Man on a Mission
If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and turn to Mark 11:1-33. We’re not going to read ALL 33 verses this morning, but this is the fuller picture of what we’re going to talk about. If you’re new with us, we’ve been in a series getting back to the most basic, fundamental questions of faith: Who is Jesus? and What does He want with me? This isn’t about religion, the institutional church, or some religious organization. What we’re wrestling with is this: Do we really know who Jesus was when He walked the earth, and do we really know who He is as Lord and Savior? If we can’t answer those questions, we’re always going to find confusion in our faith, and we are going to get far more attached to “church-ianity” than “Christianity,” because “church-ianity” is tangible—there are buildings, programs, worship services, children’s ministry. And coming from someone who has been in the church industry all his life, I’m telling you, it is very easy to put the cart before the horse. We begin to use Jesus as a means to prop up our religious practices rather than using our religious practices as a means to a deeper relationship with Jesus!
Now, we’re not the only ones in history who have ever done that. This very same thing was going on in Judaism in the first century in Palestine. Many people put the cart of religion before the horse of a deeper relationship with God. But all along, God was, and is, calling people to Himself in a powerful, freeing, life-changing relationship, and “religion” was simply a tool to help people de-clutter their lives from things that get in the way of that!
But just like many Christians today, many religious folks in Jesus’ day thought the end goal was keeping the law and being religious. Now, you throw that into the mix of a politically, militarily, and economically oppressed people, as the Jews of the first century in Palestine were, then no wonder people are going to use religion and even the hope of a Messiah as a means to an even different end in their minds. The end wasn’t a deep relationship with God that would last into eternity. The end was political freedom from the Roman oppressors! The end was putting food on the table and not being humiliated by Roman soldiers every time you walked down the street! So the coming of the Messiah wasn’t about something so ethereal as a relationship with God—no, the coming of the Messiah was about real life, tangible, practical things that really counted.
Now, I get that. Don’t you? What difference does it make to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, which Jesus said is the most important commandment of all, if your children are starving? In people’s minds, physical bread was far more important than grasping the idea that Jesus is the Bread of Life!
So, it’s into this climate that Jesus was born—Son of God, who healed the sick and made the blind see; who fed the 5,000 and had power over demons. All of these miraculous signs did not go unnoticed. People began to wonder if maybe Jesus truly was the Messiah—not the kind of Messiah who just helped us get close to God—but the Messiah who would do something practical like overthrow the Romans and re-establish the throne of David! This is the setting that’s found in Mark 11, and this helps us understand why the crowds did what they did in these verses. Let’s take a look at together. Would you stand with me out of respect for the reading of God’s Word? Mark 11:1-11.
The give away of how people perceived Jesus riding into Jerusalem is actually not found in the text but in the little heading over the text. In your Bibles there are those little headings, which aren’t part of the inspired text by the way—they’re little notes just to help us in our study of the text. And the one over Mark 11, at least in my Bible says, “The Triumphal Entry.” So, does this look very triumphant to you? Jesus comes riding into town on a…donkey. And the crowds of people are spreading their cloaks on the road and palm branches as a decorated path for Jesus—hence the Sun. before Easter is called, “Palm Sunday.” And people are 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!” Then Jesus enters the temple, and in Mark’s account, He has a look around, and since it’s already late, He goes out to Bethany (a small town right outside of Jerusalem) with the twelve.
So, here’s my question: What makes this a “Triumphal Entry”? A donkey and some palm branches? You’re not going to overthrow the most powerful military the world had ever known up to that point with a donkey, some palm branches, and twelve foot soldiers!
Well, here’s what made this a triumphal entry. Based on all that Jesus had done up to this point, you know, like healing people, having power over demons, I mean things that no one else had ever done before—based on all of that, people saw Jesus as a Man on a Mission—the Messiah, no less, but, and here’s the key: the mission they projected onto Jesus WASN’T His mission.
Here’s how they were interpreting this: Back in Zechariah 9:9 we read this, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jersualem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a cold, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
They had been waiting for hundreds of years, and now the time has come! Jesus shows up already having done things no one else has ever done, and what is He riding? A donkey! “Behold, your king is coming to you!” The crowds are going wild!! No wonder they’re shouting out, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
So, just think about this for a moment. Do you think Jesus knew what was going on? Or was He just blindly riding on a donkey, coming into Jerusalem, and all of sudden He’s shocked by all these people waving palm branches? Of course, He knew what He was doing! Here’s what He was doing in this monumental event: Jesus was saying, “Yes, you are right. I am the Messiah. But you’ve got the wrong mission.” They had the right PERSON but the wrong MISSION.
