Ascent of Jesus: Preparation before entering Jerusalem

Further, the preparations that Jesus makes with his disciples reinforce this hope. Jesus comes from Bethphage and Bethany to the Mount of Olives, the place from which the Messiah was expected to enter. He sends two of his disciples ahead of him, telling them that they will find a colt on which no one has yet sat. They are to unite it and bring it to him. If anyone asks by what authority they do so, they are to say: “The Lord has need of it” (Mk 11, 3; Lk 19, 31). The disciples find the colt and as anticipated, they are asked by what right they act. They gave the response they were told to give – and they are allowed to carry out their mission.

These actions seem to be harmless and not provocative for our generation. But for the Jews of Jesus’ time it contains full of mysterious allusions. We should understand that Jesus’ ministry started with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Now with these happenings, the theme of the Kingdom and its promises are bought forth more powerfully and becomes ever-present.

Jesus claims in a concrete way the right of the King, known throughout antiquity, to requisition modes of transport. The use of an animal on which no one had yet sat is a further pointer to the right of the kings. Most striking, though, are the Old Testament allusions that are attached with these actions.

First, it recalls Jacob’s blessing (Gen 49, 10-11), in which Judah is promised the sceptre and which is not to depart from between his feet “until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Of him it is said that he binds hi foal to the vine (Gen 49, 11). The tethered colt, then, indicates the one who is to come, “to whom shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

Second and more important is Zechariah 9, 9., the text that both Matthew and John quote explicitly for an understanding of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21, 5; cf. Zech 9, 9; Jn 12, 15).

Jesus is indeed making a royal claim. He wants his path and his action to be understood in terms of Old Testament promises that are fulfilled in his person. He acts and lives within the Word of God. His ascent is a path into the heart of God’s Word. At the same time through the insertion of the text in Zechariah 9, 9., a “Zealot” understanding of the kingdom is excluded. It makes clear that Jesus is not promoting violence and not instigating a military revolt against Rome. His power is of another kind. It is based in God’s poverty, God’s peace and compassion that which Jesus identifies as the only power that can redeem.

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