The Sunday Before The World Was Reborn (Mark 11:1-11)

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The Sunday Before The World Was Reborn
Sunday, November 26th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 11:1-11

And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. 11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

Prayer

O Holy God and Most Merciful Father, we thank you for sending Christ to be the King of Righteousness. We thank you for the increase of his government and of peace which shall have no end. We thank you for His dominion which is from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. We ask now Lord Jesus that by your zeal you would accomplish your purpose of making all things new, even us. We ask for Your Holy Spirit now, and Amen.

Introduction

We have come in Mark’s Gospel to the first day of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

  • Christ’s coming to Jerusalem, riding upon a colt, upon the foal of donkey, takes place on the Sunday before Easter Sunday. And so our text this morning is how Passion Week begins. This is Jesus’ last Sunday before he will rise from the dead and bring about a new creation.

Context

We remember the context is that Jesus has just healed blind Bartimaeus. Already there was a large crowd following him on that 18-mile road from Jericho to Jerusalem, and now finally they are approaching their destination. And while this scene may be familiar to many of us, you may know it as Palm Sunday, or The Triumphal Entry, Mark’s version has included some oddly specific details that invite us to consider this scene’s deeper meaning. So much so that we could almost call this passage The Parable of the Donkey. So with that in mind, let us walk through our text and then try to make some deeper applications from it.

Verse 1

And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,

  • Just to get our geographical bearings, Jerusalem is situated with the Mount of Olives to its east. The ridge of those mountains rises about 100 meters above the city, so from the Mount of Olives you would have a striking view of Jerusalem. If you wanted to take a picture of the city, this would be the place to do it.
    • Bethphage and Bethany were both villages that were just outside of the city, a couple miles walk from the temple.
      • Bethphage means “house of figs,” and this is significant because right after our passage, Jesus is going to curse a fig tree.
      • Bethany likely means “house of God’s hearing” or “house where YHWH has hearkened.” And this was the hometown of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. It’s also probably where Jesus stayed during this last week of ministry.
  • So Jesus and the crowd approach these two villages and the city of Jerusalem comes into view.
    • It was required by the law of the God, that three times a year all Jewish males who were of age, must appear before the Lord to offer sacrifice.
      • Deuteronomy 16:16-17 says, “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover], at the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost], and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.”
    • So three times a year, there were these caravans of Jews traveling up to the Temple. And it was customary for pilgrimsmaking this journey to sing the Psalms as they went, especially the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134).
    • For example, we sing in Psalm 121, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?” and it is these hills of Jerusalem, of Zion, and the Mount of Olives that would be in view as these pilgrims sang these psalms.
  • So as Jesus and the crowds draw nigh to Jerusalem, just a few days before Passover, he sends forth two of his disciples to run an errand for him.

Verses 2-3

And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.

  • The task of these two unnamed disciples is to go and fetch a young donkey (called a colt in the KJV). And Jesus specifies that this young donkey is one that no man has ever sat upon, and is presently bound.
  • Why get a donkey?
    • Well back in Genesis 49:10-11, Jacob before he died, prophesied that, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine…” So rather than a horse, the donkey was the vehicle for Judah’s kings, and by it they signified that their trust was not in horses and chariots (as the nations put their hope), but rather in the name of the Lord. To ride upon a donkey, was a sign of faith in God’s power to save.
    • Moreover, Zechariah 9 prophesied that when the Messiah comes, he would come, “lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of donkey.”
    • So it is this moment in history that Genesis 49 and Zechariah 9 and numerous other passages looked forward to.
  • We are not told whether Jesus had already made arrangements with the owner to acquire this donkey, but Jesus tells his disciples that if anyone asks you “what are you doing loosing this animal?” tell them, “The Lord hath need of it.” And when the owners hear that, they will send the donkey straightway to Jesus.
  • So notice that Jesus is explicitly identifying himself here as “the Lord.” The revelation of who Jesus is has been shown forth already by his baptism, by his teaching, by his transfiguration, by his authority over nature, over demons, and over sickness. And here now from his own mouth, Jesus says that what he “needs,” God “needs,” “say ye that the Lord hath need of it.” Jesus is publicly identifying himself as the Lord.

