Palm Sunday: How It All Began (Mark 1:1-6 & 11:1-8)
Lead In Welcome to the church at Bethel, where we gather because of the gospel: Jesus in our place! Let our round of applause be a big welcome to those watching online and our guests here in person for family day.
Let me take a quick moment to share what the Lord is doing in this local church. In the past two weeks, Bethel sent out two mission teams. This past Sunday, we had our highest in-person attendance (non-special service) in over five years. This past Sunday, we have more kids (birth-6thgrade) than in the past fifteen years. We need to prepare for more growth, and we want you to be part of making a difference. Where is your SERVE?
Today we begin a two-week mini-series in the Passion narrative – the week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection. First, we will examine how it all began, and next week we will open the Word and our hearts to how it finished.
Palm Sunday: How It All Began (Mark 1:1-6 & 11:1-8)
Preparing the Way – Mark 1:1-6 and 11:1-8 describe Yahweh preparing the world to receive His only Son as Savior and Lord.
Early on, we meet a man named John the Baptist, sent by the Father ahead of Jesus to prepare the way. John the Baptist was a unique messenger. Scriptures describe him as a voice, crying out in the wilderness, wearing a stylish prophetic coat of camel’s hair and the world’s first paleo diet – locust and wild honey.
John the Baptist’s job was to prepare the world for the incarnation – God in the flesh! While you might find John’s diet gross, locusts were the only insects permitted as food by the Mosaic law. If you find John’s fashion outdated, remember that Elijah dressed the same way. If you find John’s neighborhood lacking amenities, note that the wilderness was where God met and prepared a place for His holy community in the Old Testament. John’s entire existence prepared the way for others to know Jesus!
And with one singular voice, John cried out in the wilderness. His message came from the heart and was addressed to the heart. The one who was shouting was God; the mouthpiece was John.
You might not have a John the Baptist in your life, but God is not finished preparing the way for His Son, Jesus. You are hearing this message today because the Father has and continues to prepare the path for Jesus.
Take-Home: What circumstances, joys, triumphs, failures, life changes, 21 days of prayer, and even barriers is Yahweh shaping to draw you near today? How is God preparing the way in your life?
In the triumphal approach narrative (Mark 11), we again find our Heavenly Father preparing the world to receive His Son, Jesus. But, this time, the way is not in the wilderness but a road to Jerusalem. Jesus' disciples, at the Messiah’s personal request, receive a colt for transportation. Nowhere else in the Gospels will you find Jesus riding, but He does here. You see, an unridden colt was a sacred animal that made it appropriate for a king, and no one else could ride a king’s horse.
In response, the crowd began to remove their outer garments and set them upon the horse and along the road. These actions were abundantly extravagant and the ancient version of rolling out the red carpet. Nevertheless, the crowd knew that Jesus was unlike any other person they had ever met, and they wanted to prepare the way.
Take-Home: How are you preparing your heart and life for the Messiah? How are you preparing others to hear the Gospel?
The Lord doesn’t only have a way to prepare; He has a message to proclaim to the world! You have already read what John and the crowd did in response to the Messiah; now, hear what they said.
Read Mark 1:7-8 and 11:9-10
Proclaiming the Worth – John the Baptist prepared the way for the incarnation calling the entire Judean countryside to repentance. What did John require of the people? Repentance is more than being sorry. Biblical repentance is a change of mind and action upon realizing that you have sinned and that sin is wrong. William Gurnall described repentance in this way, “To forsake sin is to leave it without any thought reserved of returning to it again.”
Take-Home: You proclaim the worth of Jesus when you genuinely repent of your sin and say, “Jesus, I will leave it all behind for you!” Do you find yourself going back to sin? Have you truly repented with no thoughts of going back? Does your sin grieve you? Repentance is the tear of love dropping from the eye of faith when it fixes on Christ crucified.
John continued his message with more specificity. Mark 1:7 “One who is more powerful than I am is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. Notice that John didn’t say a person but the One. To undo the sandals was the menial task of a servant of a Gentile servants and Jewish servants were not required to stoop down in such a manner. Later, John would say (John 3:30), He must increase, but I must decrease.
Take-Home: You proclaim the worth of Jesus when you refuse to take glory for yourself. May our lives constantly fade away in the distance compared to the all-surpassing value of seeing and knowing Jesus!
Now hear the voice of the crowd at the triumphal approach. Jesus, riding on the back of a young horse never ridden before, is preceded by a multitude of his followers who run ahead 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 heaven!
Clearly, this is no ordinary day, no ordinary crowd, and no common entry. The congregation began to sing and chant from Psalm 118, a Hallel Psalm recited on joyous occasions like Passover, Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Booths). By joyously trumpeting Psalm 118, the people proclaimed that the God who saved in Exodus was the same God who saves today.
Take-Home: When was the last time you joyously proclaimed that life, death, and resurrection are found in Jesus Christ? Are you a Hosanna person?
Hearing the content the content of the crowd, we now turn out attention to the tone of their voices. Mark describes it this way, they shouted! We are never told why they shouted. Exuberance? So God in heaven could hear? To rouse the people of Jerusalem?
In Mark, we have only ten references to shouting: four from demons, one from a father crying, “I do believe, help my unbelief and once by the triumphal crowed. Only two times in Mark do we find a person or group shouting twice.
A blind beggar man shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This shout is the voice of a man who needed help. This cry was the guttural declaration of a man who required mercy!
How does Jesus respond to shouts of mercy? Mark 10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Did you know the Father always respond with kindness to every authentic prayer for mercy?
There is one more group that shouted twice in Mark. At the same festival of the triumphal approach, a man named Pilate asked the crowd, “what do you want me to do with King of the Jews?” Twice the multitude shouted, crucify Him, crucify Him! In contrast to the blind man, this cry was the guttural declaration of a crowd who wanted no mercy!
Take-Home: If you had to shout today, would your cry be for your need for mercy, or could you care less? All of our lives are shouting something.
How did it all begin? With a voice crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord. God is still in the preparing business. He prepares your life to know Jesus as your Savior and King.
When you receive Him, you proclaim him. Like John, may our lives constantly fade away in the distance compared to the all-surpassing worth of seeing and knowing Jesus!
What if I told you that the shouting crowds didn’t have the last word? A later cry echoes the voice crying out in the wilderness:
Mark 15:37 Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 Then, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing opposite him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Prepared hearts lead to lives of proclamation that He is worthy!