Yesterday, the rich young man approached Jesus, “As He was setting out on His journey…” Today we learn the destination of that journey: Jerusalem. With thousands heading there for the Passover feast, it would have been possible for Jesus to attend unnoticed, and certainly would have fit with his pattern of secrecy. But all of that gets overturned, literally, in just a few hours.
First, he proceeds into town on a colt – just as the prophet Zechariah had said the king would – and not only do his supporters pick up on this, but He does nothing to stop them making a parade out of it. Second, after a night in Bethany, He discovers that the Temple has been turned into a profit center for worship items. Enraged, He drives out the sellers and overturns their tables, and would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.
The remainder of our reading is launched by Mark’s observation that, upon hearing of this, the chief priests and scribes…were seeking a way to destroy Him, for they feared Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching. The events of the next day – which occupy the rest of chapter 11 and 12 – focus on the various approaches the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes use to try to discredit and entrap Jesus.
Notice the cat-and-mouse game of this pivotal day. Jesus is asked a series of questions: “By what authority are you doing these things?”… “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”… “If a woman is widowed seven times, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?”… and, “Which commandment is the most important of them all?” Mark lets you know that each one is a trap, and lets you see Jesus’ agility and boldness in implicating the questioners. Only once does He answer directly, and readers of the Pentateuch will recognize the references.
As I’ve said many times, notice how Jesus plays the crowd against the Jewish leaders. At times, the crowd is leveraged to protect Jesus, as when Jesus appears to condemn the Jewish leadership as “ungrateful tenants” on God’s rightful property. At others, Jesus speaks indirectly to the Jewish leadership through them, as when in His teaching He said, “Beware of the scribes…”. Mark gives you a front row seat to the rising tension, preparing, it appears, for a final confrontation.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 138:8: The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Mark 11 and 12. Now let’s read it!
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.