Verse 4

And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.

  • So the disciples find this donkey just as Jesus said they would, and for some reason, Mark wants us to know that it was “tied up, outside, in a place where two ways met.” This is not merely a road or a dead end, this is what we would call a crossway where multiple roads come together.
  • And it is here at this crossway, outside a door, where the donkey is tied up.
    • Perhaps you are starting to catch some of the parable.
  • What do these two disciples do? Theyloose/unbind the donkey.

Verses 5-7

And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

  • The donkey is fetched, unbound at the crossway, and brought to Jesus. And because there is no saddle, this donkey has never carried a rider, the disciples place their garments upon it, and that is where Jesus the Lord sits down.
  • Seeing Jesus now mounted upon the donkey we read in verse 8…

Verse 8

And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.

  • So just as blind Bartimaeus had cast off his garments to follow Jesus, here now the crowds join in. They place their garments on the road as a carpet for the Lord, and they cut down branches and strew them in the way. What is signified by these actions?
  • These are the actions of a people coronating a king.
    • When Solomon was crowned, he rode upon David’s mule, and the people sang and shouted, “Long live King Solomon” (1 Kings 1).
    • When Jehu was anointed king by Elisha it says, “Then each man hastened to take his garment and put it under him on the top of the steps; and they blew trumpets, saying, “Jehu is king!” (2 Kings 9:12).
    • By the putting off of their garments, the people are pledging themselves to be loyal servants to this king. Their garments are signs of their own bodies and their works, and by placing them on the ground before him, they are placing themselves beneath his lordship.
    • By the cutting down of branches, the people portray Christ as riding high above them, even above the trees.
      • We see in 2 Samuel 5:24-25, that God’s heavenly army is said to march upon the tops of the trees. God says to David, “And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.”
      • Likewise in the Psalms, God is portrayed as a heavenly warrior who, “rides upon the clouds…[and upon] the heaven of heavens” (Ps. 68:4,33). And what is interesting about Psalm 68 is that it also speaks of God coming to save his people in a great procession towards the temple, just like our scene.
        • Psalm 68:24-26 says, “They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; Among them were the maidens playing timbrels. Bless God in the congregations, The Lord, from the fountain of Israel.”
        • Well what are the people doing as Jesus the Lord rides upon the branches? In verses 9-10we hear them singing Psalms of praise.

Verses 9-10

And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

  • The crowds are singing a psalm of salvation. Hosanna is a request for God to save right now, and in Jesus, the son of David, they believe that salvation has come.
  • The words Mark records for us come from Psalm 118:25-26 which says, “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.”
  • So this crowd rightly recognizes that Jesus is the promised son of David who has come to deliver daughter Zion, and so they rejoice. But what they do not yet know is how that salvation is to come.
  • What is ironic about their singing of Psalm 118, is that this is also the Psalm that says, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and the verse immediately following their cries of Hosanna is, “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.”
  • So while the crowd thinks they are coronating a new King Solomon, a new Jehu, a new son of David, they are also unknowingly praising the festal sacrifice, they are actually praising the paschal lamb, who in just a few days will be rejected by the builders, bound to the horns of the altar, and nailed to a Roman cross.
  • This is how the king answers their cries of Hosanna, this is how God brings salvation now.
  • Finally in verse 11, the king and sacrifice, enters his city.

