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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:The Entrance of the King
Text:Mark 11:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 68:12                                                                                              

Ps 86:1,2

Reading – Mark 11:1-11; Revelation 7:9-17

Ps 118:4,5,6,7

Sermon – Mark 11:1-11

Hy 69:1,2,3

Hy 29:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, every year again there’s a day on our calendars called Palm Sunday. It always falls on the last Sunday before the Easter weekend, when the church remembers Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But unlike for those other important days, we may not really understand what Palm Sunday is all about. Sure, we know it’s about those crowds waving palm branches. It’s joyous songs and “Hosannas” while Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. It’s a nice Bible story that we can easily picture in our minds, but why put it on the calendar every year?

After all, wasn’t the enthusiasm kind of misplaced? As you’ve probably heard someone explain before, it was many of the same people shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, who were yelling “Crucify him!” on Good Friday. Pretty fickle! So isn’t there a deep irony in the whole event, that the Palm Sunday crowds misunderstood who Jesus really was, and what He came to do? Is that what we commemorate today: a misunderstanding?

As we open our Bibles to the Gospel of Mark and consider this story, we see that Palm Sunday is a day that looks forward to the cross. It’s a day for getting a glimpse of Jesus’ true glory. On Palm Sunday there’s a call to bow before Christ as King and Saviour, to lift our voices, and praise Him for his greatness! I preach God’s Word from Mark 11:1-11,

On Palm Sunday Jesus the King is received with rejoicing:

  1. it’s a small beginning
  2. with much more to come


1) it’s a small beginning: When we pick up the story in chapter 11, Mark wants to make sure that we don’t miss what’s going on. For in verse 1 he tells us exactly where Jesus is, “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany…” Jesus is just outside the big city, the place where He’s been headed for months—He’s been talking about this for a long time, that this is where He’ll suffer and die! Now He’s here.

Jesus is spending time in a couple towns that are close to the capital. Bethany and  Bethphage are small villages, but right now they’re full of people. Some of these crowds are probably the usual group of Jesus’ followers, those who trailed behind him as He went teaching and healing. But many others are Jewish pilgrims. They’ve come from all around Palestine, and even from other countries, because now was the time of Passover. They found lodging in these villages before heading into Jerusalem for the feast.

Somehow the crowds hear that Jesus is close by. Likely a good many of them have never actually seen this well-known man—they’d heard reports of his signs and wonders, caught snippets of his teaching, but this was their chance to see him in person. And the next day, there’s a rumour going around. This happens with crowds, that a little excitement quickly grows into something much bigger than anyone planned. And this is the report that starts to spread: “Jesus is on his way!” Even if people don’t really understand what that means, it’s easy to go with the flow, and get infected by the euphoria: “Did you hear the latest? Jesus is headed into Jerusalem!”

Why was that a big deal? A few are probably convinced that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the one promised by God. Others are sure that He’s at least a great prophet. Still others can’t get over those signs and wonders that He’s been doing: healing the sick, feeding the masses, raising the dead. Put all these people together during the greatest festival of the year, have Jesus ride on a donkey into the capital city, and the results are not surprising. Soon the entire crowd is declaring Jesus as King: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David” (v 10).

That short road from Bethany and Bethphage to Jerusalem is quickly filled with excited people. Maybe like when the Queen cruises through town in her motorcade. Or when a sports team comes home with the champion’s trophy—there will be enthusiastic crowds lining the streets and cheering. They all want to catch a glimpse.

When the Queen arrives, people will wave their little British flags. When the champions ride in, people throw confetti and streamers. But when Jesus heads up that road, He is greeted with the waving of what Mark calls “leafy branches” (v 8). From the gospel of John we know that these are palm branches. Some people had climbed the nearby palm trees, and scattered big leaves among the crowd. Why palm branches? There were lots of them growing around Jerusalem. The fronds of a palm are also a good size, nice for waving in the air and making a scene—kind of like waving a flag or a banner at a football game.

It’s interesting that palms had been used for this kind of thing before. Back in the days of the Maccabees, those great warriors had been celebrated by crowds who were doing just this: waving palm branches and shouting.

