Second Reformed Church

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Hosanna" Sermon: Mark 11:1-11


[Mark 11:1-11]

March 29, 2015 Second Reformed Church

            It was less than a week before the feast of the Passover.  Pilgrims from all over the world were streaming into Jerusalem for the feast.  Jesus had become a stench in the nostrils of the Pharisees as they continued to seek ways to put Him down – and failed.  Jesus’ popularity continued to grow.

            And we read that Jesus and the disciples headed towards Jerusalem, but stopped – Jesus sent two of them ahead to borrow a donkey:

            “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.”’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.”

            And the first question we ask ourselves is why did Jesus ask them to get a donkey?  Jerusalem was less than two miles from Bethany – most of us could have walked that – and Jesus was a professional peripatetic – He walked all over Israel teaching and preaching.  Walking the two miles from Bethany to Jerusalem would have been nothing to Him.  So, it was not a matter of being tired. 

            Jesus also would have been well aware that people were to walk to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

            Why did Jesus ask His disciples to get the donkey? 

            The answer is found in the fact that the people of Jesus’ day would have vast sections of the Scripture memorized – many people could not read, so they would have memorized the Scripture they heard read in the Temple.

            So, when Jesus rode the donkey towards Jerusalem, a significant percentage of the people would have remembered what the prophet Zechariah prophesied:  “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” (Zechariah 9:9, ESV).

             A great number of people would have remembered this prophecy seeing Jesus riding towards Jerusalem on a donkey – they would have understood Jesus to be saying that He is the prophesied Savior King Who God would send.

            They would understand that Jesus’ fulfillment of this prophecy as Savior King would prove that He has a kingdom.  Jesus Himself said so when He was interviewed by Pilate: 

            “So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. [Understand, this is an expression which means, “You said it – I am a king.”]  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice’” (John 18:33-37, ESV).

            The rabbi, Jesus, was fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy.  He was bringing salvation – He was restoring the Kingdom – He was the King – the rightful successor to the throne of David.

“And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.”    

So the people – the poor – the commoners – saw Jesus, remembered the prophecy – understood that Jesus was fulfilling it as the Savior King of God’s Kingdom, and they threw their coats and branches from tress down on the ground in humble acclaim that Jesus is the King – the rightful heir to the throne of David.  (Today, we would have rolled out the red carpet.)

            “And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’”

            The crowd gathered around Jesus, walking with Him, making the way “soft” for Him and the donkey as they travelled, visibly announcing His Kingship and Kingdom, and praising God, after the words of Psalm 118:

            “Save us, we pray, 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.  The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.  Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!  You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;             you are my God; I will extol you.  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:25-29, ESV).


            The first thing the crowd cried out as they walked along was “Save us!” They were calling on Jesus as Savior in the same way as the Psalmist cried out, “Hosanna, we pray, O LORD!” – “Save us, we pray, O God” – specifically, “Give us salvation, YHWH!”  The crowd was paralleling Jesus’ ability to save with God’s ability to save – using God’s Most Holy Name – that Name given by God to Moses at the burning bush.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The people lifted up Jesus and blessed Him as the One Who comes in the Name of the God YHWH – (which is what the translation of “Lord” is in this text). 

First the people heralded King Jesus and His Kingship by saying that Jesus is YHWH the Savior.  Then they said that Jesus came in the Name of YHWH.  Jesus is the One Almighty God and Jesus comes in the Name of the One Almighty God.

They certainly were not consciously confessing Trinitarian theology – that there is One God with –as we find in the Scripture – Three Persons – but they are coming very close to confessing that as they herald Jesus along the way to Jerusalem.

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

Then they praise Jesus as the One to restore the Kingdom of David – and they were right to do so – remember what the angel told Mary:  “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33, ESV).

Jesus will be known to be the Son of the Almighty God.

Jesus will inherit – and thus restore – the Kingdom of David.

Jesus will reign on the throne of David eternally.

“Hosanna in the highest!”

Luke points out that this refers back to the angel’s song before the shepherds:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14, ESV).

The parallel here is that just as glory only belongs to God, and peace only comes to those with whom God is well-pleased, so salvation only comes from God – God Alone can save His people – those with whom He is pleased and gives His peace.  Jesus.

So, picture the scene – pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.  They are all walking to the city, as they were supposed to. 

Less than two miles outside of town, Jesus has gotten astride a donkey and begun to ride him towards town.  Not only that, a great crowd of the poor has gathered around Him and are throwing their clothes and branches down before Him, as though He were a returning hero.  And they are crying out – over and over again:  “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

“Grant us salvation, O God!  You are blessed, Jesus, as the One Who comes in the Name of God!  You are blessed, Jesus, as the One Who now restores the Kingdom of our father, David – You are the King of Israel!  O God Alone, to You do we plead for salvation!”

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

The crowd grew and the spectacle grew as they got closer to Jerusalem.  Word travelled ahead of the crowd as the Pharisees – and those who sought their understanding of the “peace of Jerusalem” – rose up to confront what was happening.  They could well have been on the verge of a riot – something the Romans – their occupiers – would not have stood for.

Just the week before, after the raising of Lazarus from the dead, John writes, “So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:47-53, ESV).

And we wonder why – why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem?  Why did Jesus allow the crowd to get stirred up over Him?  Didn’t He know they would know Zechariah’s prophesy?  If He wanted to go to the Temple for the Passover feast, He could have blended in with the crowds of pilgrims making their way in and not have been noticed – why did He ride into Jerusalem and cause this great commotion – which He would have known would only upset the Pharisees?  Jesus knew that the Pharisees – and others – were out to stop Him by whatever means necessary.  Why did He ride into Jerusalem?

There’s only one answer that makes sense:  Jesus wanted to draw attention to Himself.  The time had come – it was time to push the Pharisees over the edge, so God would be glorified in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So, Jesus sent the disciples to get the donkey, because the people would understand that Jesus was declaring that He is the fulfillment of the prophecy.

The end was near and the crowd announced the truth on His behalf:

Jesus is the Savior God promised to send.

Jesus is the King of Israel.

Jesus reigns on the throne of David over His kingdom.

And we may wonder – is Jesus reigning over His Kingdom?  Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world, if Jesus is reigning?  Why do we pray, “Your Kingdom come,” if Jesus is reigning?

When we pray for Jesus’ Kingdom to come, we are not saying that His Kingdom is not here, but that not everything submits to His Kingdom yet – which is why sin and evil continue.  But when Jesus returns, all of Creation will submit to Him – as Paul explains – after all those who will ever believe do believe in Jesus savingly:  “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26, ESV).

Jesus also confessed His Sovereign rule over His Kingdom right before His Ascension:  “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [Jesus is King now.] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV).

So Jesus is King over His Kingdom now – but not all of Creation has submitted to His Reign.

Our text ends:

            “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”

            Jesus had come to Jerusalem and made His point – and He was recognized as King and Savior by the people outside of Jerusalem – and He had outraged the Pharisees.

            “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people’” (Matthew 26:3-5, ESV).

            “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16, ESV).

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for the record of Jesus’ ride to Jerusalem, for it confirms that Jesus is God the Sovereign Savior Who brings all things to pass according to His Sovereign Will.  We thank You for answering the cry of “Hosanna,” and we ask that we would be as convinced as those who saw Jesus ride the donkey that He is God, Savior, and King, and we are drawing ever-closer to the day when even death will be under His feet.  May You be glorified.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

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