SERMON: “What the Triumphal Entry Reveals,” Mark 11:1–11

What the Triumphal Entry Reveals | Mark 11:1–11
Shaun Marksbury | Grace Bible Church
Sunday Morning Service | September 16, 2018

There’s an important moment of hesitation before entering the Holy City.  Whereas, on the road, Jesus was determined to move forward despite all that would happen to Him (10:32–34), He now purposefully delays.  He knows that He must make certain preparations to fulfill His mission.



With Jesus entering Jerusalem, we finally leave the long road of chapter ten.  We’ve also closed our study on the second phase of Christ’s earthly ministry.  Our text today opens with the final week of Christ’s life, and Mark 11:1–15:47 (one-third of the book) will focus on Jesus in Jerusalem. 

This account begins with the use of historical presents in the original language, moving the reader along in the narrative.  In the previous chapter, we read about the healing of the two blind beggars, one named Bartimaeus in Mk 10:46–52.  It also follows two events not recorded in Mark—the repentance of another man with trouble seeing, Zacchaeus (Lk 19:2–9) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1–46).  With those final works, the text moves us forward with our Lord into Jerusalem.

Yet, there’s an important moment of hesitation before entering the Holy City.  Whereas, on the road, Jesus was determined to move forward despite all that would happen to Him (10:32–34), He now purposefully delays.  He knows that He must make certain preparations to fulfill His mission.  That is what we’ll examine in this text.

I.               Notice what the Lord knows.

This is, in fact, Monday of the Passion Week, though Christians have traditionally thought of it as Sunday.  It’s four days before the Passover (Friday, the 14th of Nisan, ad 30), and v. 1 has Jesus on the road approaching Bethphage and Bethany.  Both these towns are east of Jerusalem.  Bethany, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived (cf. Jn 11:1), is two miles out and separated from Jerusalem by the Mount of Olives, and its name means “house of sadness.”  Bethpage is on the slope of the Mount of Olives just before the city, and its name means “house of unripe figs.”

At 2,700 feet, the Mount of Olives rises above Jerusalem by about 200 feet, offering the perfect view of Jerusalem and the temple.  One day, the Lord will reveal His glory on the Mount of Olives (Zec 14:1–7), but that day hasn’t come.  In fact, sadly, the Romans stripped it of olive trees during their siege in ad 70.

For now, Jesus selects two of His disciples to initiate His plans, telling them to “Go into the village opposite you” (v. 2).  If they are heading toward Jerusalem and have already passed through Bethany, then this may refer to Bethpage.  That is likely because the Triumphal Entry follows the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:1–12:18).  He sends them because He knows it is time, as we will see.

A.              Jesus wields divine foresight.

We’ve already seen His foresight in knowing of His coming rejection and crucifixion in the previous chapter.  Here, we see more foresight.  He tells them to enter the town and says that “immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there.”  Knowing first the location of the animal, He also reveals that it was one “on which no one yet has ever sat.”  He also anticipates questioning, but He tells them in the next verse what to say; “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here” (v. 3).

We should pause for a moment and note the kind of animal Jesus references.  The Greek word refers to the offspring of any animal, but Christ refers to a donkey (cf. Mt 21:5).  This is how Scripture consistently uses the term (cf. Gn 49:11; Jg 10:4; 12:14; Zec 9:9).  In Matthew 21:2, Jesus notes that there will be two animals, the colt and its mother, which is what the prophecy also mentions (Zec 9:9).  So, even though Mark chooses to focus on the animal that Jesus will ride, the reality is that He knew that there would be, in fact, two animals awaiting the disciples.

There are some other fascinating aspects here.  First, the Lord gives words to speak much as He did in the Old Testament (e.g., God tells Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel” [Ex 3:15]).  The expression, “Thus saith the Lord” occurs 415 times in the King James Version, all within the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, and in keeping with the King James, we have the prophets saying, “Thus saith the Holy Ghost” (Acts 21:11).  Here, we find the disciples almost in a prophetic role, being told what will happen, what to say when it happens, and then what to do after that.

Second, the Lord isn’t stealing this colt, for He says to tell them “and immediately he will send it back here.”  Though He ultimately has the right to everything, the Lord models and commands a respect for personal property.  Of course, the sixth commandment upholds this when it says, “Thou shalt not steal.”  In fact, in Israel, if you found lost property, like your neighbor’s wandering ox, you were required to take note, return it immediately, or take care of it until you could return it (Dt 22:1–3).  There’re more verses we could look at, but the clear message is that God’s people honors property rights.

