Sermon: Mark 11:1-10; Advent

Text:  Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesussent two of his disciples 2and 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. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” 4And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”6And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our nearest Kinsman, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sermon: People of God, we are a people of time. Time is not meaningless to us. Time is not a countdown to doom; rather it is a countdown to restoration. By observing the Church Calendar, we are attempting to recover a richer, more biblical sense of time. Celebrating Advent and Christmas is a way of redeeming time. “To celebrate Advent is to take a stand against the corrosion of modern life.”[1] Time moves towards a goal. In this Advent Season time is moving towards the coming of Yahweh’s greater Son, Jesus Christ. This is why N.T. Wright says we live from Advent to Advent. In other words, we live from Christ to Christ. This is good news for us, but it is “bad news for idolaters, tyrants, and petty oppressors. When Jesus comes, the mountains melt like wax and flow like water; the valleys are split; for He comes to judge the earth.”[2] Christ is the center of human history and our attention in this season will be on the Comings of Jesus and His great coming into the world in human flesh.

This morning we examine a narrative from the Gospel of St. Mark. In Mark there is a well-known coming of Jesus. We call it his Triumphal Entry. The Triumphal Entry is one of the few events in Jesus’ life that is mentioned in all four gospels. It is highly significant as we elaborate on the nature of the Comings of Jesus. In many ways, the Triumphal Entry is a glorious picture of Christ’s first Triumphal Entry, as He entered this world, born of the Virgin Mary. There are two connections in this Triumphal Entry of Christ with the Advent of Christ into the world as an infant.

The first connection is found in verse 9. The crowds are shouting “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is an unmistakable expectation for the coming of the King. The crowds are expecting our King to come. They rejoice at His Advent. Similarly, in Luke two there is an expectation of the shepherds for the arrival of the King; there is also the expectation of Herod who did not rejoice in the Advent of Christ, but who feared the Coming Messiah. There is a connection of expectation uniting these two Advents. When Jesus comes He comes to bring blessings and peace to those who wait for Him and fear for those who wish He would never come.

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where the children are on their way to rescue Edmund from the deceitful evil Queen. Their journey is dangerous, but on their way a sort of herald enters the scene. He is Father Christmas. Father Christmas comes bearing gifts, but he comes with a message of hope to the sons of Adam and Eve; the children of Narnia. His message is that the witch’s power is weakening, because Aslan is nearer.[3] The Gospels are full of heralds; announcers of the coming of the king and His kingdom. When the announcement is made the wicked empires of men weaken. At the very announcement of the coming of the King, evil powers begin to tremble. Aslan is here! The lion of Judah is coming to set the world to right and to cause chaos and confusion in the strategies of evil men.

The second connection is in verse 10 of Mark’s gospel where they cry out:

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Where have we heard this expression before? We heard it in Luke 2:13 from the angels: “…Glory to God in the Highest.” The Triumphal Entry is connected to the Triumphal Birth of our Lord. We do not see this in Mark, but we see it in the other gospels that in the birth of Christ in Luke two, the angels cry out “peace on earth.” But in this Triumphal Entry, the Gospels record the people crying out “peace in heaven.” There is peace in heaven, which now is being brought down to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of Christ has a heavenly origin. In other words, this King coming into Jerusalem brings a peace to earth that is grounded in the authority and peace of heaven. These disciples have seen earthly rulers equate peace with the power of the sword, but this King comes in the Name of the Lord without a sword. Make no mistake: the peace that Christ brings also brings a sword, but a sword of division. There is no contradiction in these two statements. Christ brings peace, but not everyone desires His peace, and so naturally, families are divided and empires are broken down.

Mark writes in remarkable speed. “It is no accident that one of Mark’s favorite words is “immediately.” In fact, the word appears twice in our passage. As a quick summary, Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as a new Moses, as a Rabbi or teacher, while Mark presents Jesus as a man of action, always on the move, a new David, the Warrior.[4] Mark focuses not so much on what Jesus teaches, but on what He does. This is why Mark’s gospel feels more like an action thriller than a historical biography. Jesus is moving quickly from town to town. He is healing, feasting, planning, and conquering.

