Practical lessons and insights from Mark 11:1-6 for everyday life.
As God’s children, you should get up every day believing that God is in charge and that He has something significant for you to do that day. Ephesians 2:10 says that you are a new person in Christ Jesus and God planned ahead of time some good things for you to do. When you got up this morning God had prearranged something good for you to do. When you get up tomorrow morning and go to work, God has arranged ahead of time an encounter for you to bless someone or be blessed by someone. There are people who are going to come across your path today who need your smile, your joy, your encouragement, and your friendship. At the time it may not seem that important, but it will be significant to them in the big picture of their life. That moment when you are patient with your children or you talk with compassion and tenderness to your spouse or when you stop to pray for someone who God has placed on your mind. These are all those little moments that have been prearranged by God for you to be obedient and confident in His plan and purpose for your life. The devil would love for you to get up in the morning and be grumpy, irritable, and impatient with people, but God has something better. That something better is in the little things. The little things that you have a tendency to overlook are the big things that God wants to use.
Today, God is going to show us how incredibly and perfectly He is in charge of the details of our lives. Even when God has you do something that seems insignificant it actually may be the most important thing you do this week.
As I read Mark 11, I want you to notice how much Jesus is in control and what appears to be a small assignment turns out to be more than it appears. In Mark 11:1 the Bible says,
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. (NLT)
The Lord was about to do something He had never done before, something He had repeatedly warned others not to do for Him. He was going to permit His followers to give a public demonstration in His honor. Throughout the gospel of Mark Jesus has told numerous people to not tell anyone what He has done for Him. In Mark 2, Jesus healed a man with leprosy and Jesus told him, “Don’t tell anyone about this” (v.44). In Mark 5, after Jesus raised a little girl back to life He gave the family “strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened” (v.43). Time and time again, Jesus would tell people to keep quiet about what He had done. Jesus wanted no public praises or announcements. Today would be different. Mark 11 begins the actions of Jesus setting in motion and opening the gates for His followers to publicly declare His praises.
Mark 1 through Mark 10 covers the entire life of Jesus, but from Mark 11 to Mark 16 it covers only the last week of Jesus earthly life. This shows us the importance of every little detail in the last week of Jesus’ life.
The events in the last week of Jesus are so important that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all cover the events. Once Jesus enters Jerusalem there is no turning back. God chose Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God to become our sacrifice, our ransom, and our Savior long before the world began (1 Peter 1:19-20). Before time began God has ordained and prearranged this week. Every detail was accounted for.
From Mark 11 to the end of the book, Mark’s gospel will emphasize Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. We are going to come face to face with Jesus the Redeemer. Let’s begin our journey with Jesus during His last week.
The Lord’s determination
The first thing we see is the Lord’s determination. We have seen this before and we see it again. Jesus was committed to fulfilling His mission. Mark says in verse 1, As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Throughout the Lord’s journey with the disciples He has repeatedly told them what would happen when they arrived at Jerusalem (Mark 8:31-32; Mark 9:31-32; Mark 10:33-34). The last time Jesus mentioned this was back in Mark 10:33 where He says, “Listen, we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again” (NLT). Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew the horrible events that were going to unfold. Jesus was determined to carry His cross for us. He was determined to finish His race, to accomplish His mission of salvation.
You and I will never have to carry the cross Jesus carried. Only He could carry the sins of all people. Only He could be the perfect sacrifice that would bring salvation to humanity. However, Jesus does expect us to follow in His steps. Each one of us has a cross we must carry for the sake of Christ and God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34, NLT).
Before entering into Jerusalem Mark says that Jesus and His disciples came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Over in John 12 we are given a little more insight into what is going on during this time. John says, “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). This is turning into a feeding frenzy on Jesus. The thousands of people who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover are hearing about Jesus staying over in Bethany. They are making their way over there. In addition, they get an added bonus to see Lazarus who was raised from the dead. Within that crowd were the leading priests who had decided to kill Jesus and now they decided to kill Lazarus also.