In fact, a high view of personal property should comfort us when we lend and borrow, for Christians are committed to return that which is loaned in the original condition.  Matthew Henry notes here, “Christ went upon the water in a borrowed boat, ate the passover in a borrowed chamber, was buried in a borrowed sepulchre, and here rode on a borrowed ass. Let not Christians scorn to be beholden one to another, and, when need is, to go a borrowing, for our Master did not.”[1] 

Indeed, so our Lord sends the two disciples.  In vv. 4–6, we read everything the Lord said came to pass: “They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it.  Some of the bystanders were saying to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’  They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission.”

This isn’t the first time He’s demonstrated such insight.  We’ve been noting throughout how He’s predicted His death, preparing His disciples for what is to come (Mk 8:31; 9:9, 12–13, 31; 10:33–34).  You may also recall how John notes the meeting between Nathaniel and Jesus; “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these’ ” (Jn 1:48–50).

Later in Mark, we’ll see an almost identical scenario to this one (Mk 14:13–16).

And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’

“And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.”

The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

Someone might say that Jesus had perhaps already made these preparations, but how did He know where the colt would be tied, or when a particular young man would be carrying a pitcher of water and where?  Jesus constantly proves that He is more than just a man or a good teacher.  He knows what no one else knows, including when and what Scripture applies to Him.

B.              Jesus applies prophecy to Himself.

Notice in v. 7 that it says, “They brought the colt to Jesus.”  This means that Jesus specifically awaits outside the city for the colt.  Why does He do this?  So He can fulfill prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, “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.” 

There are some lesser prophetic applications, as well.   For instance, He wielded His divine foresight to choose a donkey which no one had ever used.  There may have been significance to this; animals unused by man were fitting for holy purposes (Nm 19:2; Dt 21:3; 1 Sm 6:7).  Our Lord doesn’t choose to sit where others have sat for this momentous occasion.

In fact, there may have also been significance in the simple fact that the colt was tied and needed to be untied.  Jacob’s prophecy to Judah before he died included foresight to the Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  The prophecy includes these words: “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” (Gn 49:11).  (That last part refers to His Second Coming.)

Another prophecy we can’t forget is the one we discussed during the GBC Distinctives Series—Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24–27).  Jesus’s entry was on the precise day predicted there.  One of the popular books discussing that is an older one, Robert Anderson’s The Coming Prince.  Another one I referenced during the distinctives series was Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, Chronology of the Old Testament: A Return to Basics.  Our Lord should have been anticipated by the religious leaders of His day.

There’s even more significance than this.  Perhaps He is also emphasizing that He’s the Son of David—David rode a mule (1 Kgs 1:33, 38, 44), Solomon came into Jerusalem riding on a mule to be anointed king to similar fanfare (1 Kgs 1:38–40), and Jesus said that He was “greater than Solomon” (Mt 12:42; Lk 11:31). 

In other words, this moment is pregnant with prophetic meaning.  And He intentionally directs the fulfillment of Scripture.  There can be no doubt that He knows Who He is.

Verse eight says, “And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.”  This practice for royalty was to keep the dust of the road down.  Moreover, it is a “public declaration of political allegiance (compare 2 Kgs 9:13). Jesus enters Jerusalem as its king, and the people accept Him as such.”[2]  John also mentions palm branches (Jn 12:13), which didn’t grow in those fields and thus, may have come from Jericho— which also interestingly prefigure the heavenly scene (Rv 7:9). 

The next verse describes the fanfare of His entry.  It says that there were some who were in front and some who were in back, and the imperfect verb indicates that they were continually shouting their refrain.   They cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (vv. 9–10). 

Let’s consider the word “hosanna,” and a little background might help here.  Remember that Jerusalem is uphill, and so, when pilgrims drew near, they would chant six psalms of ascent (Pss. 113–118).  What they sing out here in Mark is from Psalm 118:25–26, which begins אָנָּ֣א יְ֭הוָה הוֹשִׁ֘יעָ֥ה נָּ֑א, “O LORD, save, we beseech [hôšî ‘âh nâ’,] You.”  “Hosanna,” then, is a transliteration of a Hebrew term that was both a prayer of salvation and also a shout of praise (like “hallelujah”).  It’s interesting that Mark doesn’t translate this for his Roman audience; it may be a term with which they were familiar.  One commentary notes that “early Christian liturgy used as cry of rejoicing, hosanna! (Didache 10, 6),”[3] which says, “May grace come and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If any man is holy, let him come; if any man is not, let him repent. Maran Atha. Amen.”[4]

As I said, they were quoting Psalm 118:25–26, which says, “O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the house of the Lord.”  They are altering it to apply to Jesus, saying that He has the blessing of God on Him.  They are also altering it to say He fulfills the promise God gave David in 2 Samuel 7:11–16. 

