11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

It is such an odd anti-climax. All the hope and the energy of the moment suddenly drain away. There is no moment of triumph. The Romans are not overthrown. The Temple authorities are not chastised for their abuse of the religious system. There is nothing left but disappointment and perhaps a sense of betrayal. This person who had stirred such excitement and in whom so many had invested such expectation, just turns and leaves the scene where all the action is supposed to take place.

Instead of announcing triumph and victory, Jesus turns away late in the day and walks an hour out of the holy city to the village of Bethany.

Could there be a more dramatic demonstration of the fact that Jesus did not come to put the world to rights in the external realm?

Later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus will offend some of his disciples, and perhaps some of us, by saying,

you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish”. (Mark 14:7)

This is not a callous lack of compassion. It is not a counsel for complacency in the face of suffering and injustice. Jesus is simply acknowledging reality.

There is not enough good will or unity of purpose in the human community, to eliminate every source of suffering. Life in this time-bound material realm will always include some measure of struggle and tragedy. The question is how I choose to respond to the inevitable pain that emerges in the constricted form of physical existence.

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What is my response to the inevitability of pain in the face of the suffering that is always present to some degree in the human condition?