Key Verse: “They that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
IN ADDITION TO JOHN THE Baptist’s declaration that Jesus was the “Lamb of God,” he also preached to the Jews, saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2) Jesus made use of this same theme of the kingdom as he taught, and also in the parables he spoke. He instructed his disciples to likewise declare in all of Israel that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. (chap. 10:6,7) At the close of Jesus’ ministry the “kingdom of heaven” actually came to the Jewish nation in the sense that it was offered to them. Today’s lesson tells of this formal offer of the kingdom by Jesus and the refusal of the Jews as a people to accept it.
For some time the disciples had recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and they desired to share in the glories of his reign as Israel’s new king. Although the multitudes did not generally perceive Jesus’ position to this same extent, they too regarded him highly, saying on one occasion, “When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man [Jesus] hath done?” (John 7:31) After recording Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Matthew writes, “It came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”—Matt. 7:28,29
On one occasion, the multitudes sought to take Jesus by force and make him their king, but he withdrew from them, knowing that the time was not right. (John 6:15) Now, however, in the context of our lesson from Mark 11, instead of drawing back, Jesus took an active role by sending two of his disciples to retrieve a donkey’s colt for his entry into Jerusalem. It had long been the custom of kings to ride to their coronation in such a manner. The timing was now right, and the multitudes entered into the spirit of the occasion. The scene they beheld signified nothing less to them than the fact that he now was ready to assume the office of Israel’s king.
Surely the hearts of the Apostles must have been filled with excitement as they, too, thought of the nearness of their Master’s glory, and of their own share in it. In all the commotion around them they could not possibly comprehend the import of his earlier words to the effect that he must be crucified and depart into a “far country”—heaven itself—to receive authority from his Father, and later return to establish the kingdom which would bless Israel and the entire world.
Jesus was fully aware that the presentation of himself as king was but a symbolic gesture, designed to fulfill prophecy and to leave the nation of Israel without excuse. He knew that other prophecies had declared he would be “despised and rejected” by those of his own nation. (Isa. 53:3) In the days following, this rejection began to play out. In sadness, Jesus wept over the city saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered thy children together, … and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:37,38) The Apostle Paul tells us the blindness of Israel is not permanent. Its lifting awaits only the completion of the bride of Christ and their cry to the great Deliverer. (Rom. 11:25-32) Therefore, let us praise the Prince of Peace and shout “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”