Mark 11:11

Sermon preached on April 13, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In 73 B.C. some slaves rose up against their Roman masters. The revolt was led by the gladiator, Spartacus of Capua. It quickly gathered momentum and Spartacus and his men won some victories over the Roman armies sent to sudue them. But after two years the Romans finally defeated the rebels and put an end to their uprising. Many of the rebels died in the battle but some were taken alive. The Romans decided that the slaves they captured had forfeited their right to live. In 71 B.C. 6000 of the rebels were crucified along the 120 mile Via Appia, the road from Rome to Capua. That works out to be an average of one slave on a cross every 100 feet for 120 miles.

Why would the Romans do that? It was obviously a warning to slaves and others under Roman control. According to one estimate the percentage of people in Italy who were slaves was approximately 33%. One in every third person was a slave. The Romans didn't want any more slave rebellions. They didn't want slaves disobeying their masters. So they crucified these people and lined them up on the 120 miles of road to put fear into people. It was a visual lesson. Everyone who passed by would see with their own eyes the price that would be extracted from anyone who rebelled against Roman authority.

Visual lessons are important. I've heard that people learn a lot better if in addition to hearing the lesson, they can see it. I sometimes play Sudoku on my iPad and I'm okay at solving some puzzles but there are others that stymie me. I can't figure them out at all. So I did some reading on how to solve them and one technique I read about is called the X-wing method. After I finished reading it I didn't understand it. It didn't help me at all. But then the other day it occurred to me that there might be a YouTube video demonstration of the problem. Sure enough there was and after watching it I understood the technique. I know how to do it now because they showed me.

The Lord's Supper is like that. It's a visible demonstration of our Lord's death and what He did for us and how we feed upon Him, how He is our life. Visual learning is a wonderful tool.

What's interesting about our text is that it gives us an example of Jesus using this technique just before He went to the cross. We read, (Mark 11:11)

"Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple.
He looked around at everything,
but since it was already late, he
went out to Bethany with the Twelve."

Jesus, after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just before He is going to die, goes to the temple and looks at everything.

This is very significant. But he doesn't go there as a tourist, or as someone who is unfamiliar with the temple. He was very familiar with the temple. When He was a boy of 12 his parents took Him to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem and inadvertently left Him in Jerusalem when they left. After 3 days of searching for Him found Him, (Luke 2:46)

"in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions."

So He doesn't go to the temple out of curiosity. James R. Edwards writes, (Mark, PNTC; p. 337)

"The object of Jesus' triumphal procession is not Jerusalem in general but specifically the temple… The long trek 'on the way' from Galilee (8:29) and the ride from the Mount of Olives have brought Jesus to his point of destination, indeed, of destiny. It appears to be the moment for him to receive the messianic kingdom."

Jesus coming to the temple had been predicted in Malachi 3:1 where God said,

"See, I will send my messenger,
who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking
will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant,
whom you desire, will come,' says the Lord Almighty."

Jesus came to the temple, but He came, not with the fanfare that was His when He entered Jerusalem, not with crowds of people—but alone. At first glance it seems completely anticlimactic. James R. Edwards writes, (Mark, PNTC; p. 338)

"Jesus is indeed the Messiah, but he is veiled and unrecognized. Even when he stands at the center of Israel's faith, he stands alone."

The people of God were expecting a great coming of the Messiah to the temple. But Jesus comes alone, to look at everything. There is great symbolism here.

Jesus has arrived to fulfill everything. He has come to die.

Jesus looks around at everything knowing that He is going to fulfill the whole Old Testament sacrificial system. All these things pointed to Him and His work.

What would Jesus have seen at the temple?

There were two main things that stood out.

First, there was the main building which contained the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.

The outer room was the Holy Place. It contained the Altar of Incense, the Table of Shewbread and the seven branched Lampstand. The priests would enter it daily to perform their services.

The inner room was the Holy of Holies. It was the place of God's presence. It originally contained the Ark of the Covenant which contained the two tablets of the Law, some manna from the desert and Aaron's rod that budded. It also contained the mercy seat. This building symbolized God's presence.

Secondly, outside of the main building, in front of it, was the Altar of Burnt Offerings.

It was very large and took up a great deal of space. This would be on the left if you were facing the main building from the front. There was also a small laver next to the Altar of Burnt Offerings for the priests to wash. On the right would be place where the animals would be tethered and next to that would be the place where they were slaughtered.

Jesus would have entered through one of the gates, perhaps the Beautiful Gate and proceeded to the Court of Israel, the court of the men. There He would be right outside the main temple building, next to the place where priests performed their services. He would have been very near to the Altar of Burnt Offering and the place where the sacrificial animals were slaughtered. These things were prominent—the only things there. They would have been the main things He looked at. It is possible that Jesus arrived in time for the evening sacrifice and that He observed the animal being killed and offered.

Thus the two main elements of the temple were the building where God dwelt—and the sacrificial animals and the altar on which the animals were offered.

