The Triumphal Entry of Jesus – Mark 11:1-11
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. If you can grab a Bible, we’re going to be in Mark 11:1-11, this morning. We are continuing our church services online, and we thank you all for tuning in to worship together with us.
Just to update everyone on the status of our Good Friday service: We will still have an evening church service on Friday, April 10, but like all of our services now, it will simply be online.
So, be sure to tune in at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10, for our Good Friday Service, in the same way that you are tuning in to this service, either on our church Facebook or YouTube pages, or on our website, where we will sing some songs, read some passages of Scripture, and hear the Word of God preached. We may be quarantined, but we can still reflect on the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate His resurrection from the dead, and in that we rejoice.
This morning, I’m just going to begin by reading our passage for us, and then we will dive in. Mark 11, beginning in verse 1: “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.”’ 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’ 11 And 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.”
Today is Palm Sunday. And if you don’t know what Palm Sunday is, it’s the day that commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, kicking off the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Mark has spent ten chapters covering the first three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which has taken us ten months to get through, but then, he devotes six chapters to the passion week of Jesus, that is, the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, culminating in His death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection.
But the passion week of Jesus begins with what is called the triumphal entry of Jesus. Each of the four Gospel narratives record this historic event, which speaks to its authenticity. But what is significant about this event is that this is the first time in Mark where Jesus becomes the center of attention.
For the most part, we have seen Jesus withdrawing from public notice, passing through remote villages, spending time in the wilderness, explaining His parables to His disciples privately. But when the appointed time came for Jesus to die, He made a public entry into Jerusalem, during the Passover—a time when many of the Jews would have been gathered together in Jerusalem.
The place is buzzing. In Matthew 21, Matthew records that great crowds went before Jesus, shouting, “Hosanna!” and stirring up the whole city. In Luke 19, Luke records that a great multitude was rejoicing and praising God, and that when the Pharisees wanted Jesus to restrain His disciples, Jesus said that even the rocks would cry out, if these were silent.
In John 12:18, John writes that the reason why there was such a large crowd waiting to see Jesus as He entered into Jerusalem was that “they heard he had done this sign.” And the sign that John is talking about was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
And so, you have Jesus making His public entry into Jerusalem, and you have this large crowd of people shouting His praises and announcing that the king has come. But then, less than a week later, this same Jesus is going to stand before this same crowd, who will be shouting, “Crucify Him!”
And we rightly wonder, “What happened in this final week that caused this same people to turn so quickly against this same Jesus?” And what happened is that Jesus was not the king they wanted.
You see, the Jews wanted a king, who was going to conquer Rome and destroy their enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth. When they are crying out, “Hosanna!” they had in their minds a political revolution, where this Jesus was going to be the answer to all their hopes and dreams.
But when they discovered that Jesus wasn’t the king they wanted, they turned their backs on Him. And after going through what we’ve gone through in Mark, and seeing Jesus, over and over again, giving glimpses of the kingdom to come—how the kingdom of God is here but is still to come fully—it can be easy for us to shake our heads at them, until we realize that we do the same thing.
You see, we often have a version of King Jesus in our minds. Maybe we want a Jesus who is going to make us happy and give us whatever we want. Maybe we want a Jesus who is going to conquer our enemies. Maybe we want a Jesus who isn’t going to contradict us or convict us of our sin. We find ourselves no different than those people who praised Jesus one day, and then shouted for Him to be crucified a few days later.
And what we need to see is King Jesus for who He really is. We need to look at the coming of the King we need, not the coming of the king we want. We need to look to Jesus as the One True King, not as a king of our own making. It is through this lens that we come now to our passage to see.
Look at verse 2. Jesus and His disciples are approaching Jerusalem, and Jesus says to two of His disciples, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”
And so, these two disciples do as Jesus commanded them, and sure enough, they are asked why they were untying this colt, which, if you were one of these two disciples, you’re just hoping that you have the right animal, right? Like, it’s not the colt down the street, right, it’s this one? And so, they say what Jesus told them to say, and sure enough, the owner lets them go.
And what we’re seeing is that Jesus has everything planned out down to the last detail and is in control of it all. Nothing is left to chance. Everything goes how Jesus says it will go. And it says that “they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.”
Now, notice that for the first time in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus is riding an animal. Up to this point, Jesus has either walked or has ridden in a boat. But this is the first time we see Jesus riding on an animal, and not just any animal, but a donkey, and not just any donkey, but a donkey that no one else had ever ridden, which was considered a sacred thing in ancient times.
