From the triumphant entry of Jesus (Mark 11:8-11) we see three practical principles of worship.
Jesus is worthy of worship. He is worth all the praise you can give Him. The Bible says God seeks worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth. There are a lot of things in your life that want and demand your affection, commitment, and dedication. This world offers many attractive things that you will be tempted to substitute for God. But there is only one God. That one God deserves your praise and thanksgiving. He deserves your undivided attention. He is a loving God so praise Him. He is an all-powerful God so depend on Him. He is an all-knowing God so trust Him. He is an ever-present God so follow Him. He is a merciful God so go to Him. He is a God who hears, so talk to Him. He is a compassionate God, so cast your cares and worries upon Him. He is a great God, so worship Him.
Get up every day determined to show this world how great He is. Walk faithfully, humbly and confidently with your God throughout the day. Let Him love you and love through you. Let Him speak to you and through you. Let Him bless you and bless through you.
Today, we are going to see some people who worshipped Jesus. They declared His praises. From them and Jesus we see some lessons about worship we need to consider today. Look with me at Mark 11:1.
As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” 4 The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. 5 As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it. 8 Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!” 11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples. (NLT)
Let’s set the scene. Jesus arrives in Bethany.
According to the gospel of John, Jesus has recently raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany (John 11:1-44), which was only two miles away from Jerusalem.
This is when the religious leaders officially decided to kill Jesus (John 11:53). Jesus leaves Bethany for a short while and then comes back. As people began to hear that Jesus and the man He raised from the dead were back in Bethany, people from all around including Jerusalem descended on the little town of Bethany (John 12:17-18). John tells us something interesting in John 12:9, “When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead.10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, 11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus” (vs. 9-11, NLT). In addition, “the leading priests and Pharisees had publicly ordered that anyone seeing Jesus must report it immediately so they could arrest him” (John 11:57, NLT).
Jesus and Lazarus have been placed on the most wanted list. Excitement and tension were in the air.
So the day arrives for Jesus to officially enter Jerusalem in what we call the triumphant entry. Jesus tells two of His disciples to go get a donkey in a nearby village. They bring the donkey to Jesus. He sits on it and starts riding.
This brings us to Mark 11:8, our focal passage and from it we see three valuable lessons about worship.
Worship is an act of surrender
First, worship is an act of surrender. No matter who or what you worship, you are surrendering yourself to that person or object. Worship is a declaration of submission. We see many people demonstrating their willingness to serve and place themselves under the authority of Jesus in verse 8 where Mark tells us, Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Two things.
Some of the people were taking off some of their garments and coats and laying them on the road ahead of him. This was a customary way of expressing submission to a ruler or king. It was a symbolic act demonstrating the king was elevated above the common people and they were willingly placing themselves under his authority and rule. It was an act that demonstrated surrender and submission.
This was a physical gesture of reverence. It indicated their willingness for Jesus to have everything they owned – even to trample their property if He so desired. They were demonstrating their willingness to sacrifice whatever they had for His Kingdom.
Not all of them were wealthy. Most people didn’t have several sets of clothing like we do today. For some of these people, the coats and outer garments would have been their only one. Laying them before Jesus as He is riding the donkey risk the garment becoming torn, ripped, or stained beyond repair making it unwearable. Their willingness to risk such a great loss reflected the honor they were seeking to give Jesus, who they believed was their coming King.
As God’s people, our worship of Him should be an act of surrender, of placing ourselves under his feet, under his authority. Everything you have is to be dedicated to Him. Your money, your time, your relationships, your ministry, and your hobbies. Worship is laying all of that before Him to use as He sees fit.
Some placed their garments on the ground in front of Jesus, while others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields before His path. These leafy branches and palm branches (John 12:13) symbolized joy and victory. When you combine all this together you have a worship that is filled with surrender, joy, and victory. It is a worship that is filled with hope, optimism, and celebration.
In 1 Chronicles 29:11 a worshiper of God said, “O Lord,… may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things” (NLT). God is over all things. Surrender to Him. Worship Him. It’s in the middle of that atmosphere of worship you will find true life and meaning.
Worship is an act of praise
Not only is worship an act of surrender, it is also an act of praise. To give someone praise is to tell them and others how good they are or to declare something wonderful they have done. To praise someone is to honor them and give them glory. Praise comes with admiration, respect and approval. Look at what Mark says in verse 9, Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!” Let me give you some lessons on praise that we all need to remember.
Praise places Jesus in the center
Number one, praise places Jesus in the center. Mark tells us that Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting…. The literal translation of this reads, “those who went in front and those who followed were shouting” (NASB).
This was an antiphonal (an-tif-ah-null) chant between those in front of Jesus and those behind Jesus. This antiphonal chant would go something like this.
- The group in front would yell: “Praise God!
