The contemplations of Jesus’ public ministry intend to help us come to know him, love him and follow him in the unfinished work of the kingdom of God. The Exercises of the second week include a contemplation on Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem and Conflict in the Temple. As with the other contemplations of Jesus’ public ministry, we also end this one with the triple colloquy (conversation) of A Meditation on Two Standards.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with his disciples was a seemingly triumphant one, even if it was short-lived. Mark’s description of the scene presents Jesus in complete control of the rapidly unfolding events, ultimately offering himself as a willing sacrifice in complete obedience to God’s will.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, (Jesus) sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say the Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Mk 11:1-10)
According to M. Eugene Boring, in his book, Mark: A Commentary, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem has messianic overtones. Jesus spoke of himself as the kyrios, “Lord”, in sending two of his disciples to acquire the colt he needed from a nearby village. He then entered Jerusalem at Passover seated on the colt, and not on foot, as was the custom. While this has often been interpreted as an act of humility, in its context it is more likely a display of royal authority. In addition, Jesus’ choosing an animal never ridden before suggests a sacredness usually reserved for a king. In addition, the two disciples placing their cloaks on the colt for Jesus to sit upon infers a makeshift throne, while the crowd spreading their cloaks and branches from the fields on the ground ahead of him provides for an entrée appropriate for a person of high social stature. Finally, in first century Palestine, the greeting of Jesus with “Hosanna” and “Blessed is the one…” has eschatological connotations. Jesus was being acclaimed by his followers as having come in the name of Yahweh to restore the kingdom of David.
Those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem misunderstood his mission. Jesus did not enter the Holy City to triumph and rule with power, even if this was the Davidic expectation of the long-awaited Savior. He came as the Son of Man to suffer, die and be raised from the dead for his fidelity to God’s will and the kingdom of God.
As Jesus approaches his passion and death (Third Week), it is worth taking the time to contemplate the cost of discipleship. Jesus made clear that not only would he suffer for the cause of the kingdom of God, so also would his followers.
If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mk 8:34)
Discipleship with Jesus does have a cost. Those who move beyond an intellectual ascent to faith to also offer witness to his life through the actions of their lives will experience conflict with others who seek to maintain the status quo, a societal order in which so often the few benefit at the expense of the many. Stated another way, to accompany Jesus in the unfinished work of the kingdom of God is to accept an experience of the cross before enjoying the victory of his resurrection.
The following day, after staying the previous night in Bethany, Jesus entered the temple. There, he confronted those present about its corrupt practices.
He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying,
“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.”
And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. (Mk 11:15-18)
Jesus had entered the temple with the authority of Yahweh and effectively put an end to its cultic activity. His actions disrupted the temple’s commercial dealings, and in the process, he exposed those responsible for them. In its deepest sense, it was a confrontation about the very nature of the temple and what it had become. From Jesus’ perspective, what ought to be “a house of prayer for all the nations” had become “a den of robbers,” (Jer 7:11), a desecration of the very heart of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh.
Many theologians believe Jesus’ confrontation in the temple hastened his death. His behavior was not lost on the chief priests and scribes. They had tolerated him as he traveled throughout Galilee. However, Jesus’ actions in the temple were unacceptable. In truth, the Sanhedrin, Israel’s highest governing body, had come to experience Jesus as a threat to the Torah and a blasphemer of God. In contrast, Jesus saw the temple and those who ruled it as corrupting Israel’s relationship with Yahweh. And therein lies the tension that would lead to his death.
Gerhard Lohfink, in his book Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was, states, the temple authorities felt the need to defend the Jewish tradition against Jesus.
“But Jesus had not questioned the temple, the Torah, or the people of God.” He did want to gather Israel together so that it might finally become what it was intended to be in the eyes of God. And he did not destroy the Torah but interpreted it radically in terms of God’s will. He wanted the temple to finally become what the prophets had longed for: a place of true worship of God in whose forecourt even the Gentiles could worship. Certainly, behind all that lay the claim that the fulfillment of the Torah had arrived in his own person and that where he lived out the reign of God with his followers ‘something greater than the temple’ (Mt 12:6) was present. Israel, and with it the Sanhedrin, were faced with this tremendous claim.”
Jesus’ conflict in the temple exposes not only the hypocrisy of the temple authorities, but also the readers of his gospel by challenging them to reflect on the true meaning of discipleship with Jesus. Jesus spoke truth to power, and he would soon willingly accept the consequences of his actions. In the final analysis, there are only two stances towards life, as already mentioned in the Two Standards, the way of Jesus and the way of this world. We must not only choose between them; we must accept that in choosing one we will find ourselves in direct conflict with the other.
Let us contemplate, once again, the depth of our commitment to discipleship with Jesus. In doing so, let us pray for the courage to remain steadfast in our decision to follow him in the unfinished work of the kingdom of God despite the suffering it will entail. Finally, let us also trust that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will one-day do no less for us.
After contemplating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and conflict in the temple, we then end this Exercise with the triple colloquy of a Meditation on Two Standards as mentioned above.
 L. Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1951), Sections 277, 287, 288.
 Ibid., Section 147.
 M.E. Boring, Mark: A Commentary, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 315-16.
 Meier, A Marginal Jew (New York, NY: ABRL Doubleday, 1994), vol. 2, 627-28, 893-94. Meier states Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temple, and the challenge to his authority by Jewish officials are likely historical events, even if the timing is disputed by the synoptic gospel writers and John. While the scene appears early in John’s gospel, the synoptic writers describe it soon after he enters Jerusalem for the last time. See also, Lohfink, Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012), 245-49; Sobrino, Jesus, the Liberator, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books), 1993), 204-06; Sobrino, Christology at the Crossroads, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985), 405; Nolan, Jesus Before Christianity, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992), 124-30.
 Lohfink, G. Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was, 287.
 F.J. Moloney, (The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 225.
 Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Sections 136-147.