The Return of the King

The Return of the King

The Return of the King
Text:  Mark 11:1–11

Main Idea: Jesus is the promised Messiah King.

I.   The King’s Preparation (Mark 11:1–7)
II.  A Royal Celebration (Mark 11:8–10)
III. An Unexpected Conclusion (Mark 11:11)

Mark 11:1–11

It’s common to in most churches to preach a special Christmas series over advent. And you may be wondering why I’ve chosen to continue with the Gospel of Mark this morning. Well, the answer is twofold. First, earlier this fall I realized that I could preach the final chapter in Mark on Resurrection Sunday if I made a few adjustments to my preaching plan. Second, this section of Mark mirrors a number of important themes in the birth narratives.

  • In the birth narratives Jesus is born in relative obscurity amidst the hustle and bustle of a world-wide census.
  • In the gospel of Mark Jesus resides in relative obscurity outside Jerusalem’s walls amidst the hustle and bustle of Passover.
  • In the birth narratives there is a frantic search for the King of the Jews.
  • In the gospel of Mark Jesus is going to reveal his true kingship.
  • In the birth narratives King Herod plots the death of his kingly rival.
  • In the gospel of Mark the chief priests and the scribes will plot the destruction of their rightful king.

Main Idea: Jesus is the promised Messiah King.

The King’s Preparation (Mark 11:1–7)

Theological Geography (11:1)

I want to begin this morning by taking a few minutes to highlight the theological importance of verse 1. What I mean by this is that Mark appears to be depicting this event we know as “Palm Sunday” or “The Triumphal Entry” as a reversal Ezekiel 10 and 11, when God abandoned Solomon’s Temple because of Judah’s perpetual idolatry. Idolatry that had warped the hearts of Judah’s leaders and penetrated the very heart of the Temple itself. Ezekiel 8 provides us with four examples:

Ezekiel 8:5–6 An image was erected in the Northern gate of the Temple mount.

Ezekiel 8:7–13 The elders were worshiping vile pictures of abominations in the dark rooms of their homes.

Ezekiel 8:14 Women were weeping for the god Tammuz on the Temple grounds.

Ezekiel 8:16–18 And if these were not bad enough, Ezekiel finds 25 men in the inner court of the temple itself, standing with their backs to the sanctuary so that they could worship the sun god in the east.

Israel has abandoned her Covenant God. As a result of this idolatry and in preparation for the Babylonian invasion, Ezekiel witnesses the unimaginable. In that, in a series of three steps, the Shekinah glory of the Lord moves from the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the Temple (10:4), from the threshold to the Eastern gate of the Temple complex (10:18–19); and finally from the Eastern gate to the mountain on the east side of the city (10:22–23)—or the Mount of Olives.[1]

But, as the book of Ezekiel comes to a close, God discloses a glorious vision with a magnificent promise that God will return along very the same path he departed.[2]

Ezekiel 43:1–5 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

What’s the promise in Ezekiel? God has not abandoned you and your exile in Babylon will not last forever. The exiles will return to their homeland. And God will dwell once again with his people.

Notice, from which direction does God’s glory return? The East. What is in the East? The Mount of Olives. And where is Jesus in Mark 11:1? He is on the Mount of Olives preparing for his journey into Jerusalem and the Temple itself. The day that Israel has been longing for is finally coming! But, as we transition to verses 2–7 Mark wants us to see that there is another promise to be fulfilled.

Messianic Identity (11:2–7)

Have you ever wondered, “Why does Jesus send his disciples out to get a colt when he has been utterly content to walk everywhere else? No doubt he has walked hundreds of miles in his three-and-a-half-years of ministry. But here at the end of his ministry, why does he think it is necessary to upgrade his transportation. It’s because he is finally preparing to stake his claim as Israel’s promised king, the Messiah.

As we examine the account in verses 2–7 we can see that Mark wants to communicate at least three things to his audience.

First, he wants to demonstrate (once again) that Jesus is truly God, in that, Jesus foretells where the colt is, how its owners will respond, and how the disciples should respond. See, the very one who conquers demons, walks on water, and raises the dead to life is the one who ordains and knows all things.

Second, he wants them to see that Jesus is the promised Messiah king, in that, Jesus is finally exercising his authority as an earthly king.[3] It was well within an ancient king’s authority and rights to commandeer a citizens personal belongings. In addition to this, the unbroken status of the colt was important because according to the Jewish Mishnah ( Sanh. 2:5) no one was allowed to ride a king’s horse or donkey. The colt isn’t merely a statement about humility, it’s a mount fit for a king.

