Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
GALATIANS 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son.” And that verse is very important because it recognizes that God is sovereign over world history. God determined the century and the decade and the year and the month and the week and the day and the hour and the second that Jesus would be born. And that moment came when everything was in perfect readiness for His arrival. The political landscape, the religious landscape, the social landscape, the legal landscape, the technology landscape, all of it was as it needed to be for the arrival of the Son of God.
But we see something of this also in the event recorded here in ch. 11.
• Jesus has visited Jerusalem at least a couple of times during His public ministry, but John 7:1 says, “Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take His life.” If Jesus had stayed in Jerusalem, He would have been dead already. So to control the religious ‘temperature,’ as it were, He avoids Jerusalem so that His death will come about only at the appointed time.
• And Mark’s Gospel up till now has largely been about His time in Galilee.
• But even in Galilee, we have often noted that He withdrew from crowds, and that He kept moving from place to place, and that He would not let either the demons He dismissed or the people He healed say who He was and what He had done.
• And again, all of this was, in part, to control the religious ‘temperature.’
• Some months before the time we read about here in Mark, near the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus’ brothers tried to convince Him to visit Jerusalem. It’s recorded in John 7. They said, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” But listen to how Jesus replied. He said, “I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.”
• But later on, in John 13, we read these words, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.”
• So all of this helps us to understand the Triumphal Entry. It is quite unlike how Jesus has been ‘operating’ up till now. This is not a private event in far off Galilee that Jesus can keep the lid on, so to speak. This is as public as you can get and it is right under the noses of the Jewish leaders. The triumphal entry begins to raise the religious ‘temperature’ to boiling point. The Triumphal Entry is an important part of how the Lord Jesus brings about the fixed appointment that He has with Calvary.
So our first task in this passage is to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ – He is the One who stands at the centre of this event, revealed as the King promised in the OT.
But secondly, we have to consider the crowd. For here they adore Him; they are with Him! But in just a few days, they will be shouting out “Crucify Him!” And so, this event becomes an opportunity for each of us to ask ourselves where we stand in relation to Jesus.
So let’s do this as we first of all CONSIDER THE EVENTS THAT LEAD UP TO HIS ENTRY.
• In v1, we read mention of BETHANY.
o And Bethany was just a few km’s from Jerusalem.
o As we said last week, and as you can see from v11, during this visit to Jerusalem, Jesus would stay there during the day but go out to Bethany at night.
o So can anyone tell us who lived at Bethany? Who were Jesus’ friends there? Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
o And Mark doesn’t record this episode, but John tells us that very recently Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead there.
o And this is what happened after that: Many Jews came to visit Mary in this time of grief, but having seen Lazarus raised to life, they “put their faith in [Jesus]. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done … So from that day on they plotted to take His life.” And so, Jesus withdrew to a desert region. But “when it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up to Jerusalem … They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t He coming to the Feast at all? But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, He should report it so that they might arrest Him.”
o So as we said, the tension in Jerusalem around Jesus is near boiling point! There is a crowd there awaiting His arrival – some eager to welcome Him but others wanting to kill Him.
• And now, Jesus has just healed BARTIMAEUS of his blindness.
• And Bartimaeus is now with the large crowd, spoken of in 10:46, which is with Jesus and which has witnessed this healing and which now approaches Jerusalem.
o So it’s not hard to imagine the excitement and tension that hangs in the air. Many with Him are increasingly convinced that Jesus is the Promised One of the OT, but others are not so sure or just those curious onlookers who follow the crowds to see what is going on.
o One thing is for sure though, something decisive is about to happen.
• So we read that Jesus tells the disciples to go and fetch a DONKEY COLT.
o And we are being reminded here that Jesus is no ordinary human being. He is God! He knows the colt is there, and He knows what the owners will say when the disciples ask for it, and He knows that the colt will be made available to Him. Jesus is God. He knows what you and I cannot know!
o But perhaps you are wondering, in terms of grand entries by kings, isn’t this a bit ‘low-budget’? I mean, you know, a donkey’s colt? Why not 6 white Lipizaner horses and a chariot? Why not an elephant or two? Wouldn’t that be how you and I would have King Jesus arrive in Jerusalem? You’ve probably seen a coronation or a royal wedding. There is polished gold and brass and soldiers in fancy uniform and elaborate chariots all over the place? But a donkey’s colt? And people throwing their cloaks on the ground and a few branches? Is that it?
Well, this brings us to the BIBLICAL BACKGROUND to this moment.
• Way back in Genesis 49, we read a prophecy that Israel’s king will come from the tribe of JUDAH. Well, Israel’s first king was who? Saul. And he came from the tribe of? Benjamin. But David came from the tribe of? Judah.
• And DAVID was Israel’s greatest king. And God promised Him that a son of His would always reign over Israel and that one of His sons would be the eternal king.
o So the people were waiting for this Son of David.
