A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
12. Shallow Worship (Mark 11:1-11; 14:1-31)
  • When Jesus first arrived at Jerusalem, He rode into the city on a young colt, the mark of a triumphant king. Not understanding, the crowds shouted “Hosanna!” They thought he was going to set up His kingdom. But Jesus came as the servant who was to give His life; and to that end, at dinner, a woman poured perfume over Him to prepare Him for burial. Even as the religious authorities were conspiring to kill Him and He was being betrayed by Judas, He ate one last meal with His disciples, offering Himself as the Passover Lamb.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus is the triumphant King even if He is not recognized or confessed by many as such. (Mark 11:9 & 10; 14:25)
  • Jesus had to go to the cross. (Mark 14:21, 24)
  • Jesus would be alone in His death. (Mark 14:27)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What does Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem say to you?
  • Why do people reject Jesus?
  • What does God's covenant mean to you?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What did the crowds think of Jesus as He entered into Jerusalem on the young donkey? Why did they shout “Hosanna!” and quote words from Psalm 118?
  • Why did Jesus enter into Jerusalem the way He did (on the young donkey)?
  • What was the implication and meaning of the woman anointing Jesus with the costly perfume? What was her view of Jesus?
  • What was Judas' view of Jesus, perhaps, and why do you think he decided to betray Jesus?
  • What is the connection between the Passover and Jesus?
  • What did Jesus mean when he said the bread was His body and the wine was His blood?
  • Describe how Jesus' disciples (with the exception of Judas) perceived Jesus and what was happening during these days covered in the text. Describe their faith and level of understanding.
  • What is the implication of the fact that all the disciples would abandon Jesus?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • How does the way Jesus is handling what is going on, and what will happen to Him, resound with you? What is Jesus' focus in all of these circumstances?
  • It's easy for us to look back, knowing the end of the story, and think we would have acted differently from the disciples. Are you so sure about that? Examine your own heart to see if there is any way that you are still on the throne of your life instead of Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any such areas; confess them, and then turn them over to Jesus as you receive His forgiveness.
  • Describe the various responses to Jesus – those of the crowd; those of the religious authorities; those of the disciples' those of Judas; those of the woman who poured perfume over Him. What is your response to Jesus?
  • What do you think of when you partake of communion, as you eat the bread and drink the wine? What should you think of?
  • Describe Peter. Was his heart in the right place as regards Jesus? What didn't he understand about himself?
  • Are you willing to give everything to Jesus like the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Him?
  •  Can you think of ways that you abandon Jesus? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any such ways; confess them, and then turn them over to Jesus as you receive His forgiveness.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In Mark 11, verses 1-11, we jump back a few days in time to when Jesus came to Jerusalem for this last week of His earthly life. The “big picture” time frame is that Passover is coming, and it is part of what is called the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” The entire Feast was an 8 day celebration, and the city of Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims there for the Feast. Some suggest the population of Jerusalem was as much as five times larger during the Festival because of the pilgrims. In any event, the Roman governor (Pilate) would have been in the city in the event of trouble, and extra Roman troops were present to quell any problems. The threat of riots was certainly present as the area was a hotbed of discontent by Jewish people over Roman rule. Further, on the “spiritual” side of things, the religious authorities were even vigilant over their power and rule, willing to go to great lengths to protect what could well be termed their temple cult. Certainly, then, the conditions were volatile, and one such as Jesus who drew the crowds as much for His person and His reputation for miracles and teaching, would be the source of much attention from all parties in addition to that of the crowds. So it is into this cauldron that Jesus has come, knowing that He is coming to be the actual Passover Lamb, an offering for the sin of all.

