Bible: Mark 11:1-11a (NIV) 11 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. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna![a]” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b] 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 11a Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts.The historical background of Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry
It was leading up to the time of the Jewish Passover and there would have been thousands of Jewish pilgrims coming from all across the lands making their way to Jerusalem, in Israel, to celebrate this great festival! People would have been singing the Pilgrim Psalms with their family, like Psalm 118 which is cited in Mark 11: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’. This imagery is so rich in Exodus and Passover theology. There would have been such a sense of anticipation, expectation and hope as the Jewish people got ready to celebrate and remember the Passover, which signified God rescuing, redeeming, saving and delivering them from oppression and slavery in Egypt so many years ago.
This procession in first century Greco-Roman culture was called a Triumphal Entry. Historically, people of a city would go out and greet a person of nobility and escort them back into the city. They would welcome them by singing their praises, yet it was common only for royals and would usually proceed some sort of military victory.So what was happening here? Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey was symbolic of God keeping all his promises!
Jesus entering Jerusalem in this way and heading to the Temple signified a few key things:1. That God’s presence is here
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was via the same path of King David’s return of the ark of the presence in 2 Samuel 6 and points towards the return of God’s presence to his city (Zion) and his Temple. This was also a fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prophecies (Ezek. 11:23; 43:1-5).2. Jesus is King
Jesus entering on a colt evokes the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 and points to Jesus’ humility as King. This was also the fulfilment of the promised Davidic King in 2 Samuel 7.3. Jesus is the Messiah, the one who would save them Mark 11:10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! ”Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Shouting ‘Hosanna’ was a request for salvation or deliverance which was an expectation the Jews had for the Messiah. This Triumphal entrance was also seen as the New-Exodus: an echo of Moses and a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies, that a Messiah would rescue the nation of Israel the way that Moses did from under the oppression of the Egyptians (Isa. 35:8-9; 40:1-10).Jesus riding into Jerusalem was a fulfilment of many Old Testament prophecies, demonstrating a faithful and loving God who keeps his promises.The Anticipation
Discussion Question:Can you think of a time when you were anticipating something? What was it?
For the Jewish people living in the time of Jesus under the oppression of the Roman Empire, they were anticipating a Messiah who would save them! They had seen and heard of similar scenes to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and they were ready for their long-waited Messiah.
Jewish history tells the story of the Maccabean Revolt (167-164BCE) against the Seleucid Empire which resulted in religious freedom and a rededication of the Jewish Temple (1 + 2 Maccabees). Judas Maccabeus also made a Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost 200 years before Jesus, but the similarities between Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem here and Judas Maccabeus’ were loud and clear.
- Both came riding into Jerusalem and were welcomed as the possible Messiah with singing and praises and branches etc.
- Both went straight to the Jewish Temple to cleanse/purify it
The victory of the Maccabean Revolt was short-lived. Judas, although welcomed into Jerusalem as a Messiah-like figure he failed to bring lasting victory and triumph for Israel: Once again the Jews were submitted to oppression.
Today, if we are honest with ourselves, we can find ourselves in this pattern and cycle of anticipation, expectation and disappointment too.The Expectation
What did the Jews expect from their long awaited Messiah and why?
- What are your expectations right now? Maybe for your family, job, business, relationships?
- Do you have any expectations of God? Or church?
- Is it ok to have these expectations?
- What happens when these expectations are not met?
- What happens when our expectations of God are not met?
- What happens when life’s tough questions never feel like they get answered?
- How do you feel when you see evil and darkness get too many points on the score board?
- How could you explain this to someone else who may have questions?
In the first-century, there were many misconceptions about who the future Messiah of Israel would be and what their role would entail. Like many others before him, including Judas Maccabeus from 200 years earlier, they may have thought that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem would mark the beginning of a new era.
People had expectations of the Messiah, due to their reading and understanding of certain scripture, that:
• The Messiah would have an earthly Kingship and reign
o This would have had marks of military conquest
o The expectation was that they would see the Roman Empire being overthrown and that they would be established as an independent state
• A new spiritual reform would be ushered in
o With the return of God’s presence and the Temple in Jerusalem
o This would result in a new era for the Israelites as a prospering nation. Would Jesus fulfil their expectations of Messiah?The Comprehension
Jesus did not necessarily meet the expectations of what the Jewish people thought the Messiah would be like, yet he was much more than they could have hoped for.1. Jesus as a humble servant King:
Jesus was King – but a humble servant King. Jesus was a descendant of King David but Jesus and the gospel writers needed to redefine His mission as Messiah to ‘serve and give his life’ (Mk 10:45). He wasn’t going to overthrow the Roman Empire with military might – he was willing to do MORE than that - he was willing to sacrifice himself in order that others would find a different kind of freedom not just in the here and now, but for all eternity.2. Jesus as Suffering-Servant:
Although the idea of a ‘suffering-servant’ is a contemporary Christian concept, the idea of the ‘Suffering Servant’ (Isa. 53) being linked to Jesus as Messiah was actually foreign to first-century thought. Jesus comprehend what needed to be done: He knew and makes clear reference to himself as the ‘Suffering Servant’ as described in Isa. 53:3, yet the gospel of John says that he loved the world in this way that he gave his own life so that everyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). (References in Mark 9:12 and again (Isa. 53:7) in Mark 14:60-61.)
Jesus predicted that he must suffer (Mk 8:31; 9:12), be handed over to the religious authorities (Mk 10:45), condemned to death (Mk 10:33) and rise from the dead (Mk 9:9). All of these were foreign concepts associated with the Messiah.The Destination/Response
Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we WANT but he gives us what we NEED
Jesus was not just an earthly Messiah who will have a temporal rule on earth, but an everlasting Messiah who will reign for all eternity. Jesus had not just come to earth to save the Jewish people here and now, but to save ALL people forever!Conclusion:
Jesus’ role as Messiah was not what the people expected, but it was what they NEEDED. God loves us so much that he knows our very needs and very wants.
Jesus replaces the Temple and becomes our sacrifice!
- What does Jesus’ Triumphal Entry mean for us today?
- How should we respond?
It is significant that Jesus went to the Temple and cleansed it after his Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Judas Maccabeus did something very similar during the Maccabean Revolt in 164! There were similarities between Judas Maccabeus and Jesus’ cleansing the Jewish Temple:
- Judas Maccabeus 200 years earlier cleansed the temple in order to restore it to its former function after the Seleucid King had defiled it.
- Whereas Jesus’ purification of the temple was so that it could be replaced (with himself as the ultimate sacrifice)!
And we know that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD, never to be rebuilt to this day.
The good news is that WE (as God’s people) are now the new Temple, Jesus is the cornerstone, where God’s spirit dwells 1 Cor. 3:16.
What is the significance of God’s people being the new Temple?
- What does this mean for the spread of the Gospel?