As a child I used to watch on TV a programme called ‘Ask the Family’. I’m sure there are people here today who remember it. It was a quiz programme; and each week two teams competed against one another. Each team comprised mum, dad and two children; hence the title of the show, ‘Ask the Family’. A variety of questions were asked about different subjects. And so, they might have been asked a question about history or about music or about books or they might have been some kind of brain teaser for them to think about. And there was one round I always enjoyed. The two teams were shown a picture of something which they had to identify. It was usually an everyday object; but what made it difficult was the fact that they were only shown part of the picture; and the part they were shown was highly magnified and turned sideways or up-side-down. And so, they were shown a corner of an object, for instance; and it was blown up to look bigger than it would normally look. They might be shown the tip of a screw; or the speaker grill on a radio; or the side of a can of beans. And because they were only shown a little bit of it, it was always hard to tell exactly what this thing was. Now, if no one could guess, or if both teams made a wrong guess, then the camera drew back to reveal more and more of the object until the entire picture was revealed and it was obvious what they were looking at.
Well, sometimes studying the Bible can be a bit like that. We read a small piece of the Bible; and we have to try to work out what it means and how it’s significant for us. Sometimes it’s easy to do that, but other times the passage seems more obscure or its significance is not immediately obvious. And when that happens we have to do what they used to do in ‘Ask the Family’. We need to zoom out, or stand back a little, and look at the whole picture in order to understand what it’s saying to us. And that’s what we need to do today with this passage from Mark 11.
On the face of it, it’s quite a simple story. The Lord Jesus has been making his way to Jerusalem; and now, as he approached the city, he sent two of his disciples to fetch a colt — a donkey — for him to ride on. They went and got it; and some of them put their coats on the colt as a make-shift saddle. Mark tells us that many people spread their coats on the road and other put branches on the road; presumably they did this in order to create a kind of red carpet for him to walk on as he approached the city. Now, we normally assume that this crowd of people was made up of people from Jerusalem who are therefore depicted as welcoming the Lord into their city; but it’s more likely that the crowd who placed the coats and branches on the road were those people who had been following the Lord for some time and who had now followed him all the way to Jerusalem. And they began to shout out with cries of ‘Hosanna’, which is a word which originally meant ‘Save!’, but which became an expression of joy and celebration. And the people shouted other things as well as he approached the city. And then, once the Lord Jesus entered the city, he went to the temple to see what was happening there.
This passage, of course, is describing for us what we now know as Palm Sunday: the Sunday before Easter Sunday. And so, if we were to draw a time-line of the life of the Lord Jesus, the events of this passage take place a few days before he was arrested and crucified; and a week before he was raised from the dead on Easter Sunday morning.
The Coming King
It’s a simple enough story, but what does it mean? Well, in order to understand the story, we need to do what they did in ‘Ask the Family’ and zoom out a little and try to see how some of the details of this story fit in with the rest of the Bible. And in particular, I want us to begin with one of the details we find in verse 10 and zoom out from that. So, in verse 10 we read that the people shouted:
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
So, to help us understand the significance of what they were saying, and the meaning of today’s passage, let’s zoom out and think about what the Bible says about David’s kingdom.
Now, I’ve explained before that in the Old Testament, God was regarded as the king over all. He’s the one who made all things in the beginning; and he’s the one who rules over all things. He rules over the nations; and every king and queen and emperor and president as well as everyone else and everything else is under his authority. He exalts one nation and casts another down; he lifts up this person and humbles that person. Everything is in his hands and he preserves and controls all of his creatures and all of their actions. He’s the great King over all.
And in the Old Testament he was regarded as the King of the Israelites in a particular way, because — of all the nations of the world — he chose them to be his special people. He promised to take care of them and to provide for them and to defend them from their enemies. And so, as their King, he rescued them from their captivity in Egypt, he led them through the wilderness, and he brought them into the Promised Land of Canaan. As their King, he provided for them; and they promised in return to obey him.
Time passed and eventually the people asked for a human king. Though the Lord God Almighty was their King, they wanted a human king to rule over them and to lead them. And so, the Lord appointed, first of all, Saul, and then David to be their king. And David was the great king, because he gave the people victory over their enemies and he built his palace in Jerusalem and he made plans to build the temple of the Lord and he was the one who settled the people in the land. After he died, there was a succession of others kings, all descended from David, who ruled over the people on behalf of the Lord Almighty. The Lord was still their King; but he ruled over them by means of these earthly kings who were descended from David. And since they were descended from David, the kingdom was always known as David’s kingdom and the throne was always David’s throne.
