Mark 11:1-11–Stuck in passion
Isaiah 50:4-8 – The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.
The Jesus of Mark’s gospel is not the triumphal hero we find in Matthew or Luke, but the Jesus described in today’s Hebrew scriptural text from Isaiah 50. Here is a man who knows the indignities he will endure and has “set his face like flint” toward the suffering to come. This Jesus is well aware that he will face the future alone.
Mark’s Jesus isn’t so much a future ruler on procession as a resistance leader heading up a protest march. This short walk from Bethany to Jerusalem takes the story from the context of friendly countryside to the heart of Roman power and oppression. Jesus is going to confront the rich, influential, religious, and political movers and shakers with an amazing invitation…to be open as little children, have the faith of a mustard seed, and reject all the trappings of their society. He’ll do this alone from a rebel’s cross and then from a borrowed tomb.
In this Markan text, Jesus is completely alone from the moment he enters the city and also as he surveys the temple. This was not Solomon’s temple but the one rebuilt by the Roman servant, collaborator, and oppressor Herod. From other passages we know what sacrilege transpired in the court with money changing/lending, abusive sacrificial practice, and I would offer intrigue.
I envision Jesus surveying the temple during a time of total silence when no one else is around. What is he thinking? Perhaps that he is sickened by the degradation of his world – before him in the ancestral symbol of his faith, the great Temple of Jerusalem where the Holy of Holies resides – the holy in the midst of great perversion and abuse.
I’m stuck in Jesus’ passion today, reflecting on his suffering for each of us with his face set like flint. Like you, I know the end of the story, but for today I will tarry with incredible reverence with the solitary Jesus of the protest march, the Jesus who knew this was also the harbinger of a funeral procession.