Verse 11

11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

  • Now perhaps you are thinking this is a little anticlimactic. Where is the cleansing of the temple? Where is the showdown with the Pharisees? Why does Jesus just go in, look around, and then leave because it’s late. What is going on here?
  • Well unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark tells us that the day before Jesus cleanses the temple, he first enters the city and surveys his house. So on Sunday he enters as a king to observe his kingdom, and he enters as a priest to inspect the health of the temple.
  • In other words, this is the patience of God and the quiet before the storm. Before Jesus turns over the tables, and casts out the den of thieves, he arrives and puts them on notice. He enters and observes and gives them one more day to repent. The king has come, but the king is merciful, but judgment will be enacted tomorrow.
  • So that is our text. On the Sunday a week before his resurrection, Jesus enters Jerusalem as a humble king and then goes back to Bethany.
  • And the whole purpose of this passage is to show forth the mercy and humility of God. It is to teach us that before Christ comes riding upon a white horse to judge and destroy his enemies like we see in Revelation 19, first he comes meek and mild and riding upon a donkey.
  • The way that the kingdom of God is established in this world is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6). And that same Spirit is given with all fullness to Jesus, who says at the beginning of his ministry, quoting from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
  • And so if we would be a faithful church militant, that seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then our lives and ministries should look like Christ humble and riding upon a donkey. It should sound like Psalms of praise and thanksgiving and a royal procession as we walk to God’s city to offers ourselves as a living sacrifice before Him.
  • This is the way of the Lord, and there is no other way of salvation than this.

Application

I want to close with two points of application for us.

#1 – We are like donkeys.

  • We know from the sacrificial system that animals represent different kinds of people. For example, a young bull signifies the priest, a male goat signifies a ruler, and a female goat or a female lamb signifies a layman, and so forth.
  • We also know that God gave distinctions between clean and unclean animals as a sign of the difference between clean and unclean nations.
  • A donkey is an unclean animal, it’s a “Gentile,” and it was used for carrying heavy burdens. And yet God explicitly commands in the law of Moses, in Exodus 13:13, that “every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck.”
  • So when a donkey gave birth, that firstborn belonged to the Lord, and in order to actually use it, you had to offer unto the Lord a clean animal, a lamb, in its place.
  • The tradition of the Christian church has been to see in Jesus riding upon this young donkey, a picture of the salvation of the world.
  • The donkey is “tied up by the door outside at a crossroads,” and by this is signified the nations who are bound up in sin and without direction, they do not know their right hand from their left, they do not know where to go.
  • Moreover, it is the disciples of Jesus who unbind this donkey and place their garments upon it. So also, after Pentecost, the disciples would go forth into the world preaching the gospel, loosing the nations from their sins, and enthroning Christ above them.
  • And when that donkey receives the Lord Jesus upon its back, where does Jesus lead it? He leads it to God’s house, to the temple, to the place where no unclean animal was able to go.
  • Jesus is the lamb that redeems the donkey so that its neck need not be broken. Instead, it can be used in God’s service. It can trade the burdens of sin, for the burden of Christ and his kingdom, and in doing so ride upon the branches high in the heavens.
  • What this means in very plain terms is that if you don’t want to die in your sins, if you don’t want your neck to be broken as your sins deserve, then you must humble yourself beneath Christ the King. And you must ask him to clothe you, and rule you, and bridle your passions, and steer you straight to His Father’s house.
  • This is how the humble Christ triumphs over us.

#2 – We are all temples.

  • Every human being is a place of worship. And inside every person is a place where sacrifices are offered, and some god is magnified. That god might be the self, it might be someone else, but everyone is worshipping and serving someone or something every moment of every day.
  • When Solomon’s temple was profaned by idolatry, God abandoned the temple, his glory departed, and the place was destroyed.
  • But here in Jesus’ entrance into the temple, the glory of God returns. And when you receive Christ as king into your self, when Jesus is enthroned in your most holy place, the inner recesses of your spirit, well then Christ can make you glorious.
  • Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, “But God has revealed hidden things to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by Him.”

Conclusion

Every Lord’s Day, we enter God’s House, and in worship He enters us. And when we receive His Spirit, and His Word searches us out, we are convicted, we are comforted, we have our inward thoughts and intents of our heart discerned. And all this King Jesus does so that when he does come in final judgment, we can count that day a day of glory and vindication, and not a day of fear and condemnation.

So cast yourself upon this merciful and humble king, cry Hosanna, and he will answer. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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