Text: Mark 11:1-33, Zechariah 9:9, Psalm 118:25-26
The day our son was born, I was astonished.
The mere reality of birth was a surprise. One minute, there were four people in the room, and the next minute, there were five. The baby who was theoretically growing in my belly for nine months was an actual human being—he was here! He looked nothing like I’d expected, and his birth didn’t go anything like I’d planned, but he was here. I was shocked by how immediately I felt like a mother; the pride and protective instincts I felt for my child caught me off guard. The whole experience can only be described as astonishing. Unexpected, yet wonderful.
Fast forward six years. My baby boy was a kindergarten rock star, but one man hundreds of miles away made me feel fear like I’d never known. I was at the grocery store not far from my son’s school when I heard the news that Sandy Hook Elementary had been attacked by a gunman. Boys and girls my own child’s age were terrorized, injured, even killed.
I’ll never forget counting the minutes until my little boy’s eyes met mine as he pounced, carefree, off his yellow school bus. He was fine, but I was not. I was not astonished that day; I was afraid. I wept into the night, praying for protection for my own son, and comfort for the mothers and fathers and children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, whose lives would never be the same.
Astonished and afraid. There’s a big difference, isn’t there? When I read Mark 11, I notice both of these reactions to Jesus upon His arrival in Jerusalem. Some were astonished and others were afraid.
In verse 18, just after Jesus overturned the tables and chairs in the temple, Scripture says the chief priests began “looking for a way to destroy Him. For they were afraid of Him.” But the crowd? In that very same moment, they were “astonished by His teaching.”
Later, in verses 30-32, the chief priests weren’t able to give an answer to Jesus’ question about John’s baptism. Why? Because “they were afraid of the crowd.”
This dichotomy appears often in Jesus’ ministry—the crowds are astonished and the religious leaders are almost always afraid. In Mark 1:11, when Jesus cleansed a man of an unclean spirit, Scripture says the crowd was “astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority.”
This dichotomy of astonishment and fear appears in our lives, too. We’re astonished at the skill of Olympic athletes, and we are afraid of heights. We are astonished by double rainbows, and we are afraid of loud thunderstorms. As we read the reactions of those who received Jesus’ authority and those who hoped to explain it away, I wonder, How do I react when I encounter Jesus’ authority in my own life?
Does it make me afraid? Does it compel me to hold tight to the things I love, lest He shake up my plans?
Or do I feel astonished at His power, the same way I was astonished at the wonder of meeting my baby boy? Am I surprised and delighted by the way Jesus works in ways I do not expect?
As we read the book of Mark today, let’s notice the authority with which Jesus rides into Jerusalem like the King that He is, how He surveyed the temple quietly in verse 11, then commanded the fig tree to wither in verse 14. Let’s watch the “unexpected, yet wonderful” way Jesus cleanses His Father’s house and answers the chief priests as they attempt to usurp Him.
Because Jesus is our King, and He is God’s Son, His authority doesn’t have to make us afraid. We can simply watch, astonished by the King of Kings, who has all authority in heaven and on earth!