The Maccabees, maybe you’ve learned before, were a Jewish family who lived a couple centuries before Christ. The sons of this family had dared to rebel against the legions of the mighty Roman army who were occupying the land of Israel. It was a brave and bloody fight, and the Maccabees had actually won—for a little while, anyway. The Jewish people were very proud of what the Maccabees had accomplished. Centuries later people still looked back with nostalgia for those days of battle, and those surprising victories. They especially remembered that glorious day when those noble champions marched back into town. And on that day, the Maccabees were greeted with palm branches and great rejoicing. What a moment for Israel!

Fast forward to Mark 11: it’s another fine day to receive a hero at Jerusalem. Here’s a new warrior to chase the Romans into the sea. He’s got the power. He’s got the support of the people. And it’s almost Passover too! Passover was a time when God’s people celebrated their rescue from the oppression of the enemy, when the LORD had brought them out of Egypt. Seeing Jesus, at this time, in this place, people thought that a new salvation had to be just around the corner. The air is filled with palm branches and high expectations.

They show their devotion in another way too: “Many spread their clothes on the road” (v 8). They’re putting down their coats so that Jesus can walk on them, and not get his feet wet in the puddles, or soiled by the manure and rubbish on the road. And think of it—this red carpet treatment isn’t just for him, it’s even for the animal He’s riding on! It’s an act of devotion, something we wouldn’t do even for a close friend, or family member: “Here, walk on my coat.” But the crowds have seen something of who Jesus is, and they respond with humble adoration.

And now listen as they lift their voices and cry: “Hosanna!” This is an Aramaic-speaking people, and Mark gives a literal report of what they say. It’s from Psalm 118, where in verse 25 God’s people plead with Him, “Save now, O LORD!” It was like a spiritual S.O.S: “Hosanna!” They’re hoping, wishing, praying that Jesus will do something right now, today: Save Our Souls!     

Soon another cry is lifted up, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v 9). These words too, are from Psalm 118. And when you read in other places in the New Testament, you see that this Psalm is often quoted as a prophecy of Jesus’ life and ministry. Even before the time of Christ, Israel loved Psalm 118 because it was a song full of hope and national spirit. It was the kind of song you sang when the king had won a great military battle, and he entered the city in triumph. It’s a song for a victory parade!

That’s what Palm Sunday looks like, doesn’t it? A victory parade. The crowds couldn’t be more enthusiastic. They’re crying out for a fresh deliverance from God. They’re singing with eager praise for that man on the donkey. Listen again to how they lift him up as king: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord!” (v 10). That last proclamation confirms what the crowds are really thinking. This is the King, the promised Saviour! The great Son of David who will reign forever!

There Jesus went: praise filling his ears, palm branches waving, cries of “Hosanna” ringing loud. For him, this truly was an awesome moment—this was a glimpse of his glory as the Son of God, the One who’d left his heavenly majesty and come down to earth. It was a taste of what He deserved, but it was only a small beginning.

For it didn’t last, did it? We already said that these Palm Sunday crowds were missing the point. Many of them still had little idea who He was, or what He really came to do. They were happy now, but by Friday some will have turned against him, even with violence and anger.

In this there are two things for us to reflect on. The first is about the danger of ignorance. Because a lack of true knowledge about Jesus isn’t so uncommon today, either. Like those crowds, can’t we sometimes be unaware about who Christ actually is? When we’re missing something, and we don’t really grasp his greatness and majesty? Sure, we know that He’s true God and true man. Died on a cross, rose the third day. We think we know who He is, because we go along with what everyone else is saying. But when we think of Jesus, that man on the donkey coming into the city, who is He? Is Jesus just an article of our faith: Is He a concept to affirm, a Lord’s day to memorize, a truth to defend? Or is He a person that we trust and love?

