February 11, 2015
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 11:1-6.
When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone should say to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ reply, ‘The Master has need of it and will send it back here at once.’” So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it.
Jesus’ peripatetic journey to Jerusalem is nearing its end. Why is Mark setting this scene for us? Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem appears to be a fulfillment of the prophet of Zachariah according to the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, “[T]he Lord as a divine warrior would ride into Jerusalem, seated on the foal of an ass.”
However, the details are peculiar. It makes Jesus look like a seer, someone with special powers of divination. Not just divination either, but some kind of magical power to compel people to do something for what purpose they know not why. This is a new experience of Jesus for his disciples and they unquestioningly follow his orders. According to Moloney in The Gospel of Mark, “This is the only place in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is credited with foreknowledge other than the passion predictions and chapter 13 [destruction of the Temple and the tribulations].” This passage has a different flavor to it, though. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary admits, “There is some ambiguity about whether Jesus’ instructions were predictions reflecting supernatural knowledge on his part or simply the reflection of an arrangement that he had made beforehand with the owner.” The Commentary doesn’t say any more about that, though. That’s not very helpful.
Moloney goes on, “This oddness adds to the impression that something more than Jesus, the disciples, and taking possession of a young ass is involved in these preparations….Jesus’ foreknowledge, however, is not the point of the story….Jesus’ awareness of the events that will bring him into the city points beyond Jesus to God. The passion predictions made it clear that Jesus was responding to God’s design, and this thought is carried further in the correspondence between Jesus’ orders and what, in fact, happens. Jesus’ preparations for his entry into Jerusalem are a further step in the unfolding of God’s plan.”
The Hebrew Scriptures clearly communicate God’s plan for His people over and over again. I don’t know those Scriptures well. There is something within me that resists the notion that God has a plan, though. Even the Jews repeatedly rebelled at the idea or at least didn’t much like the plan He had in mind for them. Maybe because it strikes me as being manipulated even if it is God pulling the strings. The free will he gave us is deeply embedded in our DNA. God’s plan is essentially for us to be obedient, faithful children seeking to be in a mutually loving relationship with Him. Or is His plan much more detailed than that? This passage seems to indicate that He can get down into the details. How often does He intervene in my life, trying to get me to adhere to His plan? I don’t know the answers to these questions. No one does.
I guess what it comes down to for me is to follow the example of the disciples in this story. Simply do as Jesus tells me and don’t ask why. That’s not my natural inclination, but often is the best path for me. It’s hard, though, because it means I have to figure out what Jesus is telling me to do, not in a general way but in the specifics of my daily life. That means I have to listen to him; I have to seek him out and then be still so that he has a chance to tell me what he wants me to do. Prayer and contemplation is the prescription. That’s what Jesus did and why he was able to accept His Father’s plan for him.