jesus_donkey02Mark 11

1.  Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples;

They have passed through Jericho, and now draw near to Jerusalem, coming to what we would call its suburbs.  Bethphage and Bethany were two distinct towns, although they bordered on one another.  The Lord and His followers are at the boundary between the two, heading towards the Mount of Olives.  Now, He sends two of His disciples ahead of Him.  We do not know which two, so it could have been any of them.  Who it was is not important, just that they were disciples.

2.  And He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat.  Loose it and bring it.

He sends them into the village below them, and gives them instructions to find this colt and bring it.  There is a clear difference here with the record we have of this event in Matthew 21, where both a colt and a donkey were to be found and brought.  Is this a contradiction?  No, I believe that these are two separate entries.  The Lord stayed near Jerusalem for several days before the Passover, and came to Jerusalem more than once during that time.  The people likewise celebrated His coming more than once.  This is not strange at all.  Having celebrated the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem once, why should they not wish to do so again the next time He came?  When people get in a festive mood, often they want to prolong the moment.  Since there were more people arriving for the feast all the time and those who were there were there for an extended period until the feast was done, we can well imagine that they would have been eager to repeat the previous experience, both to show those who had arrived in Jerusalem since the last entry, as well as to recapture the mood and express once again their desire for the Lord to take the actions that would save them.  We should not look at the differences between these two events as “contradictions,” but rather as a perfect harmony, relating to us two separate events and two different entries that He made.

3.  “And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”

The Lord indicates that it was probable that someone would question them.  It would seem strange to see someone come up out of nowhere, untie a colt that belonged to someone else, and start leading it away.  When we remember that, during Passover, there were more than a million visitors in Jerusalem, we can realize that the natives probably felt overrun by visitors, and perhaps feared thieves among them.  Yet the Lord assures them that mention of His name will secure the colt for them.

Some say that this was a miracle.  The knowledge of where the colt was tied may have been, but the permission to use the colt probably wasn’t.  The Lord had been to Jerusalem before, and it is more than likely that He knew the owner of this colt, and the owner had already offered to help Christ in any way he could or loan Him anything He wanted to use.  This is a not-uncommon thing in our day, and was probably the case here.

4.  So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it.

The disciples find everything exactly as the Lord had described it.  Indeed, He had divine knowledge of all they would find in advance of them coming there.

5.  But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”

In this case there are men waiting, and they question the disciples.  In the account in Matthew 21, we do not read that anyone actually questioned them about taking the donkey and the colt, although someone may have.  When giving them this command in Matthew, the Lord just told them what to do if anyone did ask them why they were taking the animals.  He did not indicate that it was probable that someone would ask them, as He did here.  Perhaps, in that case, this condition was just to assure them that they wouldn’t get in trouble for taking the animals, whereas here the provision was actually needed.

6.  And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded.  So they let them go.

The disciples answer according to the Lord’s command, after which the men let them go, just as Christ had said they would.  Most people in Israel must have known of Jesus Christ by this point, and so the mere mention of His name as being involved with taking this animal was perhaps enough to convince them that these men were not thieves.  As Proverbs 22:1 indicates, a good reputation is a valuable thing!

7.  Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it.

They bring the colt to the Lord and throw their clothes on it to form a place for Him to sit.  This was a lowly animal for the King of Israel to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem, but it was appropriate indeed for the Lord’s suffering Servant when He was coming to His people.

8.  And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

It was traditional to spread your clothes in the road before a coming ruler to honor Him.  It was as if you didn’t even want the hooves of his steed to touch the dusty street.  This is similar to our “red carpet treatment.”  At any rate, these people follow this tradition by spreading their clothes before Him.  They also spread leafy branches from the trees before Him on the road.  This word in Greek is stoibas, and means a litter made of leaves from the field.  In Matthew the word was klados which means “branches,” and in John it was the plural form of baion, which means “palm branches.”  Luke does not mention branches, but only casting clothes in the way.  These accounts are supplementary, not contradictory.  They spread before Him what they could find.  No doubt, that meant different types of things at different points along the way.

9.  Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’

Those who went before the Lord and those who followed Him cried out this saying.  This is a quotation from Psalm 118:25 and 26.  “Hosanna” means “save now!”  These people were applying this Psalm to the Lord, and rightfully so.  They were correct, and He was coming to save His people.  Not from what they desired though, that is, the Roman occupation.  Instead, He would save them from their sins.  How much greater a salvation had He come to accomplish than they ever dreamed!