This was very symbolic. Sin had separated mankind from God. Before they sinned Adam and Eve had walked with God in the Garden of Eden. But after they sinned, when they heard God walking, they hid themselves because they knew they were not fit to dwell with God. Their sin had separated them from God.

But God provided a way back to Himself. The Old Testament temple rituals pointed to that way. It was all about getting back to God, getting reconciled to God. The sacrifices pointed to the removal of the defilement of the people. The animals that were sacrificed had to be without blemish or defect pointing to the fact that God requires perfection. In some sacrifices the worshiper placed his hand on the animal, confessing his sins, transferring them to the animal.

The whole thing harkens back to the sacrifice of Isaac. God told Abraham to take Isaac to Mount Moriah, on which the temple was later built, and offer Isaac there. But God provided a substitute instead. There was a ram caught by its horns and it was offered instead of Isaac.

Under Moses the animal sacrifices were instituted. This carried over to the temple. On the Day of Atonement the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the atonement cover. He had to enter with blood. He showed the people that one day, through the sacrifice of the Messiah, we would have our sins forgiven and be able to dwell in God's presence again.

Jesus knew that the sacrifice that He was about to offer by dying on the cross was what the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament were pointing to. He was aware that He was going to have to offer Himself. The curse for sin is death. In looking over the temple, he would see that central to the worship there was the focus on death. He saw the place for slaughter, the altars. He knew that those things pointed to something greater—to His work. We read about this in Hebrews 10:1–7. It says,

"The law is only a shadow
of the good things that are coming—
not the realities themselves.
For this reason it can never,
by the same sacrifices repeated
endlessly year after year,
make perfect those who draw near to worship.
If it could, would they not have
stopped being offered?
For the worshipers would have been
cleansed once for all, and would no longer
have felt guilty for their sins.
But those sacrifices are
an annual reminder of sins,
because it is impossible for the blood
of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came
into the world, he said:
'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am—
it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God."

The Old Testament temple worship was longing for the One who would bring to an end its frustrations and accomplish what it pointed to. (Vern Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, p. 43) Jesus came and did that. Hebrews 9:12 says,

"He did not enter by means
of the blood of goats and calves;
but he entered the Most Holy Place
once for all by his own blood,
having obtained eternal redemption."

The very moment that Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the temple, the one separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus' work opened up the way to God, once and for all.

So what we should understand from our text is that Jesus came to the temple as no other ever came. He came as God's servant, to do the one thing that could save human beings—He came to die on behalf of His people. He came to fulfill all the Old Testament sacrifices. He came as a Lamb to the slaughter. The ordinary lambs that were brought to the temple to be slaughter had no idea what was going to happen to them. But Jesus came, deliberately, purposefully, thoughtfully—and looked around at everything, and visually learned what He had to do.

Now what does this mean for us?

First of all, we see that

Jesus is the only way to God, the only way of salvation.

You should all understand that your works can never get you into heaven.

Your good works can never reconcile you to God. The curse of sin is death. Death was required. A major part of the temple area, the area just outside the entrance into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies—was about death. The temple worship shows us that you couldn't just come into God's presence any way that you wanted. God's presence was most manifested in the Holy of Holies. The High Priest could only enter there, once a year, and only with blood. Blood was required. Hebrews 9:7 says,

"But only the high priest entered the inner room,
and that only once a year, and never without blood,
which he offered for himself
and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance."

He never entered without blood. Death is required to have your sins forgiven. The Passover celebration also shows us this. In order for the family to be spared, blood had to be put on the doorposts. Death is required to be reconciled to God. It had to be that way because the wages of sin is death. It was essential for salvation. As Hebrews 9:22 says,

"without the shedding of blood
there is no forgiveness."

Christians, don't trust in your works. It's wonderful that you have good works. But they don't save you. Jesus saves you. His work saves you. Rejoice in Him. Delight in His completed, perfect and magnificent work. Trust in Jesus, in His work to save you.

For those who are not Christians, I ask you, on what are you basing your hope for the future? Is it your works? They're not good enough. Is it your worth as a person? You're not good enough. Sin has ruined everything that has to do with you. For you to be reconciled to God death is required. The choice before you is simple and stark—your eternal death, or life in Jesus because of His death. He died in place of sinners. He alone can save you. Go to Him and receive life eternal.

The second lesson we learn from our text is that

Jesus embraced His Father's will and this means that you should embrace God's will for your life.

Taking the punishment for our sins greatly troubled Jesus. In Luke 12:50 He said,

"But I have a baptism to undergo,
and how distressed I am until it is completed!"

And in John 12:27–28 Jesus said,

"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
No, it was for this very reason
I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!"

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was greatly troubled as our sins were laid on His account. In Luke 22:44 we read,

"And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood
falling to the ground."

And in Matthew 26:38 we are told that Jesus said to His disciples,

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow
to the point of death."

