In the book of Mark we see in the followers of Jesus what is happening in many of our lives, a slow, sometimes reluctant, often confused path towards total commitment to Jesus.
Out of the pages of Mark rises a picture of Jesus who reaches out and beckons us to come follow him.
It is a call of total faith and total commitment. A call to something much higher and more lasting than the things of this world. A call to a life of meaning and purpose that will outlast death.
That kind of call demands a response from us.
What will you make of Jesus?
Jesus made extraordinary claims about himself . . .
- To have a divine nature, one with God (John 10:30)
- To be a source of unending satisfaction for the human spirit (John 6:35)
- To be the exclusive source of truth and access to God. (John 14:6)
- The ability to forgive sins. (Matthew 9:2)
- The ability to give eternal life to those who believe (John 11:25)
- The right to call the world to follow him.
Before we can make a total commitment of faith to Jesus, we have to address a couple of questions.
Do I believe that it’s true? Do I want it to be true?
In Mark 11, I see three aspects of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that provide some answers to those questions.
This account carries the marks of the fingerprint of God.
1. The first mark is fulfilled prophecy.
The Old Testament Scriptures are full of future predictions about a coming ruler, an anointed one or Messiah who will save his people. Some of those predictions are very specific, including times and places.
You can think of these as providing an address in history. These predictions were meant to serve as signs to give the Jewish people the ability to recognize the future Messiah, to authenticate his claims and to demonstrate the absolute control of God over human history.
One of the Messianic signs, given by the prophet Zechariah involves a young animal.
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
When Jesus sent the two disciples to collect a donkey for his entry into Jerusalem, he was doing much more than arranging a ride. He was stepping into the identity of the Messiah. He was making a profound public statement. He was fulfilling prophecy. He was fulfilling God’s sovereign plan for human history.
The fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9 was extraordinary for the statement it was making, but not necessarily as a sign authenticating Jesus. Anyone could have ridden a donkey into Jerusalem and claimed Zechariah 9:9 for themselves.
What is extraordinary is the sheer number of similar, specific predictions which were fulfilled in Jesus which were outside of his control.
One of those predictions is in the book of Daniel. Daniel 9:27 contains a prediction of the timing of the Messiah. Sir Robert Anderson, a brilliant lawyer and former director of Scotland Yard compared the time frame given in Daniel with ancient calendars and found that Daniel 9 predicted the arrival of the Messiah and his subsequent death in the year 32 A.D.
Peter Stoner, professor of mathematics and astronomy calculated the probability of 8 of the Messianic predictions finding fulfilment in the life of Jesus. His conclusion was that the odds of that happening were 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.
Another way of saying this is that the life of Jesus was the perfect NCAA bracket – a statistical impossibility.
This is the fingerprint of God. The extraordinary fulfilment of prophecy authenticates Jesus and gives weight to every claim he made about himself.
When Jesus sent the disciples into a village, telling them that they would find a donkey there and telling them what would happen when they found it and how to respond, when Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem – he demonstrated the absolute mastery of God over human history.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
2. The Paradox of Jesus
The second divine fingerprint in this account is the paradox of Jesus. The Messiah, the King of Kings, makes his triumphal entry into the capital city riding on a borrowed donkey, surrounded by Galileans. The victorious Messiah enters the city preparing to surrender his life to executioners.
It’s an extraordinary paradox.
Jonathan Edwards the famous American theologian spoke about this paradox in one of his sermons. I want you to hear it. It’s older English and will take some work to focus on, but it will pay off.
“There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.
The lion and the lamb, though very diverse kinds of creatures, yet have each their peculiar excellencies. The lion excels in strength, and in the majesty of his appearance and voice: the lamb excels in meekness and patience, besides the excellent nature of the creature as good for food, and yielding that which is fit for our clothing and being suitable to be offered in sacrifice to God. But we see that Christ is in the text compared to both, because the diverse excellencies of both wonderfully meet in him,
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him.
He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. … Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. …
Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and [does] whatsoever [pleases] him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.
And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James 2:5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ does not despise… Christ condescends to take notice of beggars … and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Col. 3:11). He that is thus high condescends to take a gracious notice of little children Matt. 19:14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.
Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend, to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual [oneness]. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!
Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!”
The paradox of Jesus’ nature as lion and lamb transcends human imagination.
There is a paradox in his nature and a paradox in his experience.
Here is a more modern observation, coming from a professor of New Testament studies (Dale Allison) –
“The basic sequence of Jewish eschatology appears again and again in the sayings attributed to Jesus: suffering then vindication, tribulation then blessedness, death then life…Part of the reason that Jesus so fascinates and inspires is that his life incarnates the eschatological pattern. He is the coincidence of opposites, embodying in his own person the extremes of apocalyptic expectation, which means the extremes of human experience…
The tradition gives us a Jesus who knows how to laugh loudly and to wail miserably, a Jesus who knows the presence of God and the absence of God, a Jesus who experiences what some of us find long before we die: both heaven and hell.
That Jesus is big enough to take in the extremes of human experience makes him both sympathetic and convincing. Any credible interpretation of human existence must come to terms with the acute polarities that characterize most of our lives. Even in the midst of our relative prosperity, anxiety and anger by turns grip us; malevolence and foolishness greet us daily; sin and guilt never leave us. Physical pain and mental pain haunt our lives, and we are ever the victims of the senseless sport of circumstance: something is always going wrong, when not for us then for others we love. And over it all is spread the eternal shroud of death. We blossom and flourish and wither and perish. Our cruel fate is to close our eyes and become short-term memories.
And yet, in the midst of such universal misfortune and heartbreak, an inscrutable Providence allows us sometimes to behold the good, the true, and the beautiful, enables us to happen upon friendship and love, laughter and delight, knowledge and wisdom; and those of us with religious faith may further believe that, through some enigmatic grace, we have sometimes encountered the ineffable presence of a loving God. So human experience in general and religious experience in particular offer intense paradoxes. …
Jesus’ words and life give fitting expression to all this. The extremes of human experience are such that they are effectively represented by the extremes of eschatological expectation and by a life of celebration and crucifixion. . .By announcing not only tribulation present and coming but also salvation present and coming and then by living into both, Jesus commends himself to us.”
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Fulfilled prophecy shows me that I can believe Jesus claims to be true.
The paradox of the victorious and lowly one shows me I want it to be true.
I can trust someone like that.
3. God’s gracious purpose
The final fingerprint in Mark 11 is God’s gracious purpose.
Jesus called for a donkey that had never been ridden. In the Old Testament, beast of burden used for sacred purposes must be unbroken, unridden. Something sacred is taking place.
The day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was the tenth day of the month of Nisan. This was the day when the people of Israel were instructed to set aside a lamb for each family, a sacrifice which would ward off the judgment of the avenging angel of God.
Riding into Jerusalem on that donkey, Jesus came on that day as the ultimate lamb of God. A pure sacrifice, whose blood would cover all those who received him, making atonement for sin and making a way for salvation.
Jesus went to Jerusalem to die for your sins. He fulfilled the gracious purpose of God as a living paradox who miraculously fulfilled the predictions of prophecy.
You can trust him.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown