Canadian Mennonite
Volume 10, No. 07
April 3, 2006


Easter Reversal

Marv Thiessen, lead pastor at First Mennonite Church in Calgary, asked if I would preach there while in Alberta for the MC Alberta delegate sessions in a few weeks. As a result, I’ve been reflecting on the gospel text for that Sunday, Mark 11:1-11 (the Palm Sunday entrance).

Jesus’ instructions about riding the colt fascinate me. Growing up, I heard that Jesus rode in on a humble donkey to tell the crowd that he is really not arriving as the earthly king they think he is. In studying this passage, I now believe that’s the wrong interpretation.

Donkeys aren’t signs of humbleness in Jewish history. They are a sign of wealth. Job, the archetypal successful man, had his wealth described in donkeys and oxen. Jacob was rich in camels and donkeys.

There’s also another event in Jewish history that Jesus is duplicating. When Solomon was to be crowned, David instructed that Solomon ride David’s own donkey to the coronation ceremony as a sign of his authority.

Matthew and John reference a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” It was very important to Jesus that he enter Jerusalem this way.

The disciples get a lot of criticism for not understanding Jesus’ plans but they got the colt immediately. Their response was to shout, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” The people all got it too. They recreated a Roman emperor’s Adventus, his ceremonial entry into a city, where people would honour the emperor by throwing their cloaks down before him.

And who else is watching? Some Pharisees. They got the message too. John’s Gospel tells us that this is the event that pushes them over the edge. Jesus can’t just be arrested any longer, he now has to be killed. Jesus’ reception as an Emperor by the crowds could be the start of a revolt, and a reason for the Romans to destroy their nation.

That’s why the colt was so important to Jesus. Just as with the Academy Awards, your arrival is everything. He was setting up a vital chain of events that would lead to his arrest and death a handful of days later. Jesus could have easily avoided being killed. Instead, he forced the hand of those with political power to act in response to him. His sacrifice on the cross, the grave and the reversal of his resurrection were soon to follow.

New CM Features: On page 4 we are starting a series called “The Young Prophets” where we are seeking out accounts of Mennonite youth and young adults passionate about their faith. To the younger parts of the church, submissions are very welcome! In 500 words, answer, “Who or what has inspired and shaped your faith?”

In Faith & Life, Jung Hoon Han, of the Korean Mennonite Ministry in Winnipeg, continues our series on teaching from “new edges” of the Mennonite church. Teaching from Argentinean and Colombian Mennonites is coming in future issues.

Third, many thanks to Matthew Bailey-Dick for his “Shoes for your feet” columns calling us to the ministry of peacemaking. This issue we are starting “God, money and me,” a column written by staff at Mennonite Foundation of Canada. In InConversation, Erwin Warkentin launches these monthly reflections on using our resources in Christ’s service.

—Tim Miller Dyck

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