Mark 11:1-11—Palm Sunday

Palm_Sunday_04012012_donkeyBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

I beg you Lord, deliver us!  I beseech you Lord, prosper us! (Psalm 118:25 SWH)[1]

Hosanna (הוֹשִׁ֨יעָ֥ה נָּ֑א):  What is in a word?

Mark’s account of Palm Sunday is amazingly simple:  The disciples hunt around for a donkey;  they have a small parade; some people start shouting;  they scope out the temple and go home.  No palms!  No Pharisees hanging around.  No prophecy.

Still, this is no ordinary parade.  France notes that nowhere else in the gospels do we read of Jesus riding [2].  The parade fulfills the prophecy:  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).

The whole story builds up to v. 9 and the shouting:  Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord (Mark 11:9).  Hosanna is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase appearing only in Psalm 118:25 cited above.  The rest of the phrase is cited from the next verse (Psalm 118:26).  Beale and Carson [3] describe Psalm 118 as a “royal song of thanksgiving for military victory” regularly sung at Passover.  The truncation of Psalm 118:25 to exclude the second half of the sentence (I beseech you Lord, prosper us), underscores the military intentions of the Palm Sunday crowd.  The next verse makes this point very plain:  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David”(Mark 11:10).

Who is really being blessed here?

The Greek in v. 9 admits a second translation:  “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Mother Teresa once described herself as Christ’s donkey.  When we come humbly in the name of the Lord, in some sense we too become Christ’s donkey.  And we too are blessed.

[1] אָנָּ֣א יְ֭הוָה הוֹשִׁ֨יעָ֥ה נָּ֑א אָֽנָּ֥א יְ֜הוָ֗ה הַצְלִ֨יחָ֥ה נָּֽא (Psalm 118:25 WTT).

[2] R.T. France.  The New International Greek Testament Commentary:  The Gospel of Mark.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans.  P. 428.

[3] G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson [Editors].  2007.  Commentary on the NT Use of the OT.  Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic.   Pp. 206-207.

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5 Comments

  1. I find the martial/conquest imagery fascinating in this passage, as you mentioned in your post. An additional, and vital, martial image is found in verse 11, where it states that “he (Jesus) entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.” In the ancient near east, the conquering king, upon first entering the conquered city, would enter the temple. This was an act of great significance, in that it proved that the god of the conquering nation, was greater than the god of the conquered nation. In His prior teaching, Jesus had made it clear that those of Israel who rejected the Son of God had, in fact, also rejected God the Father (cf. Matt. 15:1-9; 22:1-14; 23:1-36, Mark 8:34-38; 12:1-12, Luke 11:14-23, John 8:39-47; 12:36-50; 15:23-25; 16:1-4). Therefore, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and into the Temple, is a clear sign that He is coming as the conquering king. Furthermore, His kingship is not only over Israel, but over the entire world, for in a parallel passage to Mark 11 (John 12:31), Jesus proclaims, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world (Satan) be cast out.”

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