Three, he wants them to see that Jesus is getting ready to fulfill a 500-year old prophecy about the Messiah.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

In Jesus Christ, God is returning to his Temple and proclaiming his rightful kingship over his people Israel. Everything Israel has been waiting for is finally arriving. In fact, as we transition to Jesus’ trip into Jerusalem it appears as though God’s promises will finally be realized, in that, the people’s celebration contains three OT allusions to Jesus’ true kingship.

A Royal Celebration (Mark 11:8–10) Three allusions to Jesus’ True Kingship

The crowd’s actions reflect the coronation of two Davidic Kings[4]

King Solomon 1 Kings 1:32–34 King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. 33 And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’

King Jehu 2 Kings 9:12–13 … And he said, “Thus and so he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ ” 13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

In other words, Jesus is entering Jerusalem in the pattern of the OT kings of Judah.

The crowd’s use of Psalm 118

Psalm 118:25–26 Save us, we pray [Hosanna], O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.

Before we examine their exuberant proclamations, I want to take a moment to put this psalm in its proper context.[5]

Psalm 118 was originally composed as a royal song of thanksgiving for the Davidic kings, in which the people would celebrate God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf (118:14-17; cf. Exod. 15:2, 6).[6] And it was originally composed as processional liturgy for the Davidic Kings—like a responsive reading— in which the people and priesthood would celebrate God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf. the city of Jerusalem (118:15) up into the temple itself;[7].

As the processional drama unfolded the king himself would ask to enter the temple and the authorities would respond appropriately to his request for admittance (118:19-20). Once inside the king would thank God for answering his prayer for salvation (118:21), the crowds would respond by praising God for his deliverance (118:22-24), and call for the priestly blessing (118:25). The priests would respond “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (118:26; cf. Ps 2:8)) and after this they would offer a sacrifice on the altar (118:27).

What does Mark want us to see? He wants us to see that Jesus is receiving a royal reception much like the kings of old. But at the same time the crowd’s celebration is dripping with irony.

The crowd is begging for salvation from Rome, “Hosanna.” They see Jesus as the answer to their political and social problems but are oblivious to the fact that he came to save them from the consequences of their sin problem.

The crowd is celebrating Jesus’ affiliation with God, in that, they have seen and heard of his great deeds: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But, they are oblivious to the fact that Jesus in not merely coming in the name of God but is in fact God almighty.

Even more, Psalm 118 itself predicts the very thing that Jesus has been telling his disciples over and over again, Jesus will be a rejected Messiah before he will be a reigning Messiah.

Psalm 118:22–23 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

The crowd declares his Davidic identity

See, the problem is not that the crowd is refusing to accept Jesus’ Messianic claim. Far from it! They believe Jesus is going to inaugurate “the coming kingdom of our father David.” They believe Jesus is going to somehow crush the Romans and re-establish God’s rightful rule and reign over Israel as in the days of King David. And at this moment it appears like Jesus is finally on the role because the masses are ready to embrace him as their rightful king.

But, when we get to the very next verse, Mark reveals the tragic reality that the day’s festivities have been little more than a farcical pep-rally. Jesus is the promised Messiah king but no one seems to care when he finally arrives.

An Unexpected Conclusion (Mark 11:11)

See, Jesus may have fans in the streets but they are nowhere to be found when he enters the Temple. Somehow, the triumphant kingly procession of Psalm 118 comes completely undone somewhere between Jerusalem’s gate and the Temple mount.[8] The only people that accompany Jesus to the Temple are the 12 disciples.

And even worse when he arrives the priesthood is completely oblivious or callous to his identity and the true gravity of his arrival!

On the one hand, the promised Messiah, the son of David, Israel’s rightful king has entered the temple. And according to Psalm 118, the priests should be singing their part: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” But, they don’t celebrate his coming, in fact, they don’t even acknowledge his presence.

And on the other hand, the priesthood is completely ignorant to the glorious reality that God has finally returned to his Temple just like he promised. And what does God find when he arrives? He finds that his personal representatives are just callous toward him as they were in Ezekiel’s day.