Despite what Jesus knew was going to happen and despite the current threats, Jesus was determined to keep marching on and to accomplish what He was sent to do. Nothing was going to make Him abandon the mission of saving people like you and me.
I thank God that Jesus was determined to save people like you and me. I praise Him for being willing to sacrifice Himself so that I could have life. What has God called you to do? Be determined to do it. Don’t let the threats of others keep you from following what God wants you to do and who God wants you to become.
The Lord’s command
Not only are there lessons from the Lord’s determination, but we also see some lessons from the Lord’s command. Look at the end of verse 1 where Mark says, 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. Jesus gave two of His disciples an assignment. I think there are some lessons here we need to consider.
Your assignment will include others
First, your assignment will include others. Jesus never sent out His disciples one by one. He would always send two of them.[i] They were always paired up. No problem, no ministry, no person, and no mission is all on your shoulders. God always has more than one person involved in what you have been called to do. Sometimes you may feel like you are alone in serving that person or that ministry or those people, but in reality God’s has His people doing other things with you. Sometimes you know it and sometimes you don’t. Following Jesus is always better when you follow Jesus with others.
Your assignment will be specific
Secondly, when God gives you an assignment, your assignment will be specific. It will not be so general that you don’t know what to do. Jesus told the two disciple go into that village over there. It was clear where they were to go. Then Jesus says, 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.[ii] Jesus was clear on where they were to go and He was clear on what they were to do.
God is going to do the same for you. When He gives you an assignment you will know where to go and what to do. He may say, “I want you to go and talk to John, pray with Him and encourage Him. Tell Him that I love him.” God may place a young couple on your mind and tell you to give them $100, pay for a car repair, or to pay off their home loan. You may not have a lot of money, but you have some skills. God may lead you to help them fix their windows, cook a meal for them, or offer to watch their kids. Your assignment from God will be specific. You will know exactly what God wants you to do.
Your assignment may appear to be insignificant
When God gives you an assignment, it will include others in some way. It will be specific and detailed enough for you to know exactly what God would have you to do. Now listen carefully, your assignment may appear to be insignificant. With everything going on around Jesus, Jesus picks two disciples to go to a nearby town and get a young donkey. If I am them, I’m thinking, “What kind of lame assignment is this. This is a wild goose chase. I think Jesus doesn’t want us around. Why in the world would He need a donkey? What if we miss something exciting that Jesus may do while we are gone? This sucks!” I’m convinced, based on the little understanding the disciples had of who Jesus was and what He was actually doing, that these two disciples had no idea how significant their assignment and this donkey was within the plan of God.
Jesus had just given to the disciples an assignment that was to fulfill one of the prophecies about the coming Messiah and they had no idea. Their assignment was a prophetic assignment with huge implications. Back in Zechariah 9:9 the Bible says, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt” (NLT).[iii] Their assignment was not insignificant, but significant. On the surface, it appeared lame, weak, and unnecessary. However, it was important to help begin the greatest event in history.
You may feel like that God has given you a donkey assignment. It doesn’t feel important. It doesn’t look significant. However, you blessing that couple, encouraging that single mom or dad, that phone call, that letter, that financial gift, that meal you prepared for them, or that act of service has God written all over it and it will set in motion a divine and defining moment for that individual, that family, or that church. Don’t think little about the little things, think big about the little things. More often than not, those donkey moments turn into something more than we could have ever imagined.
The Lord’s humility
We see the Lord’s determination and the Lord’s command, now we see the Lord’s humility. Jesus tells the two disciples to go get a specific young donkey in a nearby village.[iv] He says to them when you find it untie it and then He says in verse 3, If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it….’” That is an amazing statement when you think about it. When did God ever need anything?
The title Lord (kurion) refers to a person having power and authority over others. It is a word that reminds us who is the real Master and who is not. It is a title that calls for action. When we refer to the