Today is Palm Sunday, so named because the crowds placed palm branches on the path before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. Let’s read this story, as it’s found in Mark 11:1-11.
This is sometimes called Jesus’ triumphal procession. It was quite a sight – Jesus on a donkey, crowds putting clothes and branches on the road and praising God, saying “hosanna,” which means “praise God for salvation.”
What does this all mean?
We have six clues:
1. This event comes right after the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus, where Bartimaeus called Jesus “Son of David;” a royal title in reference to the Messiah. And Jesus accepts this.
2. That Jesus rode a donkey connects to when Solomon was anointed King of Israel – 1 Kings 1:33-34. David said, “have Solomon my son ride on my own mule . . . And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel.” Jesus presents himself to Jerusalem as David’s son, come to be king, just as Solomon did.
3. Riding on a donkey connects to Zechariah 9:9, a prophecy that talks about the coming royal Messiah. This verse says, “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.” Jesus is saying, “I am the one spoken of in this prophecy.” Matthew and John make this connection explicit by quoting this verse.
4. That people laid down their cloaks connects with the anointing of king Jehu – 2 Kings 9:12-13. Jehu said, “Thus and so the prophet spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ ” 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.” The crowd knew this custom and so understood and accepted, at least here, that Jesus was coming as the king of Israel.
5. The words of the crowd in v. 9 are a praise to God for the king/Messiah. They say, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This comes from Psalm 118:25-26, which says, “Save us (Hosanna)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowd is applying this royal, Davidic, Messianic psalm to Jesus. He is the one who comes to save.
6. The words of the crowd in v. 10 show that they are expecting David’s kingdom to be established. They say, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” – Mark 11:10.
So what is going on? Jesus is presenting himself as Messiah and King to Jerusalem. “Here I am ,your Lord” If he was cautious before, because it wasn’t his time. Now it’s all out in the open. “I am the promised one, long predicted in the Scriptures, and I have come.” He has come to be received as king and Lord. A response is expected.
But let’s also notice that –
Jesus is a different kind of Lord
Most kings (dare we say politicians, even today?) are power hungry, arrogant, self-interested and try to get what they can get out of their power and position. Right before this parade into Jerusalem, Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them” – Mark 10:42. They seek “to be served” – Mark 10:45.
But Jesus is nothing like this. And this is why Jesus was so careful with the imagery of kingship. He didn’t want people to misunderstand what kind of Messiah and king he is. We can see this difference, even in this triumphal entry.
- Most kings are proud, but Jesus is a humble king. He came riding on a donkey. He didn’t even have his own animal. He had to borrow one.
- Most kings seek to be served, but Jesus is a servant king. In contrast to the rulers of the Gentiles, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45. He is not in it for what he gets out of it. He is in it for us; to save us.
- Most kings use force to ensure their will. But Jesus is a vulnerable king. He could have come with angel armies to take the city. But he used no force. He let people choose whether they would accept him or reject him. And sure enough, just as he predicted most eventually did reject him.
Well, just as he presented himself to these people 2,000 years ago –
Jesus presents himself to us as our Lord
He continues to seek those who will receive him as king. And he is here among us to present himself to each of you this morning. How will you respond? Will you receive him as king? Or reject him?
Jesus is the king of kings and the Lord of lords, who sits at the right hand of God in glory. 1 Peter 3:22 says, Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” As Philippians 2:9-11 says, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
Jesus is indeed the king of kings. But remember what kind of King Jesus is:
- He is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, but he is also humble. He will not try to impress you or make a big show of things.
- He is the Lord of glory, but he is also a servant. He has given you much more than you will ever give him having laid down his life for you.
- He is the bright morning star, but he has made himself vulnerable before you. So you can choose. And you can reject him if you like.
I put it before you today – How will you respond to Jesus?
Some of you need to respond to Jesus as your king and Lord, because you’ve never done it, or you haven’t gone public with it. Jesus waits for your response, even this morning.
Some of you have responded to Jesus in the past, but you have walked away from him. You may have claimed him as Lord at one time, but you know that you’re not living like he is Lord. Jesus is right now waiting for your response
What will it be?
If this is your situation, I want to invite you to pray this prayer. Listen to it first – “Jesus, I acknowledge that you are Lord and I want to submit my life to you. Cleanse me of my sin where I have not followed you and guide me in your ways. Give me your power so that I can live like you want me to live from now on. Amen”
This is the right response to Jesus. This is where to begin.