Jesus therefore came as the suffering servant to give His life. But in so doing, He came also to proclaim who He was, namely the Messiah, and to confront the religious authorities, as we have already seen. He has scrupulously avoided being pushed into being the political Messiah that the Jewish people expected; nevertheless, He is the true Messiah-king and He intended His entrance into Jerusalem at this time to say as much all while fulfilling prophecy. He and His disciples thus approach the city from the east, from Bethany which was located on the east side of the Mount of Olives. As mentioned in prior Notes, the Mount of Olives was some 2600 feet in height, and was some 300 feet higher than the elevation of the Temple Hill in the city. And between the city and the Mount of Olives was the Kidron Valley. As such, coming to the city from the Mount of Olives afforded all with a majestic view of the city and the Temple as one traveled down from the Mount to the valley and then up to the city's east gate. And because it was Feast time, many would be on this route into the city. Jesus told two of His disciples to go into the village ahead (probably Bethphage) to get a colt, specifically a previously unridden young donkey, for Him (Mark 11:1 & 2). Whether Jesus had somehow made this arrangement, or trusted that the owner of the colt would submit to His authority as the Lord, presumably knowing Him by His reputation, we do not know (Mark 11:3-6).

In any event, the disciples found the colt, secured it and brought it to Jesus with the promise to the owner that it would be returned (Mark 11:3, 7). They put their cloaks on the colt, then put Jesus on it (Luke 19:35), and He proceeded on the way to the city. As He did so, people put their cloaks on the road, a not uncommon sign of respect for a dignitary, and others spread branches on the road as well (Mark 11:7 & 8). All the while, as this journey had now turned into a procession of sorts, the people before and following shouted words from Psalm 118:25 & 26 (a Psalm used frequently during this Feast). They cried, “Hosanna!” (which meant “save now” but which in that day was used as a word of general praise), “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father, David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9 & 10). Did the people know the meaning of what they were shouting in its fullest sense? Not likely. But they knew that Jesus was special, that He was a remarkable teacher and a miracle worker by reputation; and they knew that somehow He might be the one who could save Israel from its subjugation under Roman rule. In short, it seems that the people's words reflected their desire for a political messiah, hence the reference to the coming kingdom of their father David (Mark 11:10). Yet, were all these people worshiping the Messiah? No; but they were worshiping either the idea of their possible deliverance, or the kingdom itself, both of which were indeed shallow and even misplaced worship. Jesus did not come as a political Messiah, though He was indeed king. He knew prophecy, specifically that of Zechariah 9:9, which referred to the King of Zion coming on the foal of a donkey to bring salvation. So He used this occasion to fulfill that prophecy in the most profound sense – Jesus was coming to bring salvation, but salvation by way of a cross as opposed to salvation by way of a conquering king. Thus the shouts of the people were quite appropriate even if they didn't understand what was going on. As Luke's gospel indicates, the Pharisees who were in the multitude were incensed because they had a better grasp on the implications of what the people were reciting. In fact, they were so incensed they told Jesus to tell the people to stop shouting their Hosannas (Luke 19:39), to which Jesus replied that if the people were not shouting, the rocks would shout (Luke 19:40). The processional reached the city in due course and Jesus entered in, going straight to the Temple area. He had arrived as Lord of all, but He did nothing at that point. It was the next morning that He came back to the Temple and cleansed it.

Several days after His “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem, and after spending the days in the Temple area facing the opposition of the religious authorities and teaching, Jesus was back at Bethany on Wednesday night, having dinner at the home of Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3). Passover was only two days away (Mark 14:1), and the same religious authorities were actively planning and scheming as to how they could arrest and then kill Jesus, and thus remove the one they perceived as a threat to their power. They were stymied in their planning, however, by the crowds who might start a riot in the face of an arrest (Mark 14:2). While Jesus was eating, a woman who was there took a container of expensive perfume (worth a year's wages for a common laborer), broke it open and anointed Jesus' head in an act of love and devotion. The disciples, particularly Judas (so says John's gospel. John 12:4-6), were indignant and rebuked the woman as they thought such use of the perfume was a waste as it could have been sold and the proceeds used to help the poor (Mark 14:3-5). Jesus, on the other hand, praised the woman for her act of worship and devotion, and took what she did as preparation of his body for burial (Mark 14:6-8). Then, in what was in effect another prediction of His resurrection, He noted that everywhere the gospel is preached (which presumes His resurrection), what she did would be recounted. No sooner had Jesus said this but Judas left to go to the religious authorities and betray Jesus to them, for which they were pleased (Mark 14:10 & 11). Why did Judas choose to betray Jesus? Neither Mark nor the other gospel records tell us. Perhaps it was greed, as he was known to love money (John 12:6); perhaps it was acute disappointment that Jesus would not become a political Messiah and seek to be crowned king; perhaps he felt and thought the same as the religious authorities, that Jesus was a threat to Israel; or perhaps he thought that by forcing the issue with the religious authorities, Jesus would have to take charge as king. We simply do not know Judas' motive or motives. All we know is that he made up his mind and took the necessary steps to betray Jesus.