All in all, the events of Palm Sunday are utterly anticlimactic, in that nothing really happens. King Jesus arrives at the Temple, looks around for a little while, and then leaves the city with no one but the 12 disciples because no one seems to really care.

Two Implications as we turn to Communion

Jesus came to save us from our sin not our present life circumstances.

In many ways people today are no different than Jewish crowds that celebrated Jesus’ arrival—we are looking for heaven on earth. We are looking for a “savior” that will save us from the misery of our present life circumstances.

And if that is you today, I can relate. Who doesn’t want to enjoy a life that just gets better and better and better?

  • A life in which we marry our perfect soul-mate who will never abandon us, who will fulfill our every deficiency, and make enough money for us to live comfortably.
  • A life in which infertility doesn’t exist, miscarriages never happen, disability doesn’t cripple, disease does not infect, and death does not rip our loved ones from our grasp.
  • A life in which our children love us deeply, always listen to our advice, achieve our every expectation, and chose to settle down nearby so that we can enjoy their presence and our grandchildren.
  • A life in which we feel needed, valued, and fulfilled in the workplace and are steadily moving up the ladder.

But in all of this, what are we truly searching for? A life in which we are virtually exempt from all the effects of Adam’s fall and our sinful nature. And that is never going to happen this side of eternity! Because, every unmet desire and painful experience, including the desperate emptiness we experience after a loved one’s death are sovereign reminders that there is something desperately wrong with this world. It’s like listening to a piano that’s out of tune, in that, even the least trained ear can usually discern the intended pitch behind every bad note.

Yet, what do we see in the Gospel of Mark? Jesus didn’t come to save the Jewish people from their Roman overlords and the brokenness of this sin cursed world—he didn’t come to fix the piano. Which brings me to my second point.

King Jesus came to be humiliated, rejected, and crucified so that we might be reconciled to and forever accepted by God.

Just think about it, as king, Jesus had every right to punish the pharisees, scribes, and the priests for their constant attacks. No king would endure such aggressive, belligerent, and pugnacious behavior. He had every right to execute them for their refusal to receive him on Palm Sunday. But, he didn’t. Because, he came to save us from our sin and to forever reconcile us to God through faith.

Romans 5:8–9 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Do you ever find yourself doubting God’s love for you? Look to the cross. Do you every feel like God has abandoned you? look to the cross. Do you ever feel like you have sinned away his love and favor? Look to the cross. Do you struggle to believe that his offer of forgiveness is for you because you feel like you are unworthy of his love? Look to the cross.

In the cross we are confronted with the reality that God’s love preceded our loveliness, in that, we were living as enemies in constant rebellion against him and as such we were destined for his righteous wrath.

In the cross we are reminded that we don’t deserve to be considered perfectly righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t deserve to be reconciled to God. We don’t deserve to be saved from eternal wrath. We don’t deserve God’s unfailing and everlasting love.

Because in the cross we see that God’s love compelled him to freely and willingly purchase our salvation through the infinitely precious blood of his Son. The rightful king was rejected by men so that we might be reconciled to and forever accepted by God. As Isaiah prophesied more than 700-years before Jesus came.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:5–6 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Hear the message and promise of the gospel.

The Message: Jesus lived died and rose again for your sin and God will forgive you and forever reconcile you to himself if you turn and trust in Jesus. No sin is too great. No individual is to small. Because, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against your sin.

The Promise:

Romans 8:31 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (the promised Messiah king) our Lord.

Jesus was rejected and crucified so that we might be reconciled to and forever accepted by God.

[1] James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 334.

[2] Robert H. Stein, Mark, Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 503.

[3] Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, 336.

[4] Mark L. Strauss, Mark, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 481.

[5] Adapted from, Mark Kernan, “The Rejected Stone: Mark’s use of Psalm 118:22–23 in Mark 12:10–11,” (2017): 6–8.

[6] The following description is adapted from, Rikki E. Watts, “The Lord’s House and David’s Lord: The Psalms and Mark’s Perspective on Jesus and the Temple,” BI 15 (2007): 313.

[7] Leslie C. Allen, Psalms 101-150, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Nelson, 2002), 165; Watts, “The Lord’s House and David’s Lord: The Psalms and Mark’s Perspective on Jesus and the Temple,” 313; John Goldingay, Psalms, vol. 3: Psalms 90-150 of Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 354–55.

[8] For more about how dignitaries were received in the ancient world see, David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 249–50.