Today marks a great transition in the gospel of Mark. We are entering into the last week of Jesus’ life at a time when the Feast of Passover is about to occur. Passover is the celebration of God’s judgment passing over his people when they were in Egypt. Passover is also one of three feasts where all the Jewish men would be going up to Jerusalem to worship and so there would be a throng of people around, excited and anticipating one of the greatest festivals of the year. The sense of excitement would be electric in the air.
There is some background I would like you to understand. The first thing to know, is that historically Jesus’ triumphal entry would fall nicely into similar events in recent Israelite history. Bible Scholar named David Catchpole did a wonderful study on the triumphal entry of Jesus and compared it to other celebrated entries of Macabbean, Roman and Greek rulers into their cities. In his research, he found that kings who entered into cities in amazing displays like the story of the triumphal entry shared a number of characteristics. Let me share those with you and then use that as the framework for today’s sermon. When a great king enters a city, 1) there has been some victory already achieved before 2) a formal entrance occurs. During this entrance, there is 3) a loud display of acclamation which culminates in 4) entering into the city’s temple where 5) either an act of sacrifice or an act of cleansing occurs. (Catchpole had studied the lives of 12 rulers from the writings of Josephus and the Maccabees, people writing about the same basic time frame in the history of Israel, plus or minus a few hundred years.) [ppt put in outline II-VI].
So if we are talking about a king coming into his city as it has been stylized in the literature of the day, what victories had Jesus achieved? Thankfully, we are not lacking material from which to deduce the victories of King Jesus. He has been victorious over nature by stilling the violent storm (4:39), by feeding the 4000 and then the 5000 with a lack of provision (6:30ff, 8:1ff), and by walking on water (6:45ff). He is victorious over spirits both singly and en masse (1:25, 5:10 demoniac), even triumphing over the prince of demons as he walked out of the desert where Satan tempted him (1:12-13). And he has been victorious over sickness in general (1:32-34) and leprosy (1:42), paralysis (2:11), deafness and muteness (7:35), blindness (8:22-26, 10:52), severe bleeding and even over death itself as he raises the daughter of Jairus (5:21-43). The catalog of victories for this king is all encompassing and vast. As John in his gospel writes, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book…If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 20:30 21:25). Every one of these acts of Jesus is a victory worthy in its own right of celebration and worship.
The coming king of the world had achieved plenty of victory to enter into Jerusalem and receive his throne. And so he prepares for his formal entry sending his disciples out in pairs as we have already seen was his pattern for ministry (Mk 6:7). They are told to go into the city and get a colt. Which brings us to the second piece of background information you should know. When the worshippers who were coming to Jerusalem for Passover reached the village of Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, the custom would be for them to walk up the last two miles into the temple singing the great Hallel psalms, 113-118, on their way.
With the sense of excitement in the air and the custom of walking into the temple, to suddenly see someone riding a donkey would be a great event that would draw out all the messianic hopes of the nation. The king that the Jews were awaiting was the king who would come and save them. And the prophet Zechariah had declared that the way the people would recognize the King was this: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9b).
So as the people are singing and remembering the passing over of God’s judgment and his very great deliverance from Egypt, they are suddenly confronted with the fact that their Messiah is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. And as he is doing that they are singing the final words to Psalm 118. Listen to these final words as the people are going up and see if they sound familiar: O Lord, save us. O Lord grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord God has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar” (Ps 118:25-27).
Doesn’t that sound familiar? The whole event, all of Jesus’ actions, the way Mark wrote the story, they all point to a formal entry and they declare The Coming of the Great King. In fact, the opening words of the psalm: O Lord Save us! Are the very same words the people are shouting when they say Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mark 11:9). The spreading of clothes and branches, it comes right out of the psalm. The people are so caught up in worship and excitement that they literally act out the psalm. Unfortunately, they don’t fully understand what they are crying out for I am afraid. They want salvation, but the path to salvation leads to the horns of the altar, the place where sacrifices are made and blood is spread not to a war with Rome. Their king is about to become a sacrifice so that righteousness and peace can come to the hearts and lives of humanity.