But there is significance to Jesus riding on a donkey, in that it was a declaration of Jesus’ kingship. Jesus is fulfilling what the prophet Zechariah prophesied 500 years earlier, in Zechariah 9:9, which says, “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.”
Here is Jesus, fully God and fully man, riding on a donkey. Here is the One through whom and for whom all things were created, who is before all things and in whom all things hold together, riding on the very animal He created. Yes, Jesus is coming to them. Yes, Jesus is bringing them righteousness and salvation. And yes, Jesus comes humble and riding on a donkey.
But what is even more astounding than the fact that the Creator of the universe is riding on a donkey is the response of the crowd. Look at verse 8. “And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.”
What would cause this kind of a response? What would cause this kind of a celebration from the crowd?
They are welcoming their King. The spreading of cloaks and branches before Jesus is reminiscent of the inauguration of King Jehu, in 2 Kings 9:13, where “in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, ‘Jehu is king.’”
Entering into Jerusalem this way was a proclamation to the people that He was their King, and the crowd is responding by spreading their cloaks as an act of honour and waving palm branches symbolizing triumph and victory. Here is the true King of Israel before them.
And I don’t about you, but I still have this nagging question: Why is Jesus riding on a donkey? Why not a horse? I’m not a horse person, per se. I can appreciate the majestic animal that it is, but horses and I don’t really get along.
There was a family that went to the same church that my dad pastored at, and they had horses. And one Sunday afternoon, a few of us went horseback riding. The last time that I rode a horse was at camp, years ago, so they decided to put me on the most docile horse they had, because of my lack of experience, which I really appreciated, until we got started on our ride.
Apparently, the horse that I was riding was fine to just trot along, until everyone else decided to let loose and race ahead. Well, my horse decided that it wanted to be in the race, as well, so it also shot ahead. And every part of me was holding on for dear life to that horse, even as my horse and I not only caught up with the rest of the pack, but actually raced ahead of them. And after that wonderful, yet terrifying, experience, I decided to give up my horse racing career.
But all that to say, I have witnessed the power of a horse. And I can only imagine that if Jesus were on a horse, people would have been in greater awe of Him than they already were. It makes me think of how Jesus is pictured in Revelation 19. John, the writer of Revelation, is writing down what he sees in a vison.
And here is what John writes, in Revelation 19:11-16: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
I think to myself, this is how Jesus should enter into Jerusalem. He should enter on a horse, not on a donkey. He should enter in power, not in humility. He should enter in strength, not in weakness.
But what we need to remember is that this picture of Jesus is future. It’s not now. Right now, the King we need is the King on a donkey. Before Jesus can be the Conquering King of Revelation 19, He must be the Suffering Saviour in Mark 11. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is not just the King of Israel: He is King over all. This is the King we need.
But it seems as though the crowd has misunderstood the coming of Jesus and have their own version of King Jesus in mind. Look at verse 9. “And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’”
The words of the crowd take us to Psalm 118:25-26, which says, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.”
This Psalm is very likely what the crowd had in their mind, as they were shouting, “Hosanna!” This Psalm is associated with the Passover, when God rescued His people, the Israelites, out of captivity in Egypt. It was a cry to God for help, that later became a source of hope for future deliverance.
When the crowd is shouting, “Hosanna!” they are right in what they are saying about Jesus, “who comes in the name of the Lord” to deliver His people, but they are completely misunderstood about the kind of deliverance that Jesus is bringing.
When God tells David, in 2 Samuel 7, that “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever,” Jesus is fulfilling that.
When the prophet Isaiah prophesies, in Isaiah 9, that “to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this,” Jesus is fulfilling that.
And when the prophet Micah prophesies, in Micah 5:2-4, that “you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace,” Jesus is fulfilling that.
Jesus is fulfilling all of these Old Testament prophecies, but not in the way the crowd was expecting. Jesus was not delivering the people of Israel from the Roman Empire; Jesus was delivering them from their sin—an even greater enemy than Rome.
The people were looking for a political Saviour, but Jesus came to offer them eternal salvation, and not just to the people of Israel, but to the whole world. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The crowd was crying out for salvation that day, but Jesus is offering them a different kind of salvation than what they were expecting. Jesus would live the life we were intended to live, but couldn’t live because of our sin, and He would die the death we deserved to die as rebels against a holy God, and He would defeat the enemies we needed to have defeated, sin and death, so that if we believe in Him, we will be saved from the penalty of our sin.
