Saturday, October 17, 2020

Full Yet Empty - Mark 11:1-11 - October 18, 2020

These are the Sermon Notes for October 18th, 2020. We are meeting at the church with limited seating and specific procedures and protocols that need to be followed. Read our Returning to Worship plan here. You can still watch our livestream service every Sunday at 9:37 am on our facebook page or watch the livestream recordings any time.

 Mark 11:1-11 Full Yet Empty

Good morning! We knew it was coming, we knew it was bound to happen. Eventually, if you’re studying the Gospels you’re going to have to deal with texts that are reserved for holidays. Does it really feel like Eastertime to you? Palm Sunday is supposed to come with palm leaves not falling leaves!

Well, we are going to look at the events of Palm Sunday regardless of whether or not it’s actually the Easter season in Mark 11:1-11, page 847 in the pew Bibles.

I admit that it’s hard enough to deal with this event once a year, but of course it’s 2020 so we might as well do it twice!

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 

11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Let’s pray.

Of course, this is an incredibly important event. Jesus is fulfilling prophecy here, words from the Lord given through the prophets hundreds and hundreds of years prior to these events.

Zechariah 9:9 says,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Matthew quotes that verse in his Gospel. 

Jesus riding the foal of a donkey tied Him directly to King David who famously a donkey into the city of Jerusalem as well as his sons after him when they were anointed king. In the Old Testament it was only young, unblemished animals that had never been used for labor that were used for sacred purposes. And also, covering the donkey’s foal with coats instead of a saddle once again testified to the humility of Christ the King.

But the words of Psalm 118 were also being fulfilled.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 12 They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, 16 the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18 The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 [Hosanna] O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. 29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

These words were finding their fulfillment in Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and in the events of the week that followed.

Also, the words of Psalm 2:1-6 describe what was happening in a little more of a cosmic sense.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

God the father set Jesus, His Son, as King on the holy hill of Mount Zion. That’s the hill that the Temple sat on. This is exactly what was happening when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey that day.

A humble King, more powerful that any king that ever lived, set in place, not in a palace but on the holy hill of Mount Zion. No fancy parade with pomp and circumstance and trumpets, but with the shouts of the poor and humble, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!”

It seems like every year on Palm Sunday I end up saying things like, “Jesus wasn’t the kind of king that the people were expecting,” and, “the people wanted a political Messiah not a spiritual Messiah.”

These statements are true, the expectations of the Jewish people then were for a political savior; not that people’s opinions are much different nowadays.

But what struck me in my study of these verses this time is actually the last verse in our text.

Jesus enters the city on a donkey like king David did, not with royal trumpets but with the shouts of humble villagers, and instead of marching to the palace to kick out the Romans, He doesn’t go to find Pilate in order to depose him, He went to the Temple.

11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

On the surface, this has got to be the most anticlimactic thing that Jesus could have done. In fact, it seems like Jesus didn’t do anything. He went into the Temple, looked around for a while, and left. No speech, no battle, nothing!

So in looking at that verse, I think we are left with a question: What do you suppose Jesus was looking for? And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

What was He looking for?

Now we know from the verses that follow this what He found. He found the Temple full, full of people, full of activity, there were priests and scribes and sacrifices, people buying pigeons in order to sacrifice them, people exchanging currency in order to make offerings. The Temple was full…but empty. 

He found the Temple full of people, full of activity, full of sacrifices, but empty of faith, empty of true worship.

The Temple once stood as a symbol of God’s presence among His people, but here it stood as a symbol of empty and lifeless religion. Jesus went to the Temple and looked around to see if he could find faith, and He found none.

It’s no wonder that he left and went back to Bethany with His disciples.

I also wonder if this doesn’t stand as a warning to us, His Church, His Church with a capital “C.”

Is the Church of Jesus Christ full of people but empty of faith, full of activity, but empty of true worship?

That’s a big question, maybe too big for us, but does the Church of Jesus Christ start with the masses and work its way down to the individual? No, it starts with each of us.

When Jesus surveys His Church what will He see, what will He find? Full of people but empty of faith? Full of activity but empty of worship?

I can’t answer for the whole Church, capital “C,” I can’t hardly answer for this church, little “c,” but I do pray that when Jesus looks around at everything here that He doesn’t find empty religious practices, or hollow, meaningless traditions, but He would see us as we are, humble sinners who love Him and love each other, totally dependent on His grace, understanding that His death on the cross was for us, that His body and blood were given in our place that by His grace through faith in Him we are saved to the glory of God the Father.

And in remembrance of His sacrifice for us, we are going to partake in Communion for the first time in a long time, way too long!

You were each given a little Communion set on the way in but if you didn’t get one just put your hand up and someone will make sure you get one.

…The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Let’s return thanks and then eat the bread and drink the cup and so, proclaim the Lord’s death for us.