Summary: To learn the lesson that the crowd had failed to learn on Palm Sunday
Change of Direction for Jesus
So far in the gospel of Mark Jesus has been secretive about his mission, warning his disciples not to tell the crowd what they know. The disciples for the most part have been portrayed as lacking understanding and generally unable to do the things that Jesus asks of them.
All that is about to change. Jesus is about to make a very clear statement that anyone – and most importantly the Pharisees – can’t miss, even if they have only the most basic understanding of their faith.
Disciples knew Jesus had changed
The disciples have known that Jesus’ attitude has changed since He declared that they must go to Judea. In John 11 the disciples reminded Jesus that last time He was there they tried to stone Him. Jesus is going to raise Lazarus (one of the people he loves the most) from the dead. At the end of that conversation in John 11:16, it is Thomas who says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” The disciples are dreading the journey back to Judea – but they can’t yet know the full horror that they will go through.
Lazarus lived at Bethany, which is less than two miles from Jerusalem. It’s at Bethany that we pick up the story this morning. Bethany today is known as el `Azareyeh which the place of Lazarus.
Mark doesn’t mention Lazarus, but has the disciples in the village anyway. Here they are told to go and get a colt – a young donkey that had never been ridden.
The instructions are very simple and very clear. They are told exactly what to say if they are challenged. They are not given any other information, so probably don’t know why they are doing what they are doing – perhaps that is the best way sometimes. They do exactly as they are told, and respond correctly to the challenge - “The Lord needs it and will send back shortly”. As a result they are allowed to take the donkey to Jesus.
Miracle or plan?
Was this a miracle or a careful plan that Jesus had made. There are a number of possibilities, if we are going to claim it as a miracle we need to be sure it wasn’t a plan. The main objection to the plan theory is that Jesus hadn’t been here for a while – so how could he have arranged with someone to borrow their donkey. It’s possible though that the donkey’s owner is in fact one of Jesus’ followers, and so had been with Him at various times and had made the arrangement.
Miracle or not (and some commentators say ‘take your choice’) Jesus had chosen a donkey that had not been ridden. Animals that have not been under human control are specially valued for certain tasks. Just as in 1 Samuel 6:7 when the Israelites were being given instructions about transporting the Ark of the Lord “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up.”
This way it seems that it is clearer that God is in control, and that humans can have had no influence on the outcome.
The fact that Jesus was riding on an unbroken colt is a miracle.