10.  “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David That comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

They identify our Lord with restoring the government of their father David.  Indeed, He was the rightful heir of David’s throne, although the current rulers of Israel had no real interest in restoring the true kingly line.  The people, as we can see here, were very enthusiastic about the prospect, however, and if He had come to rule, there is no doubt that most would have gladly accepted Him.

11.  And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple.  So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Having traveled far that day, the Lord only stays for a short time at Jerusalem and the temple courts before returning to Bethany.  He did not do any teaching on this day, apparently.  In the first entry recorded in Matthew, however, He took more time in the temple.  First, He cast out the moneychangers and the animal sellers.  Then, He sat down and healed all the sick who came to Him.  This again shows that these were two different entries, although the people honored Him both times in similar ways.

Bethany, although a good way from Jerusalem, was where His long-time friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived, and so this was where He retired that night.  He would not make preparations to stay in Jerusalem until the night of the Passover, and even then it was likely that the plan (as the disciples thought, anyway,) was to only eat the Passover in Jerusalem, and then return to their lodgings at Bethany after praying in the garden.

12.  Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.

This was early morning, and they were traveling back to Jerusalem, showing that He did indeed enter more than once.  He becomes hungry.  Perhaps they left Bethany without eating any breakfast, planning on finding food when they arrived in Jerusalem.

13.  And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it.  When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

He sees a leafy fig tree afar off, and approaches it to see if He can eat from it, for figs tend to appear at the same time as the leaves.  As such, He perhaps had cause to suspect that there might be figs upon it.  He finds no figs on it, however, and we find out that the reason is that it was not the season for figs.

14.  In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”  And His disciples heard it.

This story is very strange, especially since it is clearly stated in the passage that this was not the season for figs.  Why would the Lord have expected the tree to have figs on it when it was not the fig season?  There is a lesson here, although it is hard to grasp.  The fig tree is, in the Bible, a symbol of Israel regarding their national privileges.  God’s Kingdom was being offered in advance of its actual coming to the people at that time, and the Lord was looking for them to accept it, enter it, and bear kingdom fruit even before the Kingdom time came.  It is likely here that the Lord was teaching through His actions toward this fig tree that He was expecting the men of Israel to respond in this manner.

One example we can give of this kind of behavior is one Otis Q. Sellers gave of the man David.  David was, as we know, the King of Israel, and extremely popular among the people.  However, before he was ever king, he was hunted by the previous king Saul and treated as a fugitive and an outcast.  During this time, as we read in I Samuel 22:2, about four hundred men came to him and made him their captain.  During this time, when he was a fugitive, these men were loyal to him, the one God had chosen to be the true King over Israel.  Now imagine David a few years in the future, when all Israel was accepting him and proclaiming him king and swearing their loyalty to him.  Now was the season to follow David, and the whole nation enthusiastically did so.  Yet how much more must have the loyalty of these four hundred men at the time when he was hunted and cast out meant than the acclaim of the whole nation when it was popular to do so.  The majority of the people praised him when it was the season to do so, but these four hundred men came to him and were loyal to him in advance, even before the season had come to do so.  Thus, these men produced fruit in following David even before the season to do so had come.  In the same way, the Lord was looking for those who would follow Him before the season comes to do so.

Someday, as we read in Philippians 2:10-11, every knee will bow at His name, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  That will be the season for confessing Jesus Christ.  Yet in that day when He walked the earth, the Lord looked for those who were willing to confess Him out of season.  When He did not find them, those who refused to do so were cursed.

How happy are we who do confess the Lord in our day, when doing so is out of season!  As we know, the majority of our world has no inclination to confess Christ as Lord.  Many are dead set against Him, and others are merely indifferent, not caring about Him one way or the other.  Someday, this will change, and everyone will be praising Him even as we do.  Yet how much must it mean to the Lord to see those like us today who are willing to confess Him out of season!  We have a blessed privilege indeed, to be able to believe today in the dispensation of grace when so many do not.  Let us then be believers indeed, and produce fruit pleasing to God even now, when doing so, as the world around us clearly shows, is out of season.