As indicated in Tuesday's post, there is now a shift in Mark's Gospel: the time of miracles is over and Jesus turns to Jerusalem.
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, 'Go to the village facing you, and as you enter it you will at once find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you "What are you doing" say, "The Master needs it and will send it back here at once." ' They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, 'What are you doing, untying that colt?' They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go. Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he mounted it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of David our Father! Hosanna in the highest heavens! He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple; and when he had surveyed it all, as it was late by now, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. Mark 11:1-11
It is said, "What the Word does for the ear, the icon does for the eye." The mosaic we see here is from the cathedral in Ravenna, Italy. Jesus arrives at the city gate riding the donkey. The road is strewn with branches. The apostles follow behind, and Peter is up close talking with Jesus as they move along. Perhaps Jesus is filling Peter in on the significance of things. Jerusalem is on the far right - two religious leaders already have their heads together. We see the populace of the city and the children spreading their cloaks on the road. From the look of things, they're spreading more than their cloaks - the young fellow on the left has his head stuck as he pulls off his long shirt.
But notice this - Jesus rides a donkey, not a horse. We usually see in this a sign of Jesus' humility, but there is more. A man in the ancient world was wealthy if he owned donkeys as did the judges of Israel:
"After Tola rose Jair of Gilead, who judged Israel for twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty young donkeys and who owned thirty towns..." Judges 10: 3,4
"After Elon, Abdon son of Hillet of Prathon was judge in Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode seventy young donkeys." Judges12:14
Is Jesus entering Jerusalem as the judge of human history? Notice the icon shows Jesus sitting side-saddle, as if were a judge at his courtroom seat. And not only a judge, but sitting as a king on his throne. And not only a king, but a king with a message of peace. The Prophet Zechariah foretells the King's Message:
Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!
Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is approaching,
he is vindicated and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will banish chariots from Ephraim
and horses from Jerusalem;
the bow of war will be banished,
He will proclaim peace to the nations,
his empire will stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the limits of the earth. Zechariah 9:9,10
Pope Francis recently shared something of a conversation he had with a group of scientists, one of whom said: "I'm an atheist, I ask you a favor: tell the Christians that they should love their message of peace more."