Liturgy of the Palms
Alternate Reading A
March 28, 2021
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Mark 11:1-11, The Message or Mark 11:1-11, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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On this day in the life of Jesus, it is the beginning of the week in which Passover will be celebrated in Jerusalem.
Passover is still celebrated by Jews to this day. Celebrated in synagogues, and most particularly in homes, where their salvation from slavery in Egypt is remembered and re-told: The hardship of our oppression. The calling of Moses to lead us to freedom and to a promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The repeated agreement - and then reneging - of the Pharaoh, until the tenth and final and most deadly of the plagues - the angel of death that killed all first born males - except for our homes where we had used the blood of a lamb to mark our door posts - those homes were passed over. The hurried preparations to be ready to flee - no time for leavened bread. The flight from Egypt pursued by the Egyptian soldiers. The miraculous parting of the Red Sea to allow us to pass through, but drowning the pursuing soldiers. The hardship of the 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The giving of the 10 Commandments - now that we are free, how shall live? What does the Lord require of us?
And then, as now - remembering that the journey from oppression to freedom, from corruption to purity, from unjust violence to just non-violence, has not been completed. Leave the door ajar and an empty chair at the table for Elijah! When Elijah comes the Messiah is on his way. And when the Messiah comes, finally the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Next year in Jerusalem!
But on this day in Jesus' life, this is the year, and this is Jerusalem. At least that is what the crowd thinks. Listen to their shouts:
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming of the Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Now Jerusalem is not a large city. And what the authors of the Bible take for granted and fail to mention is that while Jesus is parading in on a colt through one of the back gates, on the other side of the city Pilate is parading in on a war horse accompanied by a squadron or two of battle hardened Roman soldiers. (See Borg & Crossan, The Last Week, pages 1-30.) You can bet that he too is being acclaimed by a crowd. There'd be hell to pay if he wasn't.
The Bible doesn't tell us about that parade or what they shouted, but you can bet it wasn't, "Blessed is the coming of the Kingdom of our ancestor David." That would be treason. And treason was punishable by? You guessed it, by torture followed by execution on a cross.
Do you think anyone at Pilate's parade heard about Jesus' parade? Heard what the crowd had shouted? Let's see what unfolds in the week ahead.
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 36-37; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See below.
Mark 11:1-11 (NRSV)
1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'" 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom
of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark 11:1-11 (The Message)
1 When they were nearing Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany on Mount Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: 2 "Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you'll find a colt tethered, one that has never yet been ridden. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone asks, 'What are you doing?' say, 'The Master needs him, and will return him right away.' "
4 They went and found a colt tied to a door at the street corner and untied it. 5 Some of those standing there said, "What are you doing untying that colt?" 6 The disciples replied exactly as Jesus had instructed them, and the people let them alone. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus, spread their coats on it, and he mounted.
8 The people gave him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. 9 Running ahead and following after, they were calling out,
Blessed is he who comes in God's name!
10 Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in highest heaven!
11 He entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in. But by now it was late, so he went back to Bethany with the Twelve.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.