The people are proclaiming God’s favor rests upon the one who comes in God’s name and upon the kingdom of God and this is true. But will these people welcome that Kingdom into their midst when the rubber meets the road? Will they adopt the cruciform life we have focused on the past few months? Will they welcome their king or will they reject him? Unfortunately the gospel story tells us that this same crowd will quickly turn on Christ and cry out for his crucifixion in a few short days. They are crying out for the greatest salvation possible, Hosanna in the highest, but will they receive it when it is offered or will their king be a stumbling block for them?
Next week we will finish off with the remaining two points about the celebrated entry involving a ritual entrance into the temple and an act of worship or cleansing. But this week, why don’t we focus on what the triumphal entry means to us?
Every week we gather together to hear about the victory Christ has won over sin, death and the devil. Every week we come together to worship the reigning King of the Universe. But is our worship really fitting for a king? Is our worship really a heartfelt, exuberant, passionate display of awe, anticipation and wonder? Do we realize that the Son of God is in our midst as we are gathered?
If so, then the triumphal entry gives us a clue as to the kind of worship that is fitting for a victorious king. We must give Jesus as more excitement and energy as we give the ball game at the stadium or the child’s soccer game at the fields or the basketball game at the school? We must worship him in passionate displays of grandeur. No expense can be spared. No act is too extravagant. To lay our clothes on the ground, to cry out in loud voices – save us, that is just the beginning of what we must do.
Our worship must be as extravagant as the woman who breaks the pure nard and anoints his feet. Our worship must be more than just words we recite, even believe, our worship must be worship deserving of a King! We must find a joyful blend between passionate, emotional, fiery worship and deep heartfelt understanding and application? We must. We must be worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth.
We must be worshippers who are passionate about honoring our Savior. Most of us think that passion implies spontaneity, and that is partly true. There is spontaneity in passion, but the interesting thing to note from today’s passage is that the people were following the ritual of the approach to Passover. They didn’t have to get rid of the liturgy and the ritual, they just played it out in new ways. They participated fully in the words they were reciting as they walked to the temple. Their bodies fully engaged what their mouths were declaring. Passionate worship is rooted in God’s word, but engages our whole body and all our emotion. Are you willing to open up your emotional floodgates in order to worship? [WAIT] Are you willing to laugh or cry, to shout or kneel, or bow down when the words you say imply such actions? Will you act spontaneously when that little prompting in you says, go up and pray? Or go and speak to this person? Or fall down on your hands and knees or lay prostrate upon the ground? This is all part of passionate worship.
GET SOME EXAMPLES OF PASSIONATE WORSHIP –
- David dancing before lord 2Sam. 6:14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might,
- Job after hearing of the loss of his family, barns, life…Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship,
- a healed man walking and leaping praising god Acts 3:8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
- Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”
- · Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
- · Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”
- · Psalm 22:23 “Stand in awe of [God].”
- · 1 Timothy 2:8 “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands.”
- · Revelation 4:10 “The twenty- four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever.”
But there is a dark side to this passage as well. And here it is: Sometimes it is easy to let passion eclipse obedience. These “worshippers” if we can call them that, were excited, but they lacked obedient submission to the Lord. Obedience is a necessary part of worship.
The disciples were instructed to do some things, namely to go get another person’s colt and bring it back. I am not sure this would have been particularly comfortable – go take someone’s animal and tell them you will return it later. But they were obedient even when it made little sense. And their obedience led to Jesus’ ability to reveal more about himself to the nation. Are we being obedient to the lord in the things he is asking us to do? Do we love God with all our heart, soul mind and strength? Are we loving others as we love ourselves? Are we denying ourselves and following Christ? Are we preaching his kingdom to the lost and dying around us?
The disciples in our story can be contrasted with the crowd. The crowd was worshipping out of emotional hype, but when it came the end of the day, they went home and many of them were found in the crowd crying for his crucifixion later that week. They didn’t get the connection between passionate worship and obedience. But the disciples were obedient earlier in the day as they went to get the colt, and they found themselves caught up in worship and celebration as they approached Jerusalem and then found themselves proclaiming his resurrection later. Passionate worship must be tied to obedience. Amos says it this way – Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:23–24 ESV). It wasn’t that God disliked singing and passionate musical expression, but he wants singing, racous, noisy singing, passionate singing accompanied by actions all during the week.
So as we reflect on the triumphal entry this week, lets not forget the triumphal entry calls us to recognize that Jesus is seated on the throne and only passionate worship coupled with total obedience are the proper responses to our king; he has achieved all victory– to him belongs all power, glory, honor and praise.