The time of the Passover meal was coming, and it had to be eaten in Jerusalem between sundown and midnight. Where would Jesus and the 12 go for the meal? Apparently Jesus had made arrangements as He told two of His disciples (Luke tells us it was Peter and John. Luke 22:8) to go into the city where they would meet a man carrying a container of water who, in turn, would take them to a home where an upper room was prepared for them (Mark 14:12-16). The disciples were then to prepare the actual meal, which they did (Mark 14:16), and Jesus later came with the disciples to the room where they began eating the Passover meal together. As they were eating, Jesus told them that one of their number would betray Him, one who was eating with Him and who would dip food in the bowl with Him (Mark 14:18-20). The 12 were all grieved at Jesus' statement, but in a show of self-doubt and weak faith, each one responded, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19) However, Jesus reaffirmed what He had said and further indicated that what will happen to the Son of Man (i.e., Jesus) is part of God's sovereign plan, but that His betrayer is still personally responsible for his choice to betray Jesus (Mark 14:21).

As they continued the Passover meal, as “head” of His family of disciples, Jesus was the one to speak a special blessing over the bread and wine at the meal. On this occasion, He suffused the typical blessing with new meaning, referring to the bread as His body and the wine as His blood, and indicating that His blood being shed would effectively ratify a new covenant (a promise or contract) of redemption, as it would be poured out for many (Mark 14:24. See also Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; I Corinthians 11:23-25). He also vowed that He would not drink of he fruit of the vine until He did so in the kingdom of God, again a reference to the reality that He was going to die but be resurrected. Luke's gospel provides further details of the meal and the reactions and thinking of the disciples. True to his approach, Mark keeps the story brief and to the point; it was the last supper and it was now time to go back out of the city and to the Mount of Olives. As they left, they sang a hymn. In fact, singing was customary after the Passover meal, and specifically hymns from what was called the “Hallel” which is Psalms 113-118 (Mark 14:26). The words of these Psalms must have given great encouragement to Jesus as He faced His imminent suffering. As they walked, Jesus told his disciples that they would all fall away, quoting Zechariah13:7, but that after He rose from the grave, He would go ahead of them to Galilee (Mark 14:27 & 28), yet another prediction of what was to come. But Peter emphatically denied that he would fall away from Jesus, to which Jesus replied that this very night before the rooster crowed twice, Peter would indeed deny Jesus three times. Peter insisted he would die with Jesus before disowning Him; the others said likewise (Mark 14:29-31).

In these verses, we have Jesus moving towards the cross; the very God of the universe, having limited Himself to human form, was to take on the sin of the world. He, the Lord of all, stooping to being opposed, rejected, and, shortly, tried and murdered. None of those outcomes was deserved; yet they were necessary insofar as accomplishing redemption. Jesus is therefore worthy of worship and devotion. That worship did not come from the crowds when He entered Jerusalem riding on the young donkey; theirs was a misplaced, shallow worship of what they wanted from God, namely freedom from the Roman overlords. That worship certainly did not come from the religious authorities, as they totally rejected Jesus as Messiah and instead sought to do away with Him. That worship didn't even really come from the disciples. Judas set his mind to betray Jesus; the others didn't comprehend what was happening, professed allegiance to Him, yet were full of their own doubts and a weak faith. The only true worship was found in the woman who anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume. She didn't hold back anything from Him, but treated Him as worthy, offering all that she had without reservation. And Jesus accepted that worship because He in fact is worthy, and is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet His pathas King was to the cross where He must offer Himself as the true Passover Lamb,where no one will be with Him in the end, including the heavenly Father. Step by step, the cross is coming, and Jesus did not deviate from the course set before Him, knowing that the outcome would be salvation for all who follow Him.