It can be hard as those in 21st Century London to get into the head of Mark's original readers, but he starts a new section (chapters 11-13) its crucial to try and think like a 1st Century Jew. Imagine Joe. He's a twenty-something year old guy working in Jerusalem, trying to make a living and keep on the right side of the occupying Romans, looking forward to the arrival of the promised Messiah. When the city life gets tough, Joe can look up to the temple and see a reminder of all that the Jews hold precious. The temple summed up so much to the Jews - how they could speak to God, how they could come to Him with sacrifices ... their entire relationship with God. The enormous view of the temple would be a reassurance that everything is ok.
As Joe is waiting for the Messiah, it would come as great excitement to see Jesus arriving on a colt that first Palm Sunday. The reason that Mark keenly repeats the word ‘colt' is because Jesus is fulfilling the promise of Zechariah 9:9 - the king, coming with salvation, arriving on a colt. No wonder the people shout ‘Hosanna!' (‘Save us', vv9-10).
But this king doesn't just bring salvation. Sandwiched between a peculiar episode with a fig tree, Jesus arrives in the temple and starts throwing furniture. His condemnation of the temple is clear - "Is it not written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers" (v17). Judgement is justly pronounced against a fruitless temple. Related to the surrounding condemnation of the fruitless fig tree, the event is even more terrifying: just as His declaration cursed the tree and it withered, so Jesus' judgement of the temple will mean its destruction.
Peter's simple expression of shock (v21) is placated by Jesus in vv22-25. The fundamentals of relationship with God are experienced through faith, independent of the temple. Jesus isn't bringing an end to relationship with God - He is bringing salvation (vv1-11). But he is bringing judgement on the faithless, fruitless temple, as we are going to continue seeing as we go through this section.
Questions to ponder
Read Psalm 118 and Zechariah 9:9-17. Can you understand the crowd's excitement as he sees Jesus arrive on a donkey?
Can you understand a first century Christian's concern to see judgement pronounced on the temple? Why is it such a shock?
How does this help us to understand what Jesus has brought? How does this help us to understand how we relate to God?
For prep on the last RML of term, click here.