Connections 03.28.2021: The Humble King

Mark 11:1-11

When Mark first tells us that Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, he also tells us that Jesus told the Twelve what was coming: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again” (10:33-34).

Jesus’ words imply an invitation to his disciples: “So come along with me!” Jesus’ words also imply an invitation to those of us who are also his disciples: “Come along with me!”

In the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11, when Jesus tells the disciples that it’s time to go to where the deceased Lazarus lies, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn 11:16). Nobody says something like that when Jesus says it’s time to go to Jerusalem, but they could have. And we should.

“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

To go to Jerusalem with Jesus is to die with Jesus.

To go to Jerusalem with Jesus is to give up your life with, to, and for Jesus.

To follow Jesus is to die with Jesus; it is to give up your life with, to, and for Jesus.

Such following means to choose the narrow way over the broad way, to choose the hard way over the easy way, to choose the selfless way over the selfish way, to choose the generous way over the greedy way, to choose the dangerous way over the cautious way, and to choose God’s way over the world’s way.

And so the King of the Universe, the Lord of Creation, the Messiah of Israel, and the Savior of the world rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey. As Dom Crossan and the late Marcus Borg pointed out [The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem (New York: HarperOne, 2006), pp. 2-5], at about the same time the Roman governor Pontius Pilate would have led his own procession into Jerusalem with flags flying, trumpets blaring, and soldiers marching—his arrival was ostentatious and impressive. Jesus, though, was hailed as King by a motley crew of commoners and outcasts.

Jesus fulfilled the expectations of Israel in unexpected ways. He came in the true power of God—in the power of humility, love, service, and sacrifice. He had tried to tell his disciples how it would be, but they did not get it until after his resurrection.

Now here we are 2000 years after his resurrection. We still have a hard time getting it.

But it is still true—“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And it is still true—if we are to be his disciples, we must take up our cross daily and follow him. And what the 20th century theologian and Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said is also still true: “When Christ summons you, he bids you come and die.”

Jesus is our King; we are his subjects. Our King says to us, “Come follow me to Jerusalem with full acceptance of what that means—that you are willing to give up your self-centered, self-serving, self-protecting ways in order to love God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus is our King; we are his subjects. Will we follow him? How will we give ourselves up for God’s sake and for others’ sake?

Discussion

  • Why do you think Jesus sent two of his disciples to get a donkey? What might he have wanted them to learn from the experience? What might they have learned from it?
  • People spread their cloaks and leafy branches in front of Jesus. What were they trying to say through those actions? What can we do to make a similar declaration?
  • Jesus was the long-awaited King. But he wasn’t the kind of king people expected. How can we try to make sure that we praise and serve Jesus as the King he really is rather than as the kind we and other people expect or want him to be?
  • What do you imagine Jesus and his disciples talked about when they went back out to Bethany? Why?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara, grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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