The implication of the Advent is that Christ is not coming to operate like earthly rulers. His kingdom has a different agenda; Christ’s kingdom does not use the methodologies of the earthly kingdoms. How do we know this? We know this because Messiah comes riding a colt that has never been sat on. Jesus sends his disciples to get him a colt. And if anyone asks “Why are you untying this colt?” They should answer: “Because the Lord has need of it!”

What is happening here?[5] What is the significance of this? Why is this text important to us?

Jesus is setting up a scenario that is very familiar to any well-informed Jew.[6] You may wonder why Jesus doesn’t walk the rest of the way to Jerusalem. After all, He is only two miles from His destination. “Jesus is setting up a specific scene so when people see it they will recognize what he is saying.”[7] This scene introduces to us a donkey. Modern Americans will not associate a donkey with royal transportation. “Though we don’t think much of donkeys and mules, they were royal transportation in ancient Israel; Solomon was taken to his coronation on a mule that had belonged to David (1 Kings 1:33-44), and David’s sons all rode mules (2 Samuel 13:29). Kings who ride donkeys and mules are clearly not war-mongers, but they are kings nonetheless. Further, Jesus knew that Zechariah had prophesied of a king coming to Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9-10).”[8] Jesus is ready to be recognized as the Promised Messiah that Zechariah prophesied.

Jesus comes riding an animal that is not equipped for warfare. He does not come bearing a sword, but He comes in humility. Jesus is coming back to His royal city. But we know the story. The King who comes in humility and peace, will establish His kingship “by being betrayed, oppressed, facing injustice, being condemned as an innocent man and being put to death in a violent way.”[9]

The King comes in humility, but also as victor, as we see in verse 8: “And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.”

If you are familiar with Hebrew imagery you know that nothing is in vain in the text. We see[10] that the Jews spread garments on the ground. What is happening here? Deuteronomy 33 sheds some light on this. Deuteronomy says that Yahweh rides through the clouds[11] to help His people. By riding on the clouds He is not only transcendent; exalted above all, but He is also defeating His enemies. By spreading the branches of trees on the ground they are affirming that Jesus walks on the clouds; on the highest places on top of the trees. They are submitting to His power and authority. But Mark 11 also adds that they spread their cloaks/garments on the road. If the branches represent Yahweh walking on the clouds in His authority, the garments represent people.[12] When Jesus sits on their garments and rides over them, they are saying that Jesus is enthroned on them. This takes us back to the days of the Kings. Jesus is re-enacting the Jehu narrative when Jehu was anointed as King and destroyed the temple of Baal. In II Kings 9 we read that when Jehu was anointed King in haste every man took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” “When Jesus arranged His entrance this way, He was symbolically declaring His kingship. He is the Greater Jehu, who rode over his followers’ “garments into Samaria to destroy the temple of Baal (2 Kings 9:11-13; 10:18-28).”[13] When Jesus comes as King he causes people to question their allegiance. In fact, there were some in the crowds who “wanted only a military, political deliverer, they were interested only in the freedom, respect, prosperity, and power that they expected him to give them. They were not interested in a Redeemer who would die for the sins of the world. They were not interested in a Lord and Master who would demand from them an absolute loyalty of heart and life. They were looking for the destruction of the Romans not of their own pride!”[14]

Some came to meet Jesus because they saw and heard of his raising of Lazarus. If He raised Lazarus then He can raise us from our suffering; give us new life. They are expecting Jesus to operate according to earthly rulers, but they do not understand that Jesus does not borrow the world’s agenda. He has His own agenda given to Him by the Father. What the coming of Jesus does is to pose the question to the nation of Israel and to the whole world: “Will you serve me?” Will you bow to a king who walks on the clouds? Will you be the garments that serve my purposes?