Well, the kings who came after David were a mixed bag. Some were good, but others were bad. And none of them was perfect and all of them died. And so, the Lord promised his people that one day there would be a king who would rule over them perfectly and for ever. For instance, we read in Isaiah 9:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Isaiah was predicting that a child will be born who would reign on David’s throne for ever and for ever. And he will be a great king who brings peace and who will reign with justice and righteousness.
Furthermore, as the Old Testament unfolded, the Lord not only promised his people a great king, but he promised them that he would bring about a time of blessing and of peace and prosperity. Let me just mention one passage from Isaiah:
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more (Isaiah 65:18+19).
Do you see? God was promising that a time of blessing will come which is centred on Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Lord promised that the time was coming when the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem. Listen again to Isaiah:
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it (Isaiah 2:2).
So, in the Old Testament, the Lord Almighty promised to send his people a great king who will rule with justice and righteousness and who will rule for ever and for ever. And he also promised a time of peace and joy and blessing for the entire world to enjoy, but which will be centred in Jerusalem, the city where this great king is enthroned. So, God’s king will be enthroned in Jerusalem and the nations will come to him and be blessed by him.
Christ the King
Having zoomed out to think about what the rest of the Bible says about David’s kingdom, let’s zoom back in on this passage in Mark 11 and on the story of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. And what do we find? We find the people saying:
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
They associated the coming of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem with the coming kingdom spoken about in the Old Testament. They understand that his arrival into Jerusalem was the fulfilment of God’s promise to send them a great king who will rule over David’s kingdom forever.
And why did they think that about the Lord Jesus? Why did they think he’s the great king? Well, let me quote another Old Testament prophet. This time, it’s Zechariah who wrote in Zechariah 9:9:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
In the Old Testament book of Zechariah, we have the promise that the special king God was sending into the world would come into Jerusalem riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. That’s why the Lord rode into Jerusalem on this colt. He did it to fulfil those words of Zechariah and to make clear to all those with eyes to see and ears to hear that he’s the Coming King, the great King God promised to send into the world to save his people and rule over them forever. He’s the Great King whose kingdom will never end.
And so, the people rejoiced: they shouted ‘Hosanna’, an expression of joy and gladness. They shouted, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ because they understood that the Lord Jesus had come in God’s name. They shouted, ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ because they understood that the Lord Jesus was the coming King who had come to rule over David’s kingdom perfectly and for ever.
And, of course, all through the book of Mark, the Lord revealed by the things he has said and done that he’s the Great King who came into the world to establish his kingdom which is an everlasting kingdom and to deliver his people from their sin and misery.
A Suffering King
Of course, many who were alive in the Lord’s day, did not believe in him. Only a few days after the Lord entered Jerusalem, the chief priests and the teachers of the law and many of the people rejected him as their king and they shouted for him to be crucified. They did not believe that he was their king.
So, why was that? Why did they doubt him when it was so clear to others that he was the king? When they had been waiting so long for the king to come, why did they doubt him and reject him when he at last came?
It was partly because they were expecting the king to be completely different from the Lord Jesus. They were expecting a king who would be strong and mighty and terrifying and who would drive their enemies from the land and set the Jewish people free from Roman rule. They were expecting their king to be a mighty soldier, like David, who slew Goliath and who killed thousands of Philistines. That’s the kind of king they were expecting.
But the Lord Jesus was not like that, because when he rode into Jerusalem, he did not come to kill and to destroy, but he came to be killed and to lay down his life for our salvation. He did not come to deliver his people from the Romans, but he came to deliver them from their sin and misery by offering himself on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for sins. His kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, but it’s a heavenly one; and he came to rescue us, not from earthly enemies, but from spiritual enemies: from the power of sin which bullies us into doing what’s evil; and from the power of Satan who tempts us to do what’s wrong; and from the power of death, because whoever believes in the Lord who died and was raised will likewise live with him for ever. And the only way to save us from these things was for him to give up his life on the cross as a ransom to set us free.
Many of the people who saw the Lord, did not believe in him, because they were expecting a different kind of king. But this is the king we need, because this is the only king who can deliver us from our sin and misery and give us everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom.
