Preached by Pastor Jeff Hamling
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Since today is Palm Sunday we are skipping ahead in the book of Mark to the first Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem with crowds cheering and waving Palm branches.
This Sunday marks the beginning of what the church calls “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” Holy Week commemorates the last week of Jesus’ life before Easter. It includes Jesus entering Jerusalem, clearing the temple, teaching the crowds and debating the religious leaders. Washing his disciples’ feet. Serving the Last Super. Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. And finally, being arrested and crucified.
Our passage this morning is sometimes called “the Triumphal Entry.” It is chock-full of symbolism and OT prophecy being fulfilled.
We’ll consider the following two points as we look at this passage:
- First, I’ll point out 4 ways that the Triumphal Entry fulfills Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah.
- Second, I’ll propose two questions to ask yourself this Holy Week.
Four Ways the Triumphal Entry Fulfills Old Testament Prophecy About the Messiah
First, Entering Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives:
In v.1 it says, “They approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives…”
Bethpage and Bethany were small villages nestled at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is a mountain about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem (which was known for its many olive trees).
The story points out that Jesus enters Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives because 500 years prior to this event, the prophet Zechariah (in the OT) wrote that there was a coming “Day of the Lord”: A day of Judgment and Salvation.
On that Day, the Lord would come to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.
In Zechariah 14:4 it says, On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem.
By entering from Jerusalem, Jesus is fulfilling that prophecy and signifying that the Day of the Lord has arrived.
Second, Riding a donkey:
In v.2-6, Jesus asks his disciples to go fetch a colt that is tied up in the village ahead and bring it to him. This young, male, donkey has never been ridden before. In v.7 it says, “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.”
This event is significant for several reasons, which we will come back to. But what immediately stands out is that this event fulfills another prophecy from Zechariah.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus fulfills this ancient prophecy. Not only that, he’s making a statement about who he is: “Israel, I’m your King!”
It’s no wonder the people are throwing down their cloaks and palm branches. Today, we roll out the red carpet for heads of state and celebrities. In the ancient world, instead of rolling out the red carpet, they would throw down their cloaks and palm branches. It was an act of allegiance and reverence.
Third, Shouting God’s promise:
In v.9-10 the crowds shout, “Hosanna!” (Hosanna means, “God save us.”) “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.”
Recently, Pastor Bryan preached a 3-part sermon series on 2 Samuel 7, where God makes a promise to King David. He says, from your offspring, I will raise up King who will sit on the throne and rule the nations forever. The crowd remembers that prophecy, that promise. By saying “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” they are saying, “Jesus is our promised King!”
And finally, fourth, Arriving at the temple.
In v.11 it says, “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”
At first glance, this seems like a rather anticlimactic end to a triumphal entry! Everyone is cheering and shouting. There is lots of excitement and fanfare. Jesus gets to the temple. Yawn. It’s late. Let’s all just go to bed. What?
Yet, again, the point is that Jesus is fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.
In the last book of the Old Testament, in Malachi 3:1-2 it says, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. (John the Baptist). Then suddenly the Lord you are seeing will come to his temple…who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?”
The temple was God’s dwelling place. It was His temple. By going to the temple, Jesus not only fulfills prophecy, but he is saying this is my dwelling place. The day of the coming of the Lord has arrived.
So put all this together: Entering Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, riding a donkey, being declared the son of David, and arriving at the temple.
Notice, not only do each of these events fulfill prophecy but by doing them,
Jesus is making an unequivocal statement about who he is: He is not just an earthly king. But the King of Heaven and Earth. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Two Questions to Ask Yourself this Holy Week
Through Church history, Holy Week is a time to reflect on Jesus and his final week leading up to his death on the cross and ultimately his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This week, we will be hosting a Good Friday or Tenebrae Service. It will be an opportunity to reflect on the cross of Christ with music and readings. I hope you can come.
I also hope that throughout this week, whether you are a Christian or not, that you can spend some time reflecting on these two questions about Jesus and where you stand with him.
- Question #1: Who do I believe Jesus is?
This question is for Christians and non-Christians.
If you’re not a Christian, it’s important to still ask yourself, “Who do I think Jesus is?”
It’s clear in this passage—that Jesus is claiming to be not just a wise teacher—but the Lord God himself. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Do you believe him or not?
CS Lewis famously addressed this issue by saying: You can’t just write Jesus off by saying he was a good, moral teacher—like many before and after him. It’s worth repeating what CS Lewis said: A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
By riding into Jerusalem and arriving at the temple, Jesus is throwing down the gauntlet: Make your choice.! Who do you say I am? What will you do about it? Crown me. Or kill me.
But this question is also for Christians: By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey from the Mount of Olives and arriving at the temple—Jesus is not just fulfilling prophecy; he’s making the statement that he is Lord.
This means you can’t say to Jesus, “I want you as my friend, buy not as my king. I want you as my helper, my therapist, but not as my master.”
It’s all or nothing.
In Romans 10:9 the Apostle Paul says, “If you you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raise him from the dead, you will be saved.” To be a Christian. To be saved, is to declare Jesus Lord of your life. This means that there should be things in your life that you want to do, but you don’t do, because Jesus is your master and Lord—and not yourself.
Who do you believe Jesus is? Is he Lord or not?
- Second Question: Do I recognize Jesus when he comes to me?
The Gospel writer Luke tells us that at the triumphal entry, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the following happened:
Luke 19:41-44 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes…You did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
And why didn’t they recognize him?
For starters, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey! Kings and heroes are supposed to ride into their home city on a War Horse. What kind of King rides in on a silly looking donkey? It’s like a world class cyclist showing up to a race on a little kid’s bike. It’s like a King riding to his palace in a clown car. Who does that…and why?
It’s important to understand that there is a history here.
160 years prior to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Hellenistic armies oppressed Israel, set up pagan idols in their temple in Jerusalem. The Jews were not allowed to worship in their temple. A Jewish man by the name of Judas Maccabeus led a revolt. He conquered the foreign armies outside of Israel and then turned his attention to the city of Jerusalem and the temple. As he rode into Jerusalem on his war horse, crowds of Jews gathered around, cheering him on. They waved palm branches and threw down their garments. He entered Jerusalem, conquered the oppressors by the sword, and opened the temple back up for worship again. To this day, Jews celebrate this event in their holiday called “Hanukah”. The point is: The Jewish people were liberated through a bloody battle by a man who rode in on a war horse.
The donkey is a parody. A satire. Jesus is making fun of the world’s ways of using power.
And for this reason, most people in Jerusalem that week—didn’t recognize Jesus as the Lord when he came. He rode in on a humble donkey.
Jesus will wear a kingly purple robe with a staff in his right hand—placed on him by soldiers who will mock and ridicule him and spit on him.
The crown on his brow will be a crown of twisted thorns. He will be pierced with nails to a wooded cross with a sign that says, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Jesus came to deliver his people through a bloody war, but the blood would be his own.
He is a king who comes and rescues his people, not by riding in on a war horse, but through weakness, suffering, humility, and death.
In your own life, you might expect God to be present and blessing you if you are experiencing victory with old patterns of sin and shame if your relationships are going well, and you’re in good health. God has blessed me!
But most often God appears to you and works in your life through weakness, suffering, humility, and death.
Ask yourself, do I recognize him coming to me during my difficult times. Seasons of darkness, fear and doubt?
What if those are the seasons of life when Jesus is present with you the most? What if Jesus working in your life sometimes feels like weakness and death? What if on the other side of all that—there is renewal and life and resurrection.
That is the story of Holy Week. That is the story of Easter.