Faithlife Sermons

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{{{"
*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.
}}}
The week before Easter Sunday is known as Palm Sunday because of the events we read about in this passage.
We have been reading about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and now we find him on the outskirts of the city.
But three times he has predicted that he will die there, so with that anticipation looming over the passage, we are surprised to read about Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem.
For a man who has come here to die, it seems to be an odd way to arrive.
The excitement with which he arrives at the city gates will disappear when he leaves the city about a week later.
So what does Mark want us to see in his telling of this story?
Let’s trace three major aspects of the story to find out.
We will look at the preparations for Jesus’ arrival, the predictions of his arrival, and the presentation of his arrival.
!
THE PREPARATIONS FOR JESUS’ ARRIVAL
The first thing we might notice about the story is the detail and precision that is narrated in verses 1-6.
!! The setting
Mark tells us that this all happened as “they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives” (v. 1).
Jesus has been travelling southwest from Jericho toward the royal city.
Bethphage and Bethany were two Jerusalem “suburbs;” Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem while Bethphage was only about a mile away.
So Jesus is near Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives to be exact.
This elevated place along the eastern side of Jerusalem was to be the place where God would return to recapture Jerusalem and reclaim his dominion over all the earth.
{{{"
/On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two . . . .
And the Lord will be king over all the earth.
On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
// /(Zechariah 14:4, 9)
}}}
!! The instructions
From there Jesus dispatched two of his disciples to a nearby village with these instructions:
{{{"
/Immediately as you enter [the village] 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.”
/(vv.
2-3)
}}}
The disciples followed Jesus’ instructions and found everything to be exactly as Jesus had said.
They found the colt and brought it back to Jesus, after telling the bystanders what Jesus had told them to say.
This was no random instruction that Jesus gave to these two disciples.
Both Jesus and Mark see significance in this carefully laid out plan.
!! The significance
What gives Jesus the right to send two of his disciples into the village and take the colt?
It may be that this was a prearranged deal.
The disciples are instructed how to respond to anyone who asks what they are doing by saying, “The Lord has need of it.”
And amazingly, with this simple explanation, the bystanders let them go without any objection.
So perhaps Jesus has already arranged with the citizens of this village for the renting of the colt, and the phrase “The Lord has need of it” is the password that lets them know that these two disciples are there to carry out the plan that had been agreed upon.
But why does Jesus say “/the Lord/ has need of it”?
Some say that Jesus is referring to the owner of the colt who presumably was with the crowd in Jesus’ entourage.
Or, it may be a reference to himself.
Mark seems to refrain from using the word /Lord/ in reference to Jesus (Mark 5:19 being the only other possible place he does so).
But this seems to be the most straightforward understanding of what Jesus told his disciples to say.
Whether or not the bystanders were surprised by these disciples’ taking of the colt, the act itself indicates a bold move on Jesus’ part.
The right to seize the property of another was reserved in ancient times for kings only.
That Jesus intends this act to be understood imperially is seen also in the fact that the colt was to be one “on which no one has ever sat.”
For Jews, unbroken animals were used for religious sacrifice (Num 19:2), and later tradition specified that no one else could ride a king’s horse.[1]
So when Jesus orders the taking of a young, unridden donkey, he is making royal claims for himself.
What is most surprising about Jesus making these sorts of claims is that up to this point he has tried to remain as anonymous as possible.
He frequently silences those who see in him more than a Galilean rabbi (Mark 9:9).
Why now will he risk bringing attention to himself by riding into Jerusalem like a king?
It seems that Jesus is now willing to present himself as exactly that.
He has made provisions so that we will not miss it: Jesus is the king, and his arrival in Jerusalem is to be his “triumphal entry” into his kingdom.
!
THE PREDICTIONS OF JESUS’ ARRIVAL
Mark wants his readers to come to the same conclusion, to see the significance of this “triumphal entry.”
This story is filled with Old Testament allusions.
Jesus is not just acting in a way that a /contemporary/ king might act; he is acting in a way that a /promised/ king would one day act.
Let’s consider three Old Testament allusions and prophecies in this passage.
!! Genesis 49:10-11
One interesting allusion that we might infer from this passage is found in the detail that the colt the disciples found was tied up (vv.
2, 4).
Many commentators point to Genesis 49, a highly prophetic passage in which Jacob assembles his twelve sons to bless them and to tell them what would happen to them in the days to come.
His fourth-born son, Judah, is the ancestor of King David as well as Jesus, and look at what was foretold of him in verse 10.
{{{"
/The scepter shall not depart from Judah, \\ nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, \\ until tribute comes to him; \\ and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
/
}}}
The scepter and the ruler’s staff indicate kingship, and this is made even more apparent in the prediction that all people will submit to him.
But it is the next verse where we find the similarity to the triumphal entry.
{{{"
/Binding his foal to the vine \\ and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, \\ he has washed his garments in wine \\ and his vesture in the blood of grapes./
}}}
Mark, of course, does not point out this similarity, and neither do the other Gospel writers.
Yet the prophecy has enough in common with the Gospel’s account of the triumphal entry to suggest a connection between the two.
!! Zechariah 9:9
Another passage we find alluded to in Jesus’ triumphal entry is found in Zechariah 9.
There the prophet assures Israel that God will one day deliver them from their oppressors.
A promised king will arise to deliver them.
And in verse 9 the people are summoned to welcome him.
{{{"
/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./
}}}
Zechariah’s prophecy is a clear messianic passage.
Matthew (21:4-5) and John (21:14-15) both point out that Jesus’ actions here were a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy.
Mark does not do so explicitly, but surely he understood it in this way.
When Jesus mounted the donkey to ride in to Jerusalem, the crowd following him saw the connection to the ancient prophecy.
The Messianic King was promised to bring a restoration of the great Davidic kingdom.
So the crowed began to cry out, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” (v.
10).
When David’s son, Solomon, became king, he rode on a mule to his inauguration (1 Kings 1:38-40).
Anticipation is building as Jesus assumes this same royal posture.
Pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for Passover were expected to walk into the city unless they were physically unable to do so.[2]
So the meaning of Jesus’ actions here cannot be missed.
Finally, there is hope once again for a nation that has clung to an ancient prophecy for centuries.
!! Psalm 118:25-26
The third Old Testament reference we find in this passage is in the words of the crowd as they celebrate this triumphal entry of Jesus.
Mark tells us that those who went before and those who followed Jesus were shouting, “Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v.
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