- The group in the back would shout: “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
- The group in the front would respond: “Praise God in the highest heaven!”
- The group in the back would respond: “Blessing on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!”
You have this massive crowd of people in front of Jesus and back of Jesus and people standing along the sides of the road. You have them shouting Jesus’ praise as the procession moves toward Jerusalem and into the city. Anyone who was in or near Jerusalem could not have missed this event.[i] The praise by the group in the front was encouraging the group in the back and the group in the back, their praise was encouraging the group in the front. It was contagious praise. There was enthusiasm and energy in this spontaneous worship service.
This reminds me of a time I was at a Promise Keepers rally several years ago. There were about 70,000 men in the stadium. Spontaneously, a group of men on one side of the stadium started shouting, “We love Jesus, yes we do, we love Jesus how about you?” Then the side I was on responded back with the same, “We love Jesus, yes we do, we love Jesus how about you?” It became louder and louder and louder. This went on for about ten minutes, this declaration of love for our Lord. One side of the stadium was encouraging the other and Jesus was at the heart of this praise.
Listen to me, you can praise and worship Jesus anywhere. You can praise Him on the golf course, you can worship Him on the lake, and you can exalt Him in your backyard. But there is something about being with other believers and them hearing you worship the Lord and you hearing them praising your God. We need each other. I need to hear you praising the Lord and you need to hear me declaring His greatness. It doesn’t matter if you sound great or you sound bad, let’s praise Him together. Let’s worship Him together. Let’s motivate and inspire one another to worship our incredible and awesome God.
Praise acknowledges who Jesus is
Praise not only places Jesus at the center, but it also declares who Jesus is. Take a look at what they are saying in verse 9, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!” There are four statements about Jesus in these praises by the people.
- Praise Jesus because He is your Savior
The first statement declares Jesus as the Savior. The phrase “praise God!” is usually translated “hosanna.”[ii] It is an Aramaic word that means “save us!” As the people were shouting out hosanna they were declaring Jesus as a savior over and over and over again.[iii] At this point they were not thinking about Jesus as a Savior from sin, but a savior from the Roman Empire. They were seeing Jesus as an earthly messiah. Whether they knew it or not they were prophetically declaring Jesus for who He truly was, a Savior. Many of them would eventually understand that He came to rescue them from sin, but that would happen after the resurrection (John 12:16). Jesus knew they didn’t fully understand who He was or what He was about, but He let them praise Him anyway. He knew many of them would become born again later, understand more, and their worship would be more accurate.
As followers of Jesus, we need to be reminded that Jesus is our Savior and that He saved us from our sin. He is your Savior. If you have placed your faith in Him for salvation then you have been saved from the penalty of sin, you are being saved from the power of sin, and you will be saved from the presence of sin. That is called justification, sanctification, and glorification. As the people of God, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus is our Savior and worthy of praise. Your understanding of all that may not be complete and much of that is still a little foggy, but don’t let what you don’t know stop you from worshiping the Lord. If all you know is, Jesus saved you, praise Him!
- Praise Jesus because He is Sent
The second statement declares Jesus as being sent. The phrase, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord” is a quote from Psalm 118 (vs.25-26).[iv] It refers to a person who has been traveling and is approaching and entering the temple sanctuary and is blessed by God because they come from God. This is the way the crowd was acknowledging that Jesus had been sent by God. Again, their understanding of all this is not complete because the resurrection has not happened yet. They still have a lot to learn.
For us today, when we talk about Jesus being sent by God, we are referring to the incarnation of God. God becoming human. Jesus is sent by God to save us, rescue us, redeem us, and bring true life to us.
Back in Mark 9 Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me” (v.37, NLT). The Heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross so that you could have eternal life and abundant life. Because of this He is worthy of all our praise.
- Praise Jesus because He is King
The third statement declares Jesus as King. When the people were shouting, “Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!” they were calling out to God to bless Jesus and His coming kingdom.
Even though Jesus taught about His kingdom often[v], the people’s mindset was on an earthly kingdom rather than a heavenly kingdom. If you look closer at what they were saying it reveals they were thinking about a physical kingdom rather than a spiritual kingdom. They were shouting “Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” It literally reads, “of our father David” (NASB). They were thinking back to the glory days of King David and they were wanting and expecting Jesus to bring back David’s kind of kingdom. In their limited and confused view, they were still declaring Jesus as King.
Let’s be fair here. His heavenly and spiritual kingdom would become much more clear after the resurrection. As believers today, we have the entire story. We have the beginning, middle and end. When Jesus started His earthly ministry back in Mark 1, His first message was about the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15).
As you worship the Lord, you can declare Him as your King. The King of your heart, your mind, your life, and everything else in your life. He is your ruler! This King loves you! So worship Him.
