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Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy

Palm Sunday

Mark 11 verses 1 – 11. " What kind of Christ?"

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

If you had been present at Martin Luther King’s prophetic ‘I have a dream’ speech, or Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, would you have felt a sense of history in the making? Have you ever been in a crowd caught up in the atmosphere of such a moment? Why is it only in retrospect that we realise the significance of such occasions?

A Window on the Text

The three year public ministry of Jesus is approaching its climax. He must soon confront and challenge his enemies and the system represented by the Temple. He arrives at Jerusalem to meet his destiny as the beloved Son and suffering servant (prefigured three years earlier at his baptism). Soon he will pay the price of such audacity!

Jesus’ arrangements for coming into the city are pure street theatre. He is making a statement - but did anyone understand its meaning at the time? Mark (writing some 30 years later) sees the messianic significance of riding on a donkey, as deliberately fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah 9.9. His gospel, as well as giving the basic facts, characteristically invites us to look deeper into what is really going on.

As Jesus enters, the crowd (and perhaps the disciples) shout out all the right things, but with little appreciation of what he was doing. To them this is the long-expected messianic descendent of King David, come to free Jerusalem from the hated occupation, just as their hero Judas Maccabaeus had done 200 years before. Now, as then, they celebrate by spreading palm branches on the road before him, shouting out their joyful ‘hosannas’.

But Jesus was not the liberator they had been hoping for, though his purpose was political: he had come to challenge the institutions and unjust structures of power, but his methods were to be very different. By riding on a borrowed donkey rather than a fine horse, he shows the kind of ‘messiah’ he is. This is not the political messiah of Jewish nationalists’ expectations. His is a kingship and authority of hidden majesty and lowly service. He enters his city with the humble dignity of the servant king. In the next few days their acclamation would turn to disappointment and hatred.

The day ends (unlike the other gospels) on a quiet note. In Mark there is no riot or confrontation in the Temple. The authorities appear not to have noticed Jesus’ arrival. Tomorrow things will be different but for the moment there is an overnight pause as Jesus and the twelve return to Bethany for the night.
Responding as a community
  1. Why do we remember ‘Palm Sunday’? What for you is its significance?

  2. What do we learn, from today’s reflection, about status and authority?

  3. Why is the ‘messiahship’ of Mark’s Jesus ‘hidden’ and not openly proclaimed (the so-called ‘messianic secret’) in contrast to the other gospels?

  4. Why do you think Mark concludes ‘Palm Sunday’ without Jesus entering and cleansing the Temple … whereas for Mathew and Luke this is his destination on that day?

  5. What is important and different about Jesus’ approach to’ liberation’ from oppressive rule and government?
Praying Together

Read slowly:

First voice: From heaven you came, helpless babe, entered our world, your glory veiled; not to be served but to serve, and give your life that we might live.

All: This is our God the Servant King, he calls us now to follow him, to bring our lives as a daily offering, of worship to the Servant King.(Songs of Fellowship1991 Kingsway No 120)

First voice: Jesus deliberately entered the city, where he was to confront all that was anti-kingdom, and this would end in his death. We pray that we may have courage to follow his example of humility, courage and determination to challenge all that is wrong.

All : Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Keep silence for a few minutes. Name specific situations

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

Going Deeper
  1. Some links of interest:

Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion

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