Jesus was a Man on a mission, but not their mission. And that’s the fundamental mistake Christians have made all through the centuries, right up to now. Do you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Yes, and we’re going to use His mighty name to go kill the infidels in the Crusades. Do you believe Jesus is the Messiah? Yes, and we’re going to use His mighty name to create terror through the Inquisition. Yes, and we’re going to use His mighty name to establish our own kingdoms or to get rich or to make me healthy, happy and wealthy.
This is what makes the rest of Mark 11 so interesting. Here Jesus just entered Jerusalem amidst all these high expectations that now He will be the “Triumphant One,” and then Jesus starts doing these things that are not quite so triumphant. Look at the three things that happen next in Mark 11.
1. Jesus curses a fig tree (Mark 11:12-14, 20-26)
2. Jesus cleanses the temple (Mark 11:15-19)
3. Jesus doesn’t claim His authority before religious rulers (Mark 11:20-33)
What do any of these things have to do with overthrowing the Romans and being the “Triumphant One”? Absolutely nothing. Why? Because the people’s mission wasn’t Jesus’ mission! He cursed the fig tree to teach His disciples. He cleansed the temple to show how askew religion had gotten. And when asked by what authority Jesus did these things, He basically said, in v. 33, “I’m not going to tell you.”
Is it any wonder why Judas may have betrayed Jesus? Perhaps He wanted to try to force Jesus’ hand to be the Triumphant Messiah. Jesus wasn’t fitting into Judas’ mission for Him. Jesus had this golden opportunity in vv. 1-11, and now He’s just wasting it! It’s slipping away. But that’s only in the minds of those who had a different mission for Jesus. They wanted Him to be a different kind of Messiah.
Now, think real hard about this in your life. Let’s get real personal.
1. What mission have YOU given Jesus?
Are you wanting Jesus to be your personal Triumphant One to solve all your problems, give you that better job, give you a better salary so you can still function in your own self-absorption? And then if Jesus doesn’t fulfill the mission you’ve given Him, and your spouse still dies, or you don’t get that pay raise, then what? Do you do what many in the crowds did a week later to Jesus? On Sunday they’re shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” And five days later they’re shouting, “Crucify Him!” Are you putting the cart before the horse? Are you using Jesus or are you worshiping Jesus? Is He the end goal or a means to your own personal ends?
What mission have you given Jesus?
Now, here’s just one other question to probe deep into your soul:
2. Are you willing to surrender everything to Jesus and HIS mission?
He is a Man on a mission, but His mission is not to make us happy. His mission is to make us holy and to prepare us for His Triumphant Kingdom, but that Kingdom is not of this world. His mission is to make us complete, whole, fully known and fully knowing HIM. What if He is allowing you to go through a season of suffering, because He is refining you? Maybe He is burning away things from your life so that you become more like Him. Are you willing to surrender to Jesus if that’s His mission for your life right now?
What if Jesus’ mission is for you to reach out to that person you can’t stand, or to forgive that person who deeply wounded you, or to love that person who is so different than you? Well, guess what? It is. The question is, Are you willing to surrender to Jesus and His mission for your life? Not later. Now. This week. Go and be reconciled. Seek forgiveness. Apologize. Say, “I’m sorry.” Forgive. Say, “I forgive you.” Love that crazy teenager who lives next door to you and plays his drums until 2 am, and it’s driving you berserk! And teenager, love that old lady who always scowls at you every time you walk outside to jump in your car and crank up your music. Business leader, don’t compromise on your core convictions even if your partners tell you it’s no big deal and you’ll make an extra $20,000 commission.
Jesus the Messiah is no genie in a bottle to grant our three wishes! Jesus the Messiah is no Santa Claus to gift-wrap our temporal happiness. Jesus the Messiah is the Triumphant One who suffered and died for you and me, He defeated death, He conquered the grave, and one day He will come back as the King of kings and Lord of lords! Until then He is far more concerned about transforming us into Kingdom people than giving us a new bass boat! We are living in an age where we can no longer compromise, we can no longer fly under the radar, and we can no longer preach and live out a cheap grace! We are called to be the most loving and caring people on planet earth who walk the talk and live our lives defined by the Christ and not by our culture!
So let’s go out of here today with a Kingdom mind-set as people who follow this Man on a Mission. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so through word AND deed. May there be a revival in our souls that makes it all the way to our minds, our mouths and our hands. And if we live this Kingdom life after this Man on a Mission, this church building won’t be able to hold the number of people the Lord would bring, because that’s what people are looking for—authenticity that’s turning this world upside down, and Lord, may it begin here in this place, right now. Amen!