He asked to be delivered from it, saying, (Matthew 26:39)

"My Father, if it is possible,
may this cup be taken from me."

Yet there was submission to God's will. He continued,

"Yet not as I will, but as you will."

But there was no other way for human beings to be saved. He was the only One who could save them. Thus He embraced the Father's will for Him. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus as He began His ministry, he said, (John 1:29)

"Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!"

Jesus went to the cross as a lamb to the slaughter. As we read in Isaiah 53:7,

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is
silent, so he did not open his mouth."

Jesus embraced God's will. He went to the temple and looked at the things that pointed to death. Jesus looked at all these things, and they confirmed to Him that He had to die. He then embraced God's will for Him.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and He saw them coming to arrest him, He got up and went to meet them. (Matthew 26:45-46) When He asked them who they wanted—they all shrank back and fell on the ground. (John 18:6) Jesus did not run away. When Peter took his sword and started fighting, Jesus told him to put it away. He refused to ask His father for 12 legions of angels to rescue Him. When He was brought before Pilate, He refused to ask Pilate to spare His life.

This past Thursday I went in to the County Jail and I asked the guys if they would like to sit down with the judge and plead their cases—they said they would all jump at the opportunity. But Jesus wasn't like that. Pilate was amazed that Jesus refused to answer some of his questions. He said to Jesus, (John 19:10)

"Do you refuse to speak to me?
Don't you realize I have power
either to free you or to crucify you?"

When He was mocked on the cross and they urged Him to save Himself, when they urged Him to come down from the cross, He would not.

In the future God may very likely ask you to do something very difficult. When that time comes, it's okay to ask Him to take it away—to take away your sickness, your suffering, or to put you in a better situation—but if He does not, you need to embrace His will and glorify Him in that difficulty. As Job said in Job 13:15,

"Though he slay me,
yet will I hope in him;"

Thirdly, our text shows us that,

in dying for us, Jesus did it deliberately.

He did it thoughtfully, contemplatively.

This shows us that we need to prepare to face horrors in our lives.

We need to be ready to face them thoughtfully, realistically.

One of the problems with the health and wealth gospel is that it leaves Christians vulnerable when troubles upon them. It tells Christians that things are going to go well for them and when things do not, they have doubts and are not well prepared to cope with the difficulties.

Christian, you need to prepare for difficulties. The Bible tells us to get ready for suffering. 1 Peter talks at length about suffering for being a Christian. In Revelation 13 we see that the beast out of the sea will be given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. Revelation 13:10 says,

"If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed."

Then it says,

"This calls for patient endurance and
faithfulness on the part of the saints."

Jesus prepared for the horrors that we ahead of Him. He thought about them beforehand.

I remember one time when N. was going to have major surgery and we basically didn't talk about the surgery beforehand. But looking back on it I think I should have prepared her for how horrible she would feel when she woke up after the surgery. I think she was surprised at how bad she felt when she woke up. I should have told her beforehand that that was the way she would feel and that it was normal, that it didn't mean that the surgery had gone wrong. What you don't know can hurt you.

I have been through lots of surgeries and they're all different, but one of the things that I know about surgeries is that with some of them, not all of them, but with some of them, when you wake up in the recovery room—you feel the worst that you've ever felt in your life. If you're not prepared for it, it's a shock that can really upset you. For example, I've had 5 or 6 surgeries on my nose and after one of the surgeries I remember waking up in the recovery room. I was very groggy and wow, did my head around my nose hurt. I felt like someone had hit me in the face with a sledgehammer. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that I thought I was blind. I couldn't see anything. Everything was black. I remember thinking,

"Well, maybe my eyes are just closed."

So I tried with all my might to open my eyes, I opened them as wide as I could—and that didn't help at all. Everything was still pitch black—nothing but blackness. I thought that something must have gone wrong with the surgery and that they had damaged my optic nerves or something and that I was blind.

But then the nurse came over and took the ice bag off my face. Then I could see. My head was so sore that I hadn't even realized that there was an ice bag on my face. I had no idea.

My point is that in some circumstances, if you know what something is like, it can prepare you for it and help you get through it.

This shows us that

we need to think about difficulties to come in order to count the cost.

Jesus counted the cost. The Father had a job for Him to do. He knew it was going to be a very difficult job. He went to the temple and looked around at everything—perhaps especially the slaughter area and the altar of burnt offering. He looked His task in the eye and prepared for it.

Have you prepared yourself for suffering for Jesus? Have you steeled yourself for it? Hebrews 12:4 says that in our struggle against sin we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Hebrews 12:2–3 says,

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured
the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Hebrews 12:7 urges us to,

"Endure hardship as discipline;"

Hebrews 12:12 tells Christians to,

"strengthen your feeble arms
and weak knees."

All these things are telling you to prepare yourself for hardship.

Jesus prepared Himself to serve God. He knew what it would involve. He counted the cost and endured the cross. We need to do the same. May God give us grace to do so.