Who is Jesus, really? A mark of knowing Jesus well is when we actually trust in Him, and we have peace in his will, because we know He’s so faithful. It’s when we’ve been so impressed with his glory that we find delight every day in serving him. What happened during his ministry teaches us a sobering lesson, that a person’s view of Christ can be so wrong. Not wrong in the details, but in the spirit, when we don’t put it all together, and we still miss what He’s really all about. He’s more than a man, more than a son of David, more than the second person of the Trinity: He’s the one who died for you. He’s the Saviour. He’s the King of the universe, and the Lord of your life. We don’t know Jesus until we know this!

A second thing to reflect on is the painful reality of how fickle we can be, when we so quickly change the way that we treat Christ. Think again of those crowds: they loved Jesus when they thought that He was giving them what they wanted—military deliverance from the Romans, and a new prosperity like the golden age of King David. They liked that, but then when they saw how lowly He really was, and that He gave in to his enemies without a fight, they started to change their mind. Was this really the One who was going to save them?

And isn’t that what we do? When life is good and the blessings are many, we’re ready to give praise to God. When it feels like He and we are going in the same direction, we’re happy and thankful: praying, reading Scripture, gracious towards others, glad to know the Lord Jesus.

But how soon we change! A difficult circumstance in your family, a revival of some ugly sin in your life, a week with less sleep, and our devotion quickly frays at the edges. Suddenly we feel like we’re just trying to survive, so we’ve got no worship to give, no more songs to sing. We’re not waving palm branches anymore, we’re getting ready to wave the white flag. It’s not because God has changed—we have. We’ve shown again how fickle we are.

Beloved, how we need to grow in our faithfulness toward God! To strengthen our grip on his promises. To build our endurance. Make your spiritual batteries longer-lasting, and not so quickly drained by life and trouble. And building your endurance begins with loving his Word. The one leads to the other: When we know the Scriptures through being in the Scriptures, our stamina grows, and faith strengthens. Because when we know what God has said, we become less prepared to accept our fickle changes of mind, and the subtle suggestions of the devil. Instead, we can exhort ourselves; it’s like a conversation that we have within ourselves, when we say, “O my soul, trust in God! Seek the LORD and his face. Find shelter in Him. He is God and Saviour, and He never fails.”


2) with much more to come: Listening to the first point a bit earlier, maybe a question came to your mind, “So why does Jesus allow the crowds to carry on like they do? If they were going to be so changeable, why even accept their tribute?” Jesus does, because He is the Son of David, and He is the promised Messiah! Let the crowds adore his majesty, fall down and worship, because He is worthy!

Notice how this is even what Jesus planned when He sent his disciples into the city ahead of him. He knew exactly what they would find, “A colt tied, on which no one has sat” (v 2). He also knew the donkey’s owner would be willing to lend it out, because, after all, it was for the Christ. Jesus shows that He’s in control of the entire event. He will orchestrate everything about his entry into Jerusalem, because He wanted this to show his glory.          

How would it? First, let’s realize that most people would’ve walked into Jerusalem. Especially those pilgrims coming to the city for Passover would have made a point of walking: this was a humble entrance, a statement of their devotion. But Jesus will ride through the city gates. He’s not an ordinary Israelite, not a pedestrian pilgrim, but someone holy.

He will ride. And He will ride on a carefully chosen animal—a young donkey. To us, that’s strange. A donkey is a silly animal: they look funny, and they sound funny. You pin a tail on a donkey, you don’t make your grand entrance on one! But to the Israelites, a donkey was a noble animal. If you look at the Old Testament, this is often what the leaders rode. It was no wonder that Zechariah made this prophecy in 9:9, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt” (v 15).

The Holy Spirit also makes a point of telling us that this was an unbroken animal, one “on which no one has sat” (v 2). This is not a haphazard detail, but another telling point. In the Old Testament, an animal that had never been ridden or had never carried a yoke could be reserved by God for a special use. This donkey, and its rider, were most holy: set apart for God and his purpose.

If you look back in Mark’s Gospel, you’ll see that Jesus has always been wanting to keep things secret. “Don’t tell anyone,” He said to those He healed, or to those who confessed his Name, “Keep this to yourself.” He didn’t want a crisis to develop before its time. But now, the time for secrets is over. In a public and notable way, He’ll ride into the city. Everyone can see it: He’s the King! He’s the Saviour!

