition to nations around Jerusalem and his judgment upon them. 

Here’s one of those messages: “Tyre’s people have built a fort for themselves. They’ve piled up silver like dust. They have as much gold as the dirt in the streets. But the Lord will take away everything they have”. Here’s another. “I will take the chariots away from Ephraim. I will remove the war horses from Jerusalem. I will break the bows that are used in battle.” 

‘The King of Love, in triumph - rides through the city’s gate; rejected, scorned—yet victor, - the conqueror of hate; O wave your green palm branches!  Exalt his matchless worth! This King of Love shall conquer - the nations of the earth.’ (Marion Ham, writer, 1867-1956)
Is our world like that today? Accumulated wealth, power and armaments – all misused to the detriment of others? That’s why some still shout for joy about Jesus. He didn’t come to be rich and powerful. He came to change people inside. Not for him an expensive war-horse. It had to be a donkey’s colt.
Sinner Syvret

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