These are the Advent questions we must ask in order to shape our lives.

How shall we then live?

The people spread branches for Jesus to ride on with his colt. This, of course, indicates the profound commitment of these people to exalt Jesus and to claim His power to raise the dead, but also to raise their own lives. We can be critical of this shouting and acclamation because some of these in the crowd later turned from Jesus, but at the same time let us not overlook the profound significance of their actions. They were symbolizing that Jesus could reign over them. Their lives were being placed under the authority of Jesus. This is the attitude of discipleship: Embracing the crucified Lord means embracing His Lordship. We are His servants called to submit our lives to His agenda. Are we committed to giving our lives to Christ, bearing the cross in times of inconvenience and difficulty? We can affirm our roles as servants in good times, but when we are confronted with difficult and untimely situations, then what do we do? We believe in the perseverance of the saints; in the faithfulness of the saints to the end. But perseverance and faithfulness are going to be challenged throughout our lives. In the end, will we lay down our garments only when it is convenient or will we lay down our lives for Jesus to rule over us in those times of trials? Jesus is not just a Savior, He is also a King. He not only delivers, but He demands loyalty.

Mark tells us also that there is a form of worship going on here. The people are shouting; they are crying out: “10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

This teaches us something about worship.[15] In worship, we greet the Lord who comes to us. “Heaven and earth join not only because we rise to heavenly places, but also because the Lord of heaven is with us… This has profound implications for our understanding and practice of worship. God does not address us with a thundering voice from heaven; we do not praise, pray to, listen to, and dine with a distant God. God comes among us each week. He comes near to inhabit the praises of His people. Every Lord’s day, we celebrate a triumphal entry, as through the Spirit our King comes to us. Every Lord’s day, we sing with Jerusalem “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.”[16]

Christmas is not here yet. Advent is the Season of anticipation. Let me encourage each family to build this environment of expectation in your homes in these next four weeks. Talk about the advent wreath. Sing Advent Hymns. Use the devotional readings we have provided for you. Read the many passages in Isaiah of a coming Messiah. Enter into the story of expectation with your children and loved ones.

Children, those of us who are adults remember one thing about being a child: we remember our anticipation. We remember how much we longed and expected to see our grandparents, how we looked forward to eating that special treat on Sunday morning, how we looked forward to our birthdays. Remember this morning, children, that Christ has come and He is coming again and again. Every time you come to Church Christ meets you. Look with anticipation for each Sunday. Remember this morning that Christ came so your lives would be examples of love for one another and for joy that we all share together. Let us all live from Advent to Advent with expectation and certainty that Christ has come and will come again.

In The Name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Leithart, Exhortation on Advent.

[2] Leithart, Notes on Advent.

[3] The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Scholastic Inc. Chapter 10.

[4] Peter Leithart, The Four, pg. 149.

[5] Some of these thoughts drawn from my sermon notes from previous years on the Triumphal Entry.

[6] These thoughts come from Peter Leithart @ Peter’s observations imply that Jesus is re-enacting the Zechariah narrative (ch. 9).

[7] Steve Wilkins, Sermon on the Triumphal Entry, Luke’s narrative in chapter 19. Auburn Avenue Presbyterian.

[8] Peter Leithart.

[9] Comments from Steve Wilkin’s sermon on Luke 19, AAPC.

[10] Matthew’s account of the Triumphal Entry.

[11] See Isaiah 19 where Yahweh comes on the clouds to bring judgment. Another helpful talk comes from Rev. Mickey Schnider at the BH conference in 1999 on Preterism where he deals with the cloud imagery throughout the Scriptures.

[12] Observations from my sermon on the Triumphal Entry two years ago.

[13] Peter Leithart.

[14] Robert Rayburn; sermon on John 12.

[15] Following observations come largely from Peter Leithart.

[16] Peter Leithart


About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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4 Responses to Sermon: Mark 11:1-10; Advent

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