- Praise Jesus because He is Supreme
The fourth statement declared Jesus as supreme. To say “praise God in highest heaven” or “hosanna in the highest” refers to the God who is above all. He is supreme. He is exalted over everyone and everything! He is the Most High! Praise God in highest heaven! There is no one above Him, everyone is below Him. He deserves all the praise, not some of it and not most of it. All of it! He is the God in highest heaven.[vi] Because He is supreme we are to worship and praise Him.
Most of the people in the crowd did not fully understand who Jesus was. They were still thinking very earthly about Jesus. Their knowledge of Him was incomplete, but they still worshipped Him. They still praised Him. You may not understand everything about God being sovereign and omnipotent. But you still need to declare and praise Him as your sovereign God who is in control. You may not fully understand Him being your Savior, but you still need to praise Him as your Savior and Redeemer. Go ahead and praise Him for who He is. Go ahead and declare, “God you are my Savior, my King, and you are supreme. God you are holy, righteous, and perfectly wise. You know everything about me and still love me. You are a forgiving God, a loving God, a merciful God, a God of justice, and a God of peace. You are worthy of my praise. You are beyond my comprehension and understanding. I don’t have to know everything about you to know you are awesome and worthy of my praise.”
Worship is an act of examination
So far, we have seen worship is an act of surrender and an act of praise, but we also see worship is an act of examination. Notice what Jesus does in verse 11, So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples. As Jesus was entering Jerusalem, He was surrounded by thousands of people. They were shouting His praises. They were exalting Him as some kind of King. At some point during the day, Jesus entered the Temple complex. Matthew tells us, while He was there Jesus healed a few more blind and crippled people (Matthew 21:14). At some point, everyone left except Jesus and the disciples. As quickly as the crowd had gathered, they mysteriously left.
The way Mark describes this moment in the Temple you get the feeling and picture of Jesus being left alone to His thoughts. He is standing in the Temple complex looking around and carefully examining everything He has seen and currently sees. Mark records no conversation, so for once, the disciples appear to have allowed the Lord a moment or two by Himself.
Sometimes the greatest moments of worship are when there is nothing going on. There is no singing, no preaching, and no talking. It’s those moments where you are sitting on your back porch thinking about how great God is. It’s those times when you look at a sunset, a range of mountains, a birth of a child, or standing at a fresh grave and thoughts of God’s majesty, splendor, and glory consume you. No one is saying anything, you are simply taking everything in about God.
Sometimes these moments of worship are not about how great God is, but how things need to change. As Jesus was looking around carefully at everything He was seeing some things He did not like. The next day Jesus would return and “drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices” and He would “knock over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves” and He would stop “everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace.” Jesus said they had turned the Temple “into a den of thieves” (Mark 11:15-17, NLT). They were charging outlandish prices for the sacrifices and weighting the scales and cheating people in the name of worship. They had turned the house of God into a den of thieves. It was about money rather than the things of God. Money had become their god. Worship had been replaced with greed. He decided the problem needed to be addressed and change needed to happen.
Listen carefully, I think Jesus does this to His people from time to time because He loves us. The Bible says God disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). God comes into our lives and looks around in our lives carefully and shakes things up. We all have a table in our life. On that table we have placed things that are more important to us than God. On that table is money, happiness, acceptance, health, and some relationships. God comes along and over turns that table to get your attention. To help you realign your focus where it should be. To help get rid of some of the idols in your life.
There are going to be times in your life that you need to look “around carefully at everything” in your life and examine your heart, your motives, your commitment, and your love of God. You may need to knock over a few tables and some chairs in your life. You may need to drive out some things from your life for the love of God. This may require leaving some relationships, repenting of some bad habits, and prioritizing God into your schedule.
Worship is an act of examination and change.
[i] The crowd’s enthusiasm stemmed in large part from “all the miracles which they had seen” (Luke 19:37) and while for the moment their hopes were sky-high, their confused praise did not fool Jesus (Luke 19:41-44). He knew they were praising Him from an earthly perspective, but He also knew for many of them their understanding would change after the resurrection.
[ii] Overtime the word “hosanna” became similar to the word “hallelujah.”
[iii] Even though “hosanna” is a praise statement, it is more of a request. It is a cry to God to break in and save His people. It was a praise to God who has the ability to rescue and a cry to God to rescue.
[iv] Psalm 118 is one of six “ascent” Psalms sung in thanksgiving to God during Passover.
[v] Mark 1:15; 4:26, 30; 9:1, 33ff, 47; 10:14-15, 23-25; 12:34; 14:25
[vi] The night Jesus was born the armies of heaven began praising God saying, “Glorying to God in highest heaven…” (Luke 2:14, NLT). The angels knew how great God is and how great of a thing He had done that night Jesus was born. He is the God in highest of heaven.