Mark – God is On Our Side!
With the help of Warren Wiersbe, Bible commentator, let’s learn about what is going on in the different colliding cultures of the time of Christ as He walks boldly into Jerusalem for his final week on this earth.
Jerusalem at Passover season was the delight of the Jews and the despair of the Romans. Thousands of devout Jews from all over the world arrived in the Holy City, their hearts filled with excitement and nationalistic fervor. The population of Jerusalem more than tripled during the feast, making it necessary for the Roman military units to be on special alert. They lived with the possibility that some enthusiastic Jewish Zealot might try to kill a Roman official or incite a riot, and there was always potential for disputes among the various Jewish religious groups.
Into this situation came God’s Servant with less than a week remaining before He would be crucified outside the city walls. In this section, we see God’s Servant ministering in three different official roles: KING, JUDGE, PROPHET.
THE SERVANT-KING (11:1–11)
On the road Jesus took, a traveler would arrive first at Bethany and then come to Bethphage, about two miles from Jerusalem. The elevation at this point is about 2,600 feet, and from it you have a breathtaking view of the Holy City. The Lord was about to do something He had never done before, something He had repeatedly cautioned others not to do for Him: He was going to permit His followers to give a public demonstration in His honor.
Jesus sent two of His disciples to Bethphage to get the colt that He needed for the event. Most people today think of a donkey as nothing but a humble beast of burden, but in that day, it was looked on as an animal fit for a king to use (1 Kings 1:33). Our Lord needed this beast so that He might fulfill the messianic prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. Mark does not quote this verse or refer to it because he was writing primarily for Gentile readers.
In fulfilling this prophecy, Jesus accomplished two purposes: (1) He declared Himself to be Israel’s King and Messiah; and (2) He deliberately challenged the religious leaders. This set in motion the official plot that led to His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The Jewish leaders had decided not to arrest Him during the feast, but God had determined otherwise. The Lamb of God must die at Passover.
Many patriotic Jews from the crowd of pilgrims eagerly joined the procession that proclaimed Jesus as the King, the Son of David come in the name of the Lord. The visitors from Galilee were most prominent in the procession, along with the people who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 12:12–18). You sometimes hear it said that the same people who cried “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday ended up crying “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday, but this is not true. The crowd that wanted Him crucified came predominantly from Judea and Jerusalem, whereas the Galilean Jews were sympathetic with Jesus and His ministry.
When welcoming a king, it was customary for people to lay their outer garments on the road, and then add festal branches (2 Kings 9:13). The shout “Hosanna!” means “Save now!” and comes from Psalm 118:25–26. Of course, Jesus knew that the people were quoting from a messianic psalm (relate Ps. 118:22–23 with Matt. 21:42–44 and Acts 4:11), but He allowed them to go right ahead and shout. He was openly affirming His kingship as the Son of David.
What were the Romans thinking as they watched this festive demonstration? After all, the Romans were experts at parades and official public events. We call this event “the triumphal entry,” but no Roman would have used that term. An official “Roman Triumph” was indeed something to behold! When a Roman general came back to Rome after a complete conquest of an enemy, he was welcomed home with an elaborate official parade. In the parade he would exhibit his trophies of war and the illustrious prisoners he had captured. The victorious general rode in a golden chariot, priests burned incense in his honor, and the people shouted his name and praised him. The procession ended at the arena, where the people were entertained by watching the captives fight with the wild beasts. That was a “Roman Triumph.”
Our Lord’s “triumphal entry” was nothing like that, but it was a triumph just the same. He was God’s anointed King and Savior, but His conquest would be spiritual and not military. A Roman general had to kill at least five thousand enemy soldiers to merit a Triumph, but in a few weeks, the gospel would “conquer” some five thousand Jews and transform their lives (Acts 4:4). Christ’s “triumph” would be the victory of love over hatred, truth over error, and life over death.
After looking into the temple area, where He would
return the next day, Jesus left the city and spent the night in Bethany, where it was safer and quieter. No doubt He spent time in prayer with His disciples, seeking to prepare them for the difficult week that lay ahead.
Mark 11, NLT
Jesus’ Triumphant Entry
As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’”
4 The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. 5 As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.
8 Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
Tomorrow, we will look at THE SERVANT-JUDGE. Reflect on each passage with reverence and gratitude for what Jesus Christ has done, is doing and will do for us to save us for eternity with Him.
PAUSE TO PRAY
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
You prayed, dear Jesus, for your disciples then and for all who would follow in generations to come. You did exactly what God told you to say and do. That alone is a great example. You became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. You are indeed King of kings and Lord of lords! Your display of humbled, servant-kingship, knowing what you would face in a few days causes me to thank you again and again. To know that we were on your mind then and now, is amazing. Thank you for all you are to us, have done for us, and all you are telling us to be. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit who lives in all who believe and follow you.
In Jesus Name, Amen