Jesus' Triumphant Entry
1 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.
Jesus is heading into Jerusalem. Along the way he sends two of his disciples into Bethany which, situated about two miles southeast of the city, was home to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (and the place where Jesus raised Lazarus back to life). There the disciples fetch a colt for Jesus to ride, and along the road to Jerusalem Jesus receives a royal welcome, complete with the ancient equivalent of a red carpet and shouts of acclamation. After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus goes into the temple, looks around, and then retires to Bethany for the evening.
Jerusalem (Mark 11:1)
Mark 11 begins the events of the final week leading up to Christ's crucifixion - "extending from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday."1118 Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem is often described as his "triumphal entry." Such entries were actually not uncommon - although, of course, Jesus' was much more significant than any other. Aside from those associated with Roman officials, "Jesus' celebrated entry is one of as many as twelve similar entries, as recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees and in Josephus."1119 (1 and 2 Maccabees are "[t]wo deuterocanonical books that cover the period of Israel's history from 167 BC to 100 BC. The books are named after Judas Maccabeus, who initiated the Jewish revolt in 166 BC against Rome. The chief value of these books is that they provide historical accounts of Israel's struggles during the time between Malachi and the time of Christ."1120 Josephus was a "Jewish military officer and historian" who lived during the first century AD. "His works illumine the period in which the church came into existence - especially concerning the religion, politics, geography, and prominent persons of the early Christian era."1121)
"The departure from the Mount of Olives, in order to enter Jerusalem, mounted upon a colt, is the beginning of a series of elements drawn from Zechariah":1122
Mount of Olives = Zechariah 14:4
a young donkey/colt = Zechariah 9:9
merchants in the Temple = Zechariah 14:20-21
a mountain moved/leveled = Zechariah 4:6-7
Although he had done so before, this occasion marked Jesus' official presentation of himself as Israel's deliverer, the Messiah who would bring much-anticipated peace to God's people. Christ was identified as the Messiah at his baptism; authenticated as the Messiah at his temptation; glorified as the Messiah at his transfiguration; and presented as the Messiah at his triumphal entry.1123 The colt on which Jesus rode was emblematic of peace, and the fact that it had not been ridden before was in keeping with "the ancient rule that only animals that had not been used for ordinary purposes were appropriate for sacred purposes (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7)."1124
The crowd (Mark 11:8)
The occasion was Passover, and participants crowded in and around the city of Jerusalem, swelling its population to more than three times the norm.1125 "Pilgrims to the feast were typically welcomed by crowds already there," and the shouts of joy offered to Jesus were actually a regular part of the festivities.1126 To be sure, some in the crowd did recognize and accept Jesus' presentation of himself as the promised Messiah.1127 As the apostle John brings out, these included witnesses to Jesus' miraculous raising of Lazarus (see John 12:17-18).1128 In fact, it appears that there were actually two crowds: "One had assembled in Bethany to see Jesus and Lazarus raised from the dead, and this crowd started to Jerusalem with him; the other came out from Jerusalem to meet him when it got word that he was coming. The crowd that met him was thus the one that was in front. From Luke 19:37 we learn that this crowd joined the other near the top of Olivet where it slopes down toward Jerusalem. And here the shout arose and continued which acclaimed Jesus as the Messiah."1129
That said, probably most of the people who greeted Jesus were simply caught up in the moment. As one source puts it: "For most people, then, this moment of jubilation was simply part of the traditional Passover celebration - it did not alarm the Roman authorities or initiate a call for Jesus' arrest by the Jewish rulers."1130 And so the Roman guards, on special alert because of the occasion and the unusually large number of people present, saw no reason to stop Jesus or prevent him from entering Jerusalem - something they surely would have done if they had suspected him of being a political activist.1131
Shouting (Mark 11:9)
According to the NASB: "Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: '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!'" (Mark 11:9-10). As one source brings out: "The chiastic (a-b-b'-a') arrangement of these verses suggests antiphonal chanting by two groups - those who went ahead of Jesus and those who followed Him. They chanted Psalm 118:25-26. At the annual Passover festival (cf. Mark 14:1), the Jews chanted the six 'ascent' psalms (Psalms 113-118) to express thanksgiving, praise, and petitions to God."1132
He left (Mark 11:11)
After surveying the temple, Jesus returned to Bethpage for the night. (Jerusalem's city gate was closed and locked at sunset1133) Accommodations were scarce at this time of the year: it would have been difficult to find and/or afford lodging within Jerusalem.1134 What's more, it was probably not safe for Jesus to stay in the city, as the religious leaders were plotting his death.1135 As with everything else, in this regard Jesus leaves us a good example for us to follow: "Jesus never acted in a foolhardy way; he always used proper prudence. Although he knew that no one could lay hands on him until his hour would come he never presumed on this and disregarded danger."1136
It Makes All the Difference
On a crowded street of one of our large cities, a young man was snatched from the path of a speeding truck, his life saved by a venerable-looking man. Still breathless from fright, the youth thanked the one who saved his life and then was lost in the crowd.
Two weeks later in a crowded courtroom, an anxious young man stood in the prisoner's box to be sentenced for murder.
"Young man, have you anything to say before the sentence of death is passed upon you?" "Why! Yes! Yes, Judge," the youth responded, "you know me." A silence moved like a shock wave over the courtroom. "I'm sorry. I cannot place you."
"Yes. Surely you remember. Two weeks ago. At Main and Seventh Streets, you saved my life. Surely, Judge, you can do something to save me now." A silence pervaded the courtroom. "Young man, now I do remember you. But that day I was your savior. Today I am your judge."
Today the Lord Jesus Christ wants to be your Savior. If you refuse Him and His grace, one day He will be your Judge.1137
Jesus came to offer himself as the Savior. Those who reject him as such, however, must one day face him as Judge.
??? What would you do if you knew the president of the United States was coming to visit you tomorrow morning? What are you doing for the King of kings and Lord of lords who has already come in the flesh, is present in spirit now, and will one day return?