Yet what happens? The whole entry into Jerusalem seems to fall flat. Once He’s in the city, Jesus rides to the temple. And “when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve” (v 11). It’s as if everyone is shouting, waving, getting excited—then suddenly it stops after verse 11. Like you’re watching a video clip, it’s just getting good, and then you get a black screen and advertisements. It’s over. Jesus hops off the donkey and sends it back. The crowd disperses. The joyful voices fade. The palm branches dry up. All the promise of Palm Sunday seems to fizzle. There’s no attack on the Romans, no coronation at the temple.

There’s no more secrecy, we said, but there is a mystery. In his version of these events, John tells us that even Jesus’ disciples are in the dark on Palm Sunday. They don’t understand this at all: So why did Jesus want that donkey? Why did the people sing that psalm? Why did it seem like Jesus was just waiting around for his enemies to act?

This is when the lightbulb goes on—it goes on after Jesus was crucified, after He rose. Then the disciples started to connect the dots. After Jesus’ work on earth was done, they came to understand what happened on Palm Sunday, and that it was right. That the words were all true, and that the song was most fitting.   

“Hosanna!” the people had cried on Palm Sunday, “Lord, save us!” Because Jesus does save. By the cross He does rescue and redeem and deliver his people. By dying, He frees you from oppression, from the real trouble that you face: the burden of your sin and guilt!

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” the people had cried on Palm Sunday. And they were right, more right than they knew: Jesus did come in the Lord’s name. His Father had sent him on this mission of mercy, and He would carry it out in perfection.

“Blessed is the King of Israel!” they had cried on Palm Sunday. And again, they were right. For Jesus is a king, the great Son of David. Not a king with shining armour, trampling his enemies in the way you’d expect. He’s a king who’ll make his throne out of a shameful cross, a man who was crucified with that mocking title, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It was true, for by his death He becomes Lord and Master of all who turn to him in faith.

Looking back, the disciples could see that Palm Sunday was a glorious day, but that there was more stunning glory to come: Christ’s true glory, his greatest majesty, shines in the death that He died for sinners! That’s also what we need to know. We need to see him with the eyes of faith, to see that it’s because He died that He is now King and Lord.

That’s one of those things that’s easy to agree with, of course, that Jesus is the King. So let’s make that real. If Jesus is King of all, and if He is Lord of your life, doesn’t that mean that you let Him have the final word? You should. Is Christ Jesus in charge of all that you do? He should be. In charge of your home life, in charge of your work, in charge of your weekend, in charge of the very words of your mouth and the very thoughts of your heart. What Christ says, we want to do. Where He directs, we want to go. When He calls, we need to answer.

Christ promises that if we serve him as King today, we’ll have the joy of serving him as King forever. I point you to what John writes in Revelation 7. There John sees another crowd of people, “a great multitude.” This one isn’t just made up of Jewish pilgrims, but it’s one from “all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues” (v 9). And this great crowd isn’t lining a road outside Jerusalem. They are standing before a throne in heaven—standing before a king! And who is on the throne? God, and the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, who once was slain.

As all the people stand there, wearing their white robes, John sees that they too, are holding something in their hands. What are they holding? They’re holding palm branches! (v 9). Even in heaven, this is the way to receive a conquering hero. Even in heaven, this is the way to celebrate a king! As they wave palm branches, this great multitude lifts its voice in song: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (v 10).

That heavenly scene is the sequel to Palm Sunday—the only sequel that makes sense. For now these crowds know exactly what they’re doing. Now they know the Saviour with a heart of faith, and they see him with eyes that see. Now the work of salvation is truly finished, and they praise him for it: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Beloved, do you want to stand with that great crowd, and give praise to the Saviour? Do you want to sing songs of worship before him forever? Then receive Jesus as King. Come to know who He is, and come to love who He is. Have a song of praise on your lips for Him, and joy in your heart for Him. Be ready to go out of your way to honour Christ. In your life, find the equivalent of coats that you can humbly lay on the road before him. In your life, find the equivalent of branches that you can wave in the air to praise Christ the King! And sing, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2017, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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