Jesus came in humility. He came in poverty. He came in lowliness. He came on a donkey, in order to rescue us from sin. This is the King we need. And this point is further made, when you notice where Jesus goes, after He enters Jerusalem.
Look at verse 11. “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.” This could have easily been the moment for Jesus to claim His throne and His Kingdom, but nothing happens. The next thing we read is that Jesus looked around at everything, and because it was late, He went out to Bethany with His twelve disciples.
It all seems so anticlimactic. Nothing happens. The crowd has mysteriously dispersed. No one but Jesus’ own disciples follow Him to Bethany. It’s kind of this awkward end to a seemingly triumphant day.
But the focus is on Jesus going to the Temple. The crowd may not be interested in Jesus going to the Temple, but there is a reason why Jesus goes there, first.
Malachi 3:1-3 says, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”
The reason why Jesus is going to the Temple is because Jesus is preparing to refine and cleanse it. He knows that the Temple is only a means to a greater end. The Temple in and of itself was never the point; the point was always that Someone greater than the Temple was coming and is now here in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the true and better Temple, who would offer His own life as a once for all sacrifice for sin, so that there would be no need to keep bringing sacrifices for sin to the Temple, because our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient to cleanse us from all sin.
The work of Jesus begins at the Temple, but He will finish it at the cross, where the refining and cleansing work will be complete, and where the veil of the Temple would be torn from top to bottom, giving us direct access to God the Father through Jesus.
This is the King we need. We need a King who would give His life for His citizens. We need a King who doesn’t just want to make us happy, but is making us holy. We need a King who doesn’t just want to give us the desires of our heart, but who gives us the desires of His heart. We need a King who won’t just conquer our physical enemies, but who conquered the enemies we didn’t even know we had. We need a King who will not only convict us of our sin, but who dealt with the problem of sin once and for all.
This is the King we need, but the real tragedy is that the crowd does not know that they need this King. They are enthusiastic about Jesus, but they aren’t willing to submit to His Lordship just yet. They want to see how this King will turn out, and since He doesn’t do what they think a “good King “ should do, they call for His crucifixion less than a week later.
And it’s easy for us to shake our heads at their ignorance, but I believe we too would be caught up in the enthusiasm. You see, we don’t naturally think we need this King. We think that we can be our own king and live our lives according to our own laws, and as such we live in open rebellion to the One True King.
There is coming a day when this One True King will come again, and Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
We flaunt our autonomy, but the reality is that one day the King will return to exert His rightful power and authority over all of Creation. He didn’t come this way when He first came, but He will come this way when He comes again. And on that day, He will judge the world in righteousness, not according to our righteousness, but according to His perfect righteousness. He will judge according to His standard, and we come up way short, because His standard is perfection, and we are far from perfect.
Each one of us falls short of the glory of God, and as such, each one of us is deserving of judgment and eternal condemnation. But Jesus, the King Himself, stood in our place, and He took upon Himself every blow of judgment that was intended for us, so that if we believe in Him, we will not only become one of His citizens, but we will also rule with Him, forever.
This is the King we need. The question is: Are we willing to submit our lives to this King? Are we in desperate need for this King—King Jesus? Is this Jesus our King, or have we fashioned for ourselves a king of our own making? What King do we believe in?
We sang the song earlier, I Know Whom I Have Believed. And I just want to take a minute to read through the verses of that hymn, because they speak of our unworthiness and the saving grace of God:
Verse 1: “I know not why God's wondrous grace to me he has made known, nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for his own.”
Verse 2: “I know not how this saving faith to me he did impart, nor how believing in his Word wrought peace within my heart.”
Verse 3: “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in him.”
Verse 4: “I know not what of good or ill may be reserved for me, of weary ways or golden days, before his face I see.”
Verse 5: “I know not when my Lord may come, at night or noonday fair, nor if I'll walk the vale with him, or meet him in the air.”
Chorus: “But ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day.’”
Do you believe in King Jesus? If we repent of our sin and submit ourselves to Him, we will become citizens of a greater, lasting Kingdom—a Kingdom where there will be no suffering or pain or sorrow or loss or disease or famine or sickness. But better than any of that is that our King will be there, in all of His glory, and when we see Him, we will know that we are home. Let’s pray…