Why shouldn’t they?  They’ve seen Him heal the blind and raise the dead within recent days.  Now, here He is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, deliberately fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, which says in the next verse, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off.  And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (v. 10). 

As such, the people expected Jesus to inaugurate His rule by bringing in the Messianic kingdom.  Interestingly, Jesus never corrects them by saying, “The kingdom of God is already here,” or “The kingdom of God is in your hearts.”  In Mark 1:15, He said the kingdom is near or “at hand.”  There would certainly be truth in those statements, but there is also truth in saying that the kingdom of God is not fully actualized and is still coming. 

Jesus permits this, and He doesn’t just go partly into Jerusalem and stop.  He leads this parade right up to the temple in verse eleven.  This fact leads one commentator to say this: “The procession towards Jerusalem and the attack on the temple traders are blatantly public acts which effectively throw down the gauntlet to the Jerusalem authorities and force them to respond.”[5]  With that, let’s note one more thing our Lord knows.

C.              Jesus knows His temple.

He examines what’s there.  This verse says, “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.”  As the Messiah, He surveys His temple.  The NLT adds the word “carefully” here, as the term “signifies a commanding survey of the situation.”[6]  Yet, He leaves, which may seem anticlimactic.

However, if you look a bit ahead in the text, you will see that He’s not happy with what He sees—corruption in the temple.  Just because He’s quiet at this moment doesn’t mean that He’s happy with what He sees!  Psalm 50:21 says, “These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.” 

So, in vv. 15–18, He’s going to cleanse the temple of its unholiness, and this gives us something to ponder.  We may wish to see ourselves in the crowd receiving Christ, and that is a good thing.  However, if that is the case, then we must also be willing to allow Him right into the heart of our lives, inspecting us for sin and ungodliness.  The truth is that He already knows what’s in the heart of man (Mk 2:8; Lk 6:8; 11:17; Jn 2:25), observing what darkness that lies there.  And His current silence on the matter should be no comfort to us.

With that said, there is one other point in His triumphal entry for us to consider.

II.            Notice why the Lord came. 

We must to confess a few oddities in this event.  For instance, Jesus links Himself to Zechariah’s prophecy as well as David and Solomon by riding in on a donkey.  We call this a “triumphal entry,” but without our Lord riding with a proper saddle, let alone a horse-drawn chariot. 

MacArthur notes in his commentary:

“Despite its outward appearance, it was an event unlike any other coronation.  Coronations are not humble, unexpected, spontaneous, unofficial, or superficial.  This event was all of those.  Nor are true coronations reversed a few days afterward, with the one who had been exalted and praised being rejected and executed.  Although Jesus was heaven’s true King, deserving all exaltation, honor, worship, and praise, this was not a real coronation; it was, in fact, the false coronation of the true King.”[7]

This “triumphal entry” is intentionally humble.  He is rightly hailed as King, and He could have fulfilled another Zechariah prophecy by fighting all of Israel’s foes and revealing the glory of the Lord on the Mount of Olives (Zec 14:1–7).  Yet, this isn’t the time.  He’s not coming to conquer.

Instead, He’s come to seek and save the lost, “to give His life a ransom for many” (10:45).  He’s fulfilling other prophecies here, including the suffering servant prophecies of Isaiah 52–53.  If you are worried about your guilt before God, know that He did not come to condemn the world but to save all those who call upon Him for salvation.

III.         Conclusion

Jesus comes to earth twice.  We read today the first and only occasion in the Gospels where He’s riding somewhere, and it’s on a humble beast.  When we see Him riding again, it will be with an army of the redeemed on white horses (Rv 19:11–15).

I would think most Christians in churches today would want to be in the crowd, waving palm branches as He rode in the first time.  Even so, when we consider all this in light of His inspection of the temple, verses like Romans 2:4–5 come to mind, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” 

We may like to think we would wave the palm branches when He came the first time.  How do you anticipate His Second Coming?  If you are fearful, remember that He died the first time for all sinners who place their faith in Him.   Repent and trust in Him, and you will be welcoming of Him.

[2] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mk 11:8.
[3] Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974), 144.
[4] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 233.
[5] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 428.
[6] James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 313.
[7] John MacArthur, Mark 9–16, 122.

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