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The King and the Colt



It’s easy to miss the significance of a moment if you don’t understand the symbolism. In this talk, Ben Stuart continues our series in the Gospel of Mark by explaining the significance and rich symbolism of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11. We see that Jesus is the true King that can bring transformation— not just in biblical times, but in our lives today too.

Key Takeaway

Jesus has a vision, and He is on the move. He is the King that you cannot ignore, but He is also not what you expect. He is the true King who will transform your heart.

Jesus has been marching towards His fate and teaching His disciples along the way.

This passage contains a massive turn in His life as He is now just days away from His death. Jesus has chosen now to ride into the holy city.

Of note, Mark 1-10 covers approximately 3 years of the life of Jesus. The rest of the book will cover one week. Everything has been leading up to this moment.

The beginning of Chapter 11 will only make sense if we understand there are cultural gaps and symbolism we need to be aware of.

Jesus is grabbing some profound cultural symbols to make a declaration to the city: He is the King who wants to love them and lead them. The Triumphal Entry is a declaration of who He is, what He can do, why He can do it, and how He can do it.

Tim Keller separated these into categories of the True King, Transformational King, Paradoxical King, and Confrontational King. Ben will reference those as he teaches through the text.

The True King

Mark 11:1- Bethany was a suburb on the Mount of Olives, and Jesus used it as a staging ground. He can see Jerusalem from there. In Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel sees a vision of the glory of God filling the Temple in Jerusalem, but then he sees it leave because God wouldn't tolerate the worship of pagan gods and child sacrifice by His Children whom He had rescued, nurtured, blessed and entered into a holy covenant with that they had grievously violated. In verse 26, the glory of God exited the Temple, went out the east gate of the city, and stood on an eastern mountain, the Mount of Olives. The glory left, and judgment came; the people of God ended up in exile. In Ezekiel 43, he prophesied that there would be a day that the Lord would redeem and rescue them. The glory of God would return from the east back to Jerusalem and into the Temple.

So it is a really big deal that Jesus, the glory of God, is coming into the city from the eastern mountain, through the eastern gate, into Jerusalem, and into the Temple. God's glory has returned.

The Transformational King

11:2-7- So far, Jesus has been reacting to people, but now He's very purposeful. He has a vision, and everything has to proceed in a particular way. A lot of energy is directed towards a colt. Why?

Jesus walked everywhere, but now He's riding in. A triumph was like a parade where the king would be applauded by the people. He is making a declaration of authority. He asks for a donkey that has never been used for a common purpose because that was the requirement for sacrifices.

Jesus refers to Himself as "the Lord" for the first time, asserting His authority again. In Genesis 49:10, it was prophesied that the scepter, or rule of Judah, would never come to an end until it got to its rightful King...who would ride in on a colt. All the way back to Genesis, we can trace the lineage of Christ, and now His time has come. The scepter belongs to Him.

The people recognized this and started quoting Psalm 118, a Messianic psalm. When they are saying, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" they are saying the King has arrived, the Messiah is here, and the one we have been waiting for has come! We all want this. We all want a hero. Someone noble who will take care of business and us while bringing peace. It is deep in our DNA to look for Jesus.

We will serve something; let it be Jesus. He's not going to Lord His weight over you. He wants to love and bless you. He's not a cruel King, He's a liberating King. His ruling power does something beautiful to you. How do you know? Because He was able to ride an unridden animal through a screaming crowd, and it rode in peace. He didn't have to break it, He liberated it from its fear. Isaiah 11 says that out of David's line will come a savior and bring peace to those that were against each other, the lion and the lamb. He's the transformational King over everything, including the animals.

The Paradoxical King

A Roman triumph would have been huge and extravagant, with total focus on the king. Jesus rides in on a little donkey. The King of Kings is making a statement. He juxtaposes majesty and meekness, power, and weakness. Matthew 21 quotes a prophecy that this action fulfills.

Zechariah 9 is a prophecy concerning Alexander the Great long before he was born. He is the king of the north that decimates city after city as he moves south. However, Zechariah prophesied that Jerusalem would be protected, and when Alexander was shown that passage by a rabbi when he came to destroy it, it scared him, and he left Jerusalem alone. Zechariah takes that moment to say, "Rejoice, your King has come. He has salvation in His hand, and He is gentle. He comes mounted on a donkey." Jesus fulfills that prophecy.

Revelation 5 speaks of a lion and a lamb that was slain. Jesus is both. The lion has strength and majesty, and a lamb excels in meekness and sacrifice.

It was customary for the king to ride into town and go to the Temple to either sacrifice or wreak havoc. Jesus sets up shop there for Passover week. He shuts things down because He is the Passover Lamb. Our King gave all for us. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, it says that Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. He will bring the judgment of God, the justice we long for against all sin, but He makes a way to save us as well. Sin is servants putting themselves in the place of the King. Salvation is the King putting himself in the place of the servant.

The Confrontational King

The ride is a declaration. He shut everything down. You have to deal with Jesus. He came on purpose. The people greeted Jesus with robes and palm branches. The palm branches represented the King setting up his dynasty. Robes were for royalty. "Hosanna" means "save us". It was a plea that became adulation: God will save us. They are shouts of triumph. It's a big deal! The Messiah is here, and He's forcing the authorities to face it. This is why Mark 10:46 is a major moment when Bartimaeus calls Him "Son of David"; it's a Messianic term, and Jesus answered to it.

Jesus went into the Temple like an owner. Malachi 3:1-2 asks who can endure when the Messiah comes to the Temple. We will learn next week how Jesus handles what is going on there.

The crowd thinks Jesus is a political leader who will overthrow Rome and give them freedom, but Jesus is fighting a bigger battle. The people will turn on Him when they see He is not waging a worldly war. The crowd is quoting Psalm 118:26, but they don't understand that he is the sacrifice bound to the altar in verse 27.

The first coming of Jesus was His coming with grace and sacrifice. His second coming will be in power. Jesus pushes the issue with His entry. You either will crown Him or Kill Him, but you can't ignore Him.


"In the midst of the excited crowd, an unbroken animal remained calm under the hand of the one who calmed the sea."


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Scripture References

  • Mark 10:46-11:11
  • Ezekiel 11
  • Malachi 3:1-2
  • 1 Corinthians 5:7
  • Isaiah 11
  • Psalm 118:26-27
  • Ezekiel 45
  • Genesis 49:10
  • Zechariah 9
  • Matthew 21
  • Revelation 5
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.