Mark 11: 1-11 & John 12: 9-19
The Triumphal Entrance of Jesus seen through the eyes of the authors of Mark and John shows the growth and development of who the early followers of Christ believed Jesus to be. The question for us this evening is: Who do we think this man was who entered into Jerusalem to a crowd of followers?
Mark, as the early witness, describes a setting that seems to rely on traditions that hearken to the Messiah, but there is not a tremendous of confidence among the crowd. The exaltation of Jesus, using the words of Psalm 118, does not directly address Jesus, just extols the “one” who comes in the name of the Lord. Is this Jesus, yes, but there is not direct recognition of Jesus as an heir to David. While the crowds were good size, the word that is translated as “many” speaks of a crowd, they do not compare to other versions in the synoptic tradition that says the “the whole city” came out to greet Jesus.
As a reader, we are primed to view this entrance of Jesus as confirmation of Jesus’ status as the Messiah, or king, but the author of Mark’s telling is rather ambivalent. Mark’s telling of the Gospel story is to pose enough questions to invite us to make our own decision, who is this many?
Contrast that with the author of John, who tells of the entrance of Jesus against the backdrop of the raising of Lazarus. Great mobs come out to see Jesus and Lazarus, so much so that the Pharisees and Jewish leaders know that Jesus must be dealt with, as the “whole world has gone after him.” For the author, there is not doubt who Jesus is as the author adds the title of King of Israel to the crowds who recite Psalm 118. Furthermore, it is in the John that we have the tradition of the Palm branches being laid in front of Jesus, a tradition that is spoken of when the Maccabees re-enter Jerusalem and conquer the city from the Greeks. The connection of Jesus to the Maccabees demonstrates the confidence that John has in who Jesus is.
Perhaps most of us fall somewhere in between these two versions. We proclaim Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah, but how far does this proclamation go? Do we allow our lives to be guided by the confidence of John or do we still hold some reservations, as Mark seems to invite?
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, who is he to us?