• And after David, the next king was his son? SOLOMON. And listen to how Solomon was crowned: “Zadok the priest [and] Nathan the prophet … went down and put Solomon on King David’s mule and escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.”
o So there we see a Son of David sitting on a mule/donkey as he goes to be crowned. So a donkey’s colt is biblically symbolic.
• But note from v2 that Jesus is specific that THIS DONKEY HAS NOT BEEN RIDDEN BEFORE. And in Numbers and Deuteronomy, we often read about the sacrifices that the Lord required of His people. For example, “Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been worked and has never worn a yoke.”
o And so, there is good biblical reason for the Promised King to use a donkey that has not been ridden before.
• But there is also the fulfilment of prophecy. Earlier we read from ZECHARIAH. There it says, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” And you can’t get any clearer than that! This exact event was explicitly prophesied.
o So a donkey’s colt, for all these reasons, is 100% appropriate and necessary.
• But there’s more. Later on, another son of David, Jehu, was crowned King. And here’s what the people did when he was crowned, “They took their CLOAKS and spread them under him on the bare steps.”
o This seems to be the way the people welcomed newly crowned kings.
• But it is also the time of a feast in Jerusalem. And in Leviticus 23:40, God says this to His people about a Feast He required them to observe, “On the first day you are to take … PALM BRANCHES … and rejoice before the LORD your God.”
o So the use of palm branches fits with biblical patterns.
• And then, finally, there is PSALM 118. This Psalm ends a group of 6 Psalms that are known as the Hallelujah Psalms. They were the Psalms that were sung by the people when they gathered in Jerusalem for the great feasts.
o And Psalm 118 was an especial favourite of the people because it celebrated the victory of Israel’s King. And the people would sing these words of Psalm 118 when they greeted the king, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” The same words spoken by this crowd in v9.
o But the Psalm continues, “From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and He has made his light shine upon us. With branches in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”
o And so, it is right for Israel’s true King to be greeted with these words and with branches in hand.
And so, what is recorded in vv1-10 is the fulfilment of OT prophecy. It is the reality hinted at by so many OT ‘shadows.’ It is the coming to pass of many OT promises.
But notice that it is not that the people who have worked all this out and planned how to welcome Jesus. It is not that the disciples have finished a comprehensive study of the NT and worked out the best biblical way to bring Jesus into Jerusalem.
Who is the one who calls for the donkey colt that begins everything recorded here? It is Jesus. It is He, as the Lord and King of history that unfolds one more part of the glorious picture of Messiah and His work. It is He that brings Calvary one step closer by entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
My friends, the prophecy about Israel’s king coming from Judah was made around about 2000 BC. Moses wrote it down around about 1500 BC. David lived about 1000 BC. Zechariah’s prophecy was made about 500 BC. And all of this detail comes together in this event in around AD 30 that Mark wrote down 30-40 years later. And that this happened and how it happened reveals two things about Jesus:
1. First, He is no ordinary human being. He is the Promised King. He is God.
2. But second, we see WHAT KIND OF KING HE IS. He came on a donkey and He came peacefully.
a. He is not like Alexander or Napoleon or Caesar who arrive with all the pomp and ceremony they can muster, with conquered kings and slaves and treasure trailing behind them.
b. He is not like ISIS and their Caliph beheading all who refuse to bow before them.
c. No He comes on a donkey and He comes in peace.
i. He comes, as Zechariah said in His prophecy, “Righteous and having salvation.”
ii. As this great King, His message to those people and His message to you today is an invitation. He simply says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
iii. Have you opened the door to this Jesus? Have you voluntarily chosen to receive Him as your King?
Look with me at vv10-11 as we close. “HOSANNA” means “save, we pray, save now.” But spoken by many of the crowd, it meant save us from the Romans, Jesus! But Jesus did not come to be that sort of King. He came to save sinners.
And so, we read that “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything but since it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” What an incredible anti-climax. Jesus seems to go from arriving king to typical tourist who leaves because the shops are closed and the light is no good for photos!
• But please turn with me to LUKE 19:41. There we read this, “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
• People of God, the time Jesus spent in Jerusalem was a time of great sadness for Him.
o This was God’s city. This was the city where God had lived among His people. This was the people God had made covenant with. But they would not receive Him as their Messiah. They would not have this Jesus to rule over them.
o And Jesus saw, by prophetic vision, the destruction that would come to Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans.
o And if you can stomach it, look up the Jewish historian Josephus on Google and read his description of Jerusalem’s destruction. It was absolutely barbaric and horrific.
• So, if the Lord Jesus were to stand before you today and assess your spiritual health, would His eyes fill with tears because you are unrepentant and do not believe in Him? Would He see a future for you filled only with judgment and desolation? Or would His eyes be filled with joy because you have received Him as your King? Would He see a future for you that is filled with joy and glory and wonder?
May it be the later for us all. Amen.