er’s acclamation of Jesus as the Messiah in Mark 8:29 is a turning point in his Gospel story. Two changes occur: (1) Jesus begins to tell his disciples about his coming death, and (2) he begins the journey to Jerusalem that ends in the crucifixion. Today’s passage is Mark’s account of Jesus’ arrival and entry into Jerusalem.
Zechariah 14:4 proclaims that on the day of the Lord, “his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives.” Mark specifically mentions the Mount of Olives, framing the entry as a proclamation of the long-awaited day of the Lord. Jesus arranged in advance for his entry, with supporters unknown to the disciples. As in the rest of this Gospel, they were ignorant; but they obeyed Jesus’ instructions. Amid a threatening environment, Jesus had allies who prepared the colt and smoothed the way for his entry.
Jesus staged his arrival as a dramatic metaphor for the Messiah he would be. The people had varying expectations of the Messiah. None matched Jesus’ understanding, and all were a threat to power. If the Messiah came as a warrior king, like David, it was a threat to the Roman authorities. If the Messiah were an ancient prophet, like Elijah, it threatened the power of the temple authorities to speak for God. If the Messiah were a great priest, who would cleanse the religion and set new standards of righteousness, it threatened the temple authorities and Pharisees.
Jesus rode the colt into Jerusalem to send a message of humility and peace. He did not ride a horse, symbol of war, privilege, and power. He gave the Romans no excuse to arrest him. He was displaying a peaceable kingdom, in solidarity with the weak and oppressed. Only in this case, the leaders of Israel were the oppressors of their people, and they feared him.
The disciples finally understood that Jesus was the Messiah, but they didn’t know what that meant. Jesus’ proclamation of an inclusive, compassionate reign of God turned the hope of centuries into the today of fulfillment. But it looked so different from their expectations that they could not respond well to the reality. They put cloaks and fresh branches on the road, a custom reserved for royalty (2 Kings 9:13). They shout, “hosanna,” which meant “O save!” This shout of praise from Psalm 118:25–26, was used in royal processions to express hope for deliverance in battle. The people sought war, not peace—judgment, not grace. They announced the coming of the reign of David, not God. Silence was Jesus’ only response. His entry into Jerusalem was triumphant only in the eyes of his followers and the crowd.
Jesus presented the people with a choice. Would they support him in an alternate peaceable kingdom of God? Or would they reject his message of peace and transformation? For Jesus, the ride must have been disappointing.
Once inside the city, Jesus went directly to the temple and looked around. Unlike the account in Matthew and Luke, Jesus didn’t act against the commercial enterprises he saw that evening. He merely took note and returned to Bethany for the night. His actions on the following day came after a night of reflection.