The Promised One
Many of them did not believe in him, because he was not what they expected. But we all need to realise and believe that he is indeed the Promised One. In the Old Testament, God promised to send this great king into the world, who will rule with justice and righteousness for ever and for ever; and all nations will come to him and will enjoy a time of blessing.
When the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a colt, he was making clear that he’s the Promised One. He was making clear that he had finally come. And so, we’re not to wait for another king, but we’re to trust in him and him alone, because he’s the Promised One and there is no other one. So, we mustn’t wait for anyone else and we mustn’t doubt and think to ourselves that someone else will come along to supersede him. Jesus Christ is the one God promised to send; and so he’s the one we’re to trust.
Now, you know what it’s like when you’re going to buy something expensive. Say, you see a TV which you want to buy, or a fridge or a car. And you see it being sold for a certain price. And you’re ready to buy. But then a doubt enters your mind: What happens if I try somewhere else? I might find it’s cheaper. Or I might find a better model. Or if I wait until next week, it might come down in price. Is this the best deal to go for or should I wait from something better? Isn’t that the way we think? But we needn’t think that someone greater or better than the Lord will come. He is the one. He is the one God promised; and he has come now. And so, he is the one we must trust. He is the Saviour of the world, the only one who is able to bring us to God and the only one who can give us everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. He’s the promised king and we must trust in him. And instead of waiting for someone else, we’re to believe that he’s the one; and we must put our faith in him.
Do you remember how John the Baptist sent his followers to the Lord Jesus to ask him whether he was the one who was to come or should the wait for someone else? And the Lord Jesus sent John’s disciples back, telling them to report to John all that he has been doing:
Tell him what I’ve been doing and he’ll understand that I am the promised one, the only Saviour of the world. We must trust in him and in no other, because he is the only one who can give you eternal life.
‘But hang on!’ you might be thinking. Hang on! Didn’t you say that in the Old Testament God promised not only to send the great king, but to send times of blessings and peace and prosperity? What about his promise in Isaiah 64?
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
What about his promise in Isaiah 2?
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
We need to understand that God’s promise is fulfilled, not all at once, but in two great events, because when the Lord Jesus came the first time, he came to suffer and to die and to lay down his life for our salvation; and all who believe in him receive the forgiveness of their sins and the hope of everlasting life. And that’s wonderful, isn’t it?
But it’s not everything which the Lord Almighty has in store for us, because, of course, Christ the King is coming again, isn’t he? That’s what the Bible teaches us. He’s coming again one day, and when he comes the second time, he will come with glory and power; and a trumpet sound will announce his arrival; and every eye will see him. And when he comes, he will raise from their graves all who trusted in him; and they will be transformed, renewed and glorified, with bodies that will become like his glorious body, and all who have trusted in him in this life will live with him in the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and the new earth, where you will never again hear the sound of weeping or of crying, because it will be a place of joy and delight, a place of peace and rest and everlasting happiness.
And the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and the new earth will be populated with a great multitude of people, a multitude so great in number that they cannot all be counted. And they will be from every nation, tribe, people and language. And they’ll stand before God’s throne, and the throne of the Lord Jesus, and they will worship the Lord for ever and for ever, giving thanks to him for our salvation.
And so, God’s promises which he made in the Old Testament will be fulfilled in full. In the past, he promised to send a great king to establish his kingdom which is an everlasting kingdom and to deliver his people from their sin and misery. The Lord Jesus Christ has already done that, and right now, through the preaching of his word, he’s extending his kingdom throughout the world, calling men and women and boys and girls in every nation to repent and to believe; and whoever repents and believes becomes a member of his kingdom and receives the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life.
And in the past, God also promised a time of blessing, a time when there will be no more weeping or crying, but perfect peace forever. And we know that when Christ the King comes again, those promises will also be fulfilled.
And in the meantime, while we wait for Christ the king to come again, what are we to do? Well, we’re to believe in him, aren’t we? We’re to believe in him, because he’s the king sent by God to save us. And we’re to obey him, aren’t we? He’s our king; he laid down his life for us; he was raised for us; he’s called us into his kingdom. As citizens of his kingdom, he calls on us to obey him and to serve him all the days of our life here on earth, so that instead of living to please ourselves, we’ll live to please Christ our King.