11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
(Mark 11:1-11 NIV)
Our last time together, we saw Jesus leaving Jericho and heading for Jerusalem. Jesus stopped and gave sight to Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who called out in faith for God’s mercy. After Jesus honored his faith and gave him sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus as they made their way to Jerusalem.
In today’s passage, we see Jesus entering Jerusalem by way of Bethpage and Bethany. The trip from Jericho to Jerusalem was about 18 miles, and the road was all uphill. In those 18 miles, the ascent was over 2,600 feet (over a half mile altitude gain!).
This was not Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem; John’s gospel records a number of other trips there, mainly for festivals and holy days.
Jesus stops at the Mount of Olives and sends two disciples to fetch a young donkey. Jesus gave the two disciples specific instructions about where the donkey would be tied, what to say if anyone questioned their actions, and what to do. Jesus’ words were prophetic, as Mark records the events took place just as Jesus said they would. The fact that the events took place as Jesus said they would imply that the donkey’s owner knew Jesus and that Jesus had likely made prior arrangements for the donkey’s use.
In Jesus’ day, a donkey was a royal animal and did not have the negative connotations ascribed to it in our modern day. In Jesus’ day, a king riding a donkey meant he was coming in peace (Zechariah 9:9). Conversely, a king riding a horse, specifically a white horse, meant he was coming in judgment and war. If we jump ahead to the book of Revelation, Jesus is depicted as riding in on a white horse (Revelation 6:2; 19:11).
As Jesus entered Jerusalem riding the donkey, some who knew Him were honoring Him as the incoming King, thinking that Jesus would begin His reign at that time. They laid their coats down before Him, while other spread palm branches on the road to honor Him.
Many were giving the traditional Passover greetings of Psalm 118:26 and honoring Jesus, while in reality, they had no idea who Jesus was. While this sounds like a wonderful homage and tribute to Jesus coming as the King of Peace, Luke records that Jesus was weeping as He entered Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42).
Mark records that Jesus entered Jerusalem and surveyed the Temple courts, taking an assessment of the situation. The importance of this act will become evident in future days. While it sounds like Jesus entered the temple and took a quick look around, this was not true. The temple grounds covered 35 acres. For all my non-farm readers, 35 acres is 1.5 million square feet (141 thousand square meters). Even if Jesus only surveyed the temple court area, that was a lot of ground to cover!
Jesus’ purpose in surveying the temple was to fulfill the role of the priest in making sure the temple was being used as God intended (Malachi 3:1). Again, this detail will become evident in coming days.
After surveying the temple courts, Mark records that it is late in the day, and Jesus leaves Jerusalem and heads to Bethany for the night. While the text does not say, we can guess that Jesus and the disciples are headed for the home of their dear friends – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
As we look at this passage, we see that every move that Jesus made had a purpose. May we be led by God’s Holy Spirit and be used for His glory as we go about our day, not in our strength, but in His.