Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry intoJerusalem is more restrained and less victorious in tone than the other gospel accounts. In keeping with Mark’s gospel as a whole, it forms part of the relentless journey of Jesus, the suffering Messiah, towards Jerusalem the place of his death. The longed-for liberation will come about in Jerusalem, through powerlessness, suffering and death rather than through might and power.
By way of reflection, I share with you a prayer, based on this little text, that has carried me through some troubled times:
‘Give me, O God, a disciple’s tongue; give me words that I may know how to reply to the wearied; wake me each morning to hear, to listen like a disciple; open my ears to hear; teach me not to turn away but to rely on your help in the face of injury or insult. I know I shall not be shamed.’
The gospel account of the suffering and death of Jesus opens with the story of an insightful but unnamed woman who pours out healing ointment on the head of Jesus. Her story of support is sandwiched between two stories of opposition: an assassination plot on the part of the religious authorities and the foreshadowing of Jesus’ betrayal at the hands of a close follower.
Status does not guarantee goodness. As the story unfolds, we hear that Jesus’ closest followers fall asleep when he most needs them, despite his earlier instruction to ‘stay awake’. Worse than that, they betray, deny, and abandon him. Some Galilean women remain faithful. They have followed him and looked after him on the long journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. They become witnesses to his death and burial. These women will also discover the empty tomb and take the message of the resurrection to the male disciples.
A foreign passer-by, Simon, whose sons are known to the Markan community, shoulders part of the burden. An ordinary Roman soldier realises and proclaims that Jesus is of God. The story has come full circle: the very first verse of the gospel announced the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Christ and the Son of God. Now the reader understands what it means to make such a proclamation. The final chapter is to be celebrated next weekend. The mystery is to be lived every day of every week.