Mark 11:1-11

What Kind of King?

Earlier in Mark’s gospel a group of frightened fishermen sat in a little boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee overwhelmed at what they had just witnessed.   Moments earlier they were caught in a terrifying storm and perhaps saying their final goodbyes, when Jesus spoke a word and silenced the raging storm in an instant. Now they were really afraid. Likely with their knees shaking, they whispered amongst themselves, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  Jesus had filled them astonishment and wonder ever since they left everything to follow him, but now, even after all the time they had spent with him, they struggled to wrap their minds around what had just happened.  Who then is this?  We thought we had him figured out.  Who is this man?Can you feel their wonder?  Can you feel their joy?  A lot has happened since that climactic moment in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus continued to teach with great authority, demons continued to be rebuked, and the sick continued to be healed.  His popularity in the Galilean countryside grew and so too did opposition from the far off city of Jerusalem.


And now, in the last third of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus enters that city. His disciples are about to find out exactly who this man is.  As we begin the third installment in our study of Mark’s Gospel, it will be my continued prayer that Jesus would fill you as well with that wonder and amazement that gripped those first disciples.


This week we look at what I suspect will be a familiar passage for many – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  But don’t let your familiarity with this passage distract you from the wonder and amazement of this scene.  Jesus, who has thus far been saying things like “Be silent!” and “Don’t tell anyone” is about to mount a donkey and process triumphantly into Jerusalem. For those who were present on that day it was unmistakable.  The long awaited Messiah, the Son of David has arrived!  I want you to see that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is humble, intentional, dangerous, and exposing.


#1 Humble

There has been an air of secrecy as to the identity of Jesus thus far in Mark’s Gospel.  When the demons correctly called out, “You are the Holy One of God!” Jesus silenced them.  After Jesus healed a leper, he forbid him from telling anyone what had happened.  But now Jesus is ready to let his identity be known.  The royal son of David has finally appeared.   The world would expect a good bit of fanfare at this point.  A stretch limousine maybe.  At the very least some red carpet.  But Jesus makes his grand appearance on a donkey.  Actually, Mark identifies the animal as a colt(v.2) but from the other gospel accounts we know it was the colt of a donkey.  This is a humble way to travel.  No mounted on a tall horse but sitting on a lowly donkey, closer to the people.  It’s significant that Jesus even has to borrow that donkey promising to send it back immediately (v.3)when he is finished with it.  Notice as well that he has no saddle and so the people throw their cloaks(v.7) on the back of the donkey to serve as a make-shift saddle.  Again this is a difficult thing for the world to accept.  Jesus is king but not a worldly king.  He is a humble king.


#2 Intentional

Jesus is headed into Jerusalem.  In this way he was just one of many pilgrims making their way to the holy city to celebrate Passover,  though some Bible commentators believe it may have been the fall harvest festival known as the Feast of Tabernacles.  This might explain the waving of leafy branches(v.8), but regardless of when this event took place, notice the care that Jesus takes in setting up this scene.  He is very intentional.  He sends two of his disciples (v.1)ahead of him, tells them exactly where to find the colt and exactly what they are to say — the Lord has need of it (v.3).  Some commentators believe this may have been a pre-arranged password.  This could indeed be the case or perhaps the owners simply had no objection to releasing the donkey once they were told it was for the Lord.


As Mark describes the scene he does little to interpret it for us.  This is in keeping with his style throughout his gospel and differs, for instance, from Matthew who uses Old Testament Scripture to interpret the activity of Jesus.  Both Matthew and John cite Zechariah 9 in their account of the triumphal entry.  Zechariah 9 makes clear that the future Messiah will come riding on a donkey.


So Jesus is deliberate in what he is doing here.  He is unmistakably presenting himself as the fulfillment of Scripture.  He is the Messiah.  Everything that happens in this passage, Jesus intentionally brings about.  There is no record of Jesus having ever ridden any animal (including in Mary’s womb).  Jesus’ primary transportation mode was walking and now we see him riding a donkey.  Jesus is intentional.  We see this in this passage.  We see it in our own lives as well.  This is who he is.  Nothing is ever wasted.  Jesus is deliberate in all that he does.


#3 Dangerous

 Simply put for Jesus to present himself as the promised king would have been seen as blasphemous to the Jews and treasonous to the Romans.  Up until this point Jesus worked to keep his identity a secret, not out of fear for his safety, but because others would have misunderstood what it meant for him to be the Messiah.  Even his own disciples prove they don’t understand what kind of king he is until afterhis resurrection.  And here he is in this passage declaring himself to be the Messiah.  The people get it as they shout Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! (v.9-10).


This is a dangerous path that Jesus is on and yet it is the exact path his Father has set for him.  Jesus is called to be the king who will lay his life down for his people. He knows what lies ahead of him and he is not willing to sacrifice his calling for the sake of his comfort.    Too often we get this backwards ourselves. We sacrifice our calling for the sake of our comfort.  We’ve made an idol of comfort in our culture today.  We see the good we ought to do.  We know the calling God has given us.  And we are willing to pursue that calling – unless it gets uncomfortable. We will love others – unless it gets messy.  We will be generous – unless it impinges on our lifestyle.  We will work hard at whatever task God has given us to do – unless it becomes an inconvenience or we find something better to do.  See that Jesus sacrifices his comfort for the sake of his calling.  So too must we!


#4 Exposing

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem would have certainly been a dramatic scene to behold.  Jesus mounted on a donkey.  A crowd shouting and throwing cloaks on the ground.  There is so much excitement and enthusiasm for Jesus.  On and on Jesus processes and where does he go?  He goes right into the temple(v.11).  The temple was the heart of the Jewish faith and so was a very fitting place for the king to go. And yet it seems anticlimactic, doesn’t it?   He marches into Jerusalem, goes straight to the temple and then…goes home for the night.  But notice what Jesus does when he goes into the temple.  Mark tells us he looked around (v.11).  The Greek word used here does not suggest a quick glance but rather a long careful observation.  Jesus’ careful gaze exposes what is really going on in the temple.  And the next day he will return not simply to look but to act.


The Bible tells us that we are the new temple of God.  Jesus is the king of the ages and the king of our heart.  If he were to look around your heart today, what would he see?  What would be exposed?  Will you allow him to expose those things and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you clean?


Discussion Questions

  1. This is a familiar passage for many people.  As you read the passage and heard the sermon this week were there any new things that struck you?
  2. Why do you think Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (colt)?
  3. So far in Mark’s Gospel Jesus has kept his identity a bit of a secret.  Why do you think this is?  Why does he now take this bold step of showing others that he is the long awaited Messiah King?
  4. In what ways do we see the humility of Jesus in this passage?
  5. How does our humility “prove” to the world that we belong to Jesus?
  6. How do the people respond to Jesus?  Do you think they really get it?  Why or why not?
  7. Jesus sacrificed his own comfort to pursue his calling which led ultimately to his death.  What would it look like for you to sacrifice your comfort to pursue your calling?
  8. Where does Jesus go after entering Jerusalem?  Why do you think he goes there?
  9. How can Jesus be exalted as king in your life and the life of your family?
  10. What is one thing you will do as a result of studying this passage?