Serving Christ and sharing the Gospel

The Tragic Side of a Triumphant Event (Mark 11:1-11)

Good Morning,

Did you know that Jesus is honoured by those who do not call themselves Christians?

For example, Muslims honour Jesus as one of their most important prophets. They even believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Some Buddhists honour Jesus as a bodhisattva, an enlightened one. Many Hindus honour Jesus as a guru or a yogi according to their traditions. Followers of the Baha’i faith view Jesus, along with Muhammad and the Buddha, as one of the many manifestations of God.

Even in non-religious circles Jesus is honoured by many for his compassion and his wisdom. Thomas Jefferson, who did not accept the deity of Jesus, still described his teaching as “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

Now, I think it’s accurate to say that the people and groups just mentioned are, in fact, not honouring Jesus, but are instead, honouring a narrow and even false conception of Jesus. But for those of us who would call ourselves “Christians”, who honour Jesus Christ according to how the Scriptures describe Him, why do we honour Jesus?

It’s Sunday. Welcome to the week that changed everything. No, not this actual week. I’m talking about the week we call “Holy Week”; that week 2000 years ago that concluded on Easter. Most of us are familiar with Easter Sunday, and Good Friday. And still others have heard of Palm Sunday.

So I’d like us to look at three things. First, I want to look at how the people honoured Jesus when He came into Jerusalem. Second, I want to talk about why they honoured Jesus. And from there, I’d like to come back to our initial question about why we honour Jesus.

So, in verse 7. Mark tells us that 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…

Now for us today, this may seem like kind of a strange welcome. People throwing their cloaks down on the ground? Others throwing branches or possibly reeds or dry grass? And then everyone shouting?
What’s going on here?

Well, certain OT passages seem to point to the fact that what the crowd is doing here with Jesus is honouring Him as they would a dignitary or victorious ruler. He is so honoured that His path must be made suitable for one so worthy. A person respected in this way should not have to ride across the dirt. Instead He would be coming across a path adorned with robes and branches, just like the red carpet that is rolled out for dignities. You see, usually, pilgrims coming into Jerusalem, even if they rode most of the way, the final leg of the journey would be completed on foot. So, Jesus is set apart here as he enters. And as he enters, He is welcomed with shouts.

John’s Gospel tells us that the people were also carrying palm branches as they lifted their voices. This is where the name “Palm Sunday” comes from. Now let me ask you this, if you were present, would you also be shouting? Would you be waving a palm branch? This should cause us to think about why they did this in this way.

Let’s look at verses 9 and 10 again: Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

There are three things here parts of their praises here. 1st “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, comes right from Psalm 118:26. The end of that psalm talks about the blessedness of a pilgrim coming to Jerusalem and to the Temple.

But in Jesus’ case, this is led by shouts of “hosanna” This word hosanna also comes from Psalm 118, verse 25. It reads: “Save us, we pray, O LORD!” The phrase “Save us” in Hebrew is “hoshi-an-na”

So, the crowds would have been used to reciting this verse during the Feast of Tabernacles. Jewish tradition tells us they would recite Psalm 118:25 once a day for six days, and the seventh day, they would quote that verse while waving branches. Sound familiar?

And notice the final part of their praise. Verse 10: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” This is referring to the people’s expectation of the Messiah, the coming king from David’s family who would save Israel.

So, what we see here is that the crowd is not simply welcoming another pilgrim to Jerusalem, even a well-known pilgrim. They are not simply welcoming a foreign dignitary or a big-wig. They appear to be welcoming the Messiah, they are welcoming a king from David’s line, they are welcoming Jesus to the city of his ancestor, the capital of Israel.

These people were honouring Jesus because they believed that Jesus, as the Messiah, would begin the work of restoration, that His arrival marked the beginning of the end for the Roman armies that occupied the land. They honoured Jesus because He was their supposed liberator, free them from Roman rule, Romans taxes, and restoring their political pride. Can you imagine living under a foreign power, under the authority of those you considered unclean, those who worshiped idols? Do you see why the people are going wild? The solution to their biggest problem is riding into town on a colt.

But we know how the story ends, don’t we? Like the Muslim or the Buddhist or even Thomas Jefferson, these people were not honouring Jesus according to the truth, but according to their own ideas about who they thought He was; who they wanted Him to be.

Now , the way in which they honoured Jesus was perfectly appropriate. It was exactly how Jesus should have been treated. There was nothing wrong with the way in which they honoured Him. The problem was why. The people were right in their identification of Jesus as the Messiah. But they were wrong about how the Messiah would save them.

Remember, in a few days this crowd shouting “Hosanna”, some of them, maybe more than we would expect, they will be shouting something else; they will be shouting “crucify him”. Jesus will fail to meet their expectations.

So, they will reject Him. They will want him dead.

Now the big question is why do I honour Jesus? Do you honour Jesus because you believe He will liberate you from your everyday burdens? Because He will protect your family from tragedy? Do you honour Jesus because He gives you wisdom? Do you honour Jesus because you were taught to honour Jesus…that’s just what you do?

Are these the reasons we should honour Him? No.

