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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Day One: Entry into Jerusalem

The week begins with a protest march.

I’ve been present for large protest marches, and they are really something to be a part of. I recall being a legal observer for a march that was on ASU’s campus (I believe around the debate that was held there during the 2004 presidential race.) At one point the chant “This is what democracy looks like” was echoing off the campus buildings as the crowd was moving at quite a clip. There was a collective enthusiasm that infected me.

Surely to be with Jesus courageously pushing into the heart of the establishment must have been thrilling. Here’s the way I think of it. Link

A couple of nuggets from Borg: Why was Jesus on a donkey? Mark makes it clear that it was on purpose. Mathew takes the next step and quotes Zechariah 9:9-10, Borg points out that this is not an act predicted by Zechariah that serves as mystical evidence the Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Rather this is a very intentional prophetic act by Jesus, which reminds his audience of the story in the Jewish tradition of a humble king setting them free. Jesus’ act is challenging the establishment, and his reference to the Zechariah scripture through his actions is not accidental.

The second bit that I find fascinating is what Borg says Rome would have been doing. “On or about the same day, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate rode into the city from the opposite side, the west, at the head of a very different kind of procession: imperial cavalry and foot soldiers arriving to reinforce the garrison on the Temple Mount.” I love this contrast.

The stage is set. The Religious establishment is simultaneously oppressed and reinforced by Rome as the humble country preacher enters the city with motley crew of hillbillies, whores, and outsiders.


Lin said...

This might preach!

Bob Howard said...

Hi, Jim. Here are my two-cents-worth (though it is like 2 zillion dollars long....):

11:1 -- I noticed that only Mark mentions Bethphage. Hmmm...what's up with that? I looked up the meaning of the word: "house of unripe/early figs." Bigger hmmm. It was suggested about 20 years ago that Mark envisions Jesus as the replacement "Temple" (tear down this temple/build it back up, and so on). His cursing of the fig tree story uses Mark's familiar "envelope" (also called "sandwich") framing literary device, which centers attention on the middle part. In this case, the current temple is supposed to be the fruitless fig tree. Guess what? Jesus travels toward Jerusalem and the temple through a town named "unripe/early fig." Foreshadowing on Mark's part?

Further, he sends two of his disciples ("two by two," see Mark 6:7), evidently to a pre-arranged pickup for said donkey. When they do the dirty deed, they find said onager "near a door outside in the open street" (verse 4, NRSV). Again, this is only in Mark. Again, what's up with this? I checked the Greek, and the word translated "outside in the open street" really means "where two ways meet." Mark has Jesus going "on the way" (9:34; 10:17, 32). It may be that Mark is loading the theological dice by underscoring that here is where two ways of life cross, and he will choose one of them (and so should we). Then he holds that public demonstration in direct contradiction of Pilate's conspicuous display of Roman might. Jesus' "way" is the way of peace, which contradicts both Rome's "peace through domination" and the religious establishment's domination of the people.

My assumption is that Mark's biblically-literate hearers would have picked up on those clues.

JimII said...

Bob Howard says: Bethphage. Hmmm...what's up with that? I looked up the meaning of the word: "house of unripe/early figs."

JimII replies: How weird is this? It makes you wonder if this is a mistranslation. Like, what if you separate Bethany for the figs, but that doesn't work.

It is almost like it is really hard to work with a two thousand year old text.