The Beginning of The Beginning
Our president serves a four year term. During their fourth year, we have elections for the next president. Once elected, that president will start their term in January of the following year, starting with their inauguration. During the inauguration there is always a parade where they can travel along a route and be seen not only by the people lining the route but by people around the world on TV. Included in the parade are members of the military. This parade isn’t just to introduce the president but to show the world how a peaceful transition of power happens in the US as well as to demonstrate a unity of country and military behind that president.
In the context of the Bible, the transition of power is normally seen as a bloody take over by the new ruler. Parades were meant to show the ruler’s power and strength or his victory over other countries. During these victory parades, accolades of the greatness of the ruler were shouted and slaves were following behind.
In our text today, we see Jesus entry into Jerusalem and His announcement of who He is publically. Follow along as I read Mark 11:1-11.
In the first three Gospels we can get the idea this is only the second time Jesus visited Jerusalem. However, He had made several visits to the city. Like other Jews, Jesus visited Jerusalem during the feasts and was familiar with the passover happenings in Jerusalem. John tells us He made several visits but these visits were done either in secret or without announcing His visit.
John 7:10 reads:
But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret.
This visit was different than any of the others. The differences were the reason for the visit as well as His entry into Jerusalem. The reason for this visit was to fulfill all Jesus had been teaching His disciples about His upcoming rejection, death and resurrection. This reason led to this different entry.
Kings would ride into a town on one of two animals. A horse or a donkey. The horse signified the king was there for war while the donkey symbolized he came in peace. Also, the text tells us this colt had never been ridden. Only the king rides the King’s animal.
The use of the colt also fulfills prophecy.
11 “He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
By entering Jerusalem on this colt, Jesus symbolically announces to the masses, He is a king and not just any king but He is the King of the Jews. During almost three years of ministry, Jesus had slipped away from the limelight. He had continued to tell others not to call Him Messiah, not to announce who He was. Through Mark we have what is called the Messianic Secrect. This secrecy wasn’t because Jesus just wanted to stay hidden but that He needed to have time to teach what many didn’t understand and what the religious leaders had rejected about the Messiah.
Now we see Jesus not only publically proclaim who He is but that this was a planned and prepared visit for a certain time in history.
Have you ever wondered about a never ridden colt being tied up at a specific place on a specific date? Or maybe why the men watching the colt would let strangers walk away with this colt once certain words were spoken?
There are a couple of possibilities. Most commentators mention this as Jesus showing His divinity and foreknowledge. In Mark’s account from Peter, this event can easily show Jesus prophesying and fulfilling that prophecy.
Another possibility is this was pre-planned by Jesus. On one of His earlier visits to Jerusalem, Jesus could have coordinated with someone to have the colt tied at a certain location by a certain time and guarded by certain people who knew the code phrase that would let whomever take the colt and leave.
The second way tells me that maybe even years before this day, Jesus knew when He would be arriving and that this particular trip would be the one which He announces Himself as the long awaited King and Messiah. Chose whichever explanation you are comfortable with. Both show God’s sovereignty over time, people and events.
Jesus arrival to Jerusalem demonstrated by underplayed symbols, that Jesus publically claims to be the prophesied Messiah, King of Israel and Son of David.
Once the colt was brought back, many of the disciples spread their cloaks over the colt, forming a seat for Jesus. Many others spread their cloaks on the road. Spreading cloaks on the road for royalty, is symbolically recognizing their submission and servitude to the King. It says that the king is above them and they recognize they are at his feet. The laying of palms on the road was a recognition that Jesus was the Messiah.
These two acts by the crowd is a recognition of Jesus as their King and their Messiah.
Let’s talk about the crowd. The first part of the crowd are the ones already traveling with Jesus or that had joined with Him and His disciples as they were headed to Jerusalem.
There was also the crowd of people in the towns and lining the road as the area and city of Jerusalem expands with people coming in for the upcoming festival. The population of Jerusalem was around 50,000 people during the time of Jesus. The city and towns around would have a population explosion during the 8 days of Passover. According to Josephus, The Roman Government wanted to know how many lambs were needed for the Passover festival 10 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Part of the need for that information was a way to estimate the number of Jews that would be in the area and give the Roman’s an idea of the number of soldiers they might need to move to help keep the peace.
Josephus reported the Jews estimated approximately 255,000 lambs were needed. If approximately 10 people were counted for every lamb, that means the population would swell to over 2 million people.
Why do the number of people have an impact on the story of Jesus’ kingly entry into Jerusalem?
Our text tells us the people going before Jesus and the people going behind Jesus were all shouting.
9 Those who went in front 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!”
We don’t know the number traveling with Jesus but Mark tells us many spread their coats. Matthew said most of the crowd did. Luke tells us Jesus’ disciples were shouting the praises but there were others within the crowd such as the Pharisees. We should understand besides the large crowd and disciples traveling with Jesus, there would have been a lot more witnessing this event. The road leading into Jerusalem would have been crowded with people also standing along the route watching. In other words, there would have been thousands, to include some Religious leaders who witnessed Jesus entering the capital of Israel, riding on a donkey as a King and being hailed as the Son of David, the prophesied Messiah.
What was being shouted can roughly be translated as the crowd saying, Jesus, Messiah, King, save us. The symbolic acts of Jesus may be downplayed in Mark’s Gospel but they weren’t missed by the population and clearly weren’t missed by the religious leaders. The Pharisees who were in the crowd instructed Jesus to rebuke His disciples. It wasn’t said because they were being too loud. The Pharisees recognized Jesus was claiming and His disciples and some of the crowd were announcing that Jesus was the Messiah the entire nation of Israel was waiting on. This is the King whom had been prophesied and was going to restore Israel in front of all other nations.
Let me change the context and see if this will help with an understanding of what was going on.
It is a Sunday morning, just before worship starts, the week before Easter Sunday. All of the church members and Elders are in attendance plus many more filling the sanctuary. Also, in the sanctuary are members of the Presbytery and some other pastors. Walking around the church are some police officers that will make sure peace is kept. Standing up front, getting ready is your politically and Presbyter approved pastor. Sitting in your pew, you hear a growing noise. You turn and see me walking in, surrounded by a large group of Baptists and they are proclaiming your long awaited, biblically approved pastor has arrived. Some of your congregation pick up the chanting, maybe a few of your Elders.
What is your reaction? What do you think the Presbyter, pastors and police are thinking? Can you feel the tension in the room? Can you anticipate the expected confrontation getting ready to happen? The police put their hands on their pistols, looking at your pastor and those from the Presbyter, expecting them to stop this potential catastrophe, the break in the peace that can cause major issues.
Now multiply the numbers this church can hold. Johnson City’s population is over 65,000. Add about 2 million more people in this area, then add the tension of Jesus coming into town. Add to that a complete failure to even understand who Jesus is by many. Jesus, being hailed a king and prophet, was a threat to the life many had grown accustom to.
However .... this is what the disciples and the crowd missed. Jesus didn’t ride in on a white horse as a conquering hero, bringing the sword of justice against their Roman suppressors. Jesus rode a donkey, coming into an overcrowded city, teeming with Roman soldiers announcing He comes in peace and bringing a message of peace.
The crowd wasn’t calling for Jesus to save them from their sin but to bless them by the removal of an oppressive government. The crowd wanted an earthly king who would make them great again; instead, Jesus arrived to show them humility.
The very last verse seems to be the complete opposite of what we just experienced.
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
Once Jesus enters Jerusalem, the shouting seems to have stopped. He enters the city and goes straight to the temple. At the temple, He walks around, looking at everything, every part of the temple. There isn’t any shouting, there isn’t anyone talking to Him. It seems like no one even greets Him or asks if they can help. Jesus walks in, looks around and then leaves. This one verse seems so anti-climatic and out of place.
But let me remind you, Jesus doesn’t just enter a building. He in fact is entering His Father’s house. He enters His house. He is neither greeted nor even noticed by those who have been called to be in service to Him. After all, isn’t the job of the religious leaders to be in service to God? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to be responsible for having the people and the house prepared for the return of the Master? Yet it seems like there isn’t anyone even expecting Him, not even the disciples that were just shouting and calling Him their Messiah.
Why does Jesus inspect and appraise the temple?
Do you clean your house when you know someone is coming to visit? Especially if that someone is important such as the owner of the house? If you knew the day and time of the visitor, would you be at your house waiting or out of the house doing chores?
I imagine feelings of disappointment flowed all around. The disciples and crowd anticipated the long over-due king to alleviate their suffering and re-establish the nation everyone used to fear. The anti-climatic, quiet inspection of the temple had to confuse them.
Jesus came to what was supposed to be the center of Judaism, to the very building that was supposed to house the leaders responsible for keeping the nation prepared for His arrival. What He found was a den of iniquity.
“God, are these the people You sent me to die for?”
Let me ask you something. If Jesus walked into this church right now, would He find us ready for Him? Would Jesus be disappointed or delighted?
What would it take for us to be found delightful? What can we do, what should we do so that Jesus would walk in and smile in delight at how He found us? I want you to think about this as we sing our invitation. I want to invite you during this time to ask Jesus what can you change that would help Him to smile when He walks into this church. What can we change? What can we do better? What are we doing well at?
I titled this sermon The Beginning of The Beginning. Most commentators talk about this as the last week of Jesus, His passion week. This time concludes His time of ministry on earth prior to His Crucifixion but it is truly a beginning for us. It signifies the beginning of our beginning with God for eternity. Today, make sure this is your beginning of eternal life with God. Don’t wait until He walks in His house and hope.