We know the truth is that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to die. He was coming to “give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). So, should we honour Him because He loved us and died in our place. And we should honour him because he rose from the dead.

Are those the reasons why we should honour Jesus? In the end…no.

Then why do we honour Jesus? Why do you? Why should we honour Jesus? The answer is hinted at in the seemingly simple story told in verses 1-6. Listen to it again:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.

To be clear, the word in Greek translated “colt” in English can mean the young of either a horse or a donkey. And if we look at the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John, we see that this actually was a young donkey that Jesus was riding. This was the same animal that Solomon was put on when he was anointed king in I Kings 1…and, as Matthew and John point out in their Gospels, this was the fulfillment of a prophecy from Zechariah 9.

But why spend time telling the story about how Jesus got this donkey? More ink is given to it than the story of the triumphal entry itself. But why? Because there is something extraordinary about how this unfolded. The way Luke tells the story brings this out more clearly: So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. (Luke 19:32)

Jesus hadn’t made these preparations beforehand. So how could he know about this colt? How could he know that it had never been ridden before?

Jesus knows these things precisely because He is who said He was in verse 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.’

Jesus is Lord…the Lord who not only demands this animal by His authority, but He is the Lord who knows everything there is to know about this animal while still several miles from the village. He is the Lord who sends his disciples with the authority to use this animal. When they are questioned, they speak the Lord’s words, and his authority is recognised.

What this story delicately reveals and the rest of the New Testament clearly confirms: is we honour Jesus because He is, worthy of our honour. We honour Him because He is Lord. He does not have to do anything to earn this honour, not even die on a cross or rise from the dead. We honour Him, we worship Him because of who He is.

Here is the Lord Jesus Christ, not simply a king, but THE King, the King of kings. Here He is, the Son of God. Here He is, the one by whom all things were created (John 1, Colossians 1); the one who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). He is God in human flesh. (John 1:14)

But is that why you honour Jesus? I think sometimes we expect God to do certain things, in a certain way, in our life. Sometimes we believe that Jesus was sent to fix this or that problem in this or that relationship, in this or that circumstance.

Yes Jesus came to bring transformation; to effect radical change. But such changes are more like the aftershocks that follow the earthquake of recognising Jesus as the only one worthy of our undivided love and adoration.

When we honour Jesus because of what we want Him to do, rather than who He is, we are simply following this crowd down a road that eventually leads to rejecting Jesus. We might think, “God is not meeting my needs in the way I’d like.” Eventually the palm branch we once waved is thrown to the side. Eventually we’re looking to other Messiahs, to other saviours.

How can you check your motives when it comes to Jesus? Well, think about the thing that you most want God to do for you right now, maybe the thing you pray about most often. Now imagine if God told you this morning that He was not neglecting your need, but that He was NOT going to do what you wanted him to do. Would you still honour Him? Would you still praise Him with the same excitement we see here?

Wouldn’t He still be worthy?

Or ask yourself this, when you read this story about Jesus being honoured, does your heart leap? Are you saying to yourself, “Finally, finally, Jesus is being honoured in the way He deserves to be honoured?

He is not being approached as a genie in the bottle who grants wishes. He is not simply the miracle worker, being thought of and stared at as some kind of sideshow attraction. He is not being ridiculed and plotted against.

Finally, Jesus is being treated with the kind respect He is worthy of”?

When you read this reading, do you long to be there in the crowd…that you might prepare His path, that you might wave a palm branch, that you might cry out to Him with praise?

Jesus knew the crowd didn’t understand the nature of His mission. He knew that they were blind to the fact that the Enemy he sought to destroy was far more dangerous than the Roman legions. They only saw a crown. They couldn’t see the cross.

But nevertheless, Jesus received their praises because He was and is worthy of such praise. He was the blessed One who came in the name of the Lord. He was and is the Messiah who would fulfill and will fulfill the promises related to David’s throne.

This is the beginning of the week that changed everything. Why does it start this way? So that we might grip the worthiness of Jesus. So that we might recognise, and receive, and remember his intrinsic honour. If the week that changed everything is to change us, then it has to start here, with a right view of Jesus, with a vision of what ought to be.

Mark wants us to hold onto this truth throughout the week, right up to Friday and Sunday. How does Palm Sunday connect to Good Friday? That Sunday was a shadow of what should be. Only Friday could make what should be into what is.

Only the cross of Jesus can change our self-honouring impulse into a Jesus-honouring impulse. As the Apostle Paul said ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

We don’t ultimately honour Jesus because of what he did on the cross, but because what he did there reveals the earth-shattering, universe-changing, soul-transforming truth about who He is. As He suffered there, and gave his life there, we see, by God’s grace, love like no other, grace beyond compare, and the meaning and the rest we’ve always longed for.

Now I ask you have you seen Jesus through a different lens. None of this will make sense if you haven’t. And all of this will fade and become difficult if you lose sight of Him. Ask God today, this week, for new eyes; for the heart to honour Him as we should; for a mouth to shout His praises. For those are the very things God loves to give. And He will give them, and will continue to give them, throughout eternity.

And the tragic side of a triumphant event is that people don’t see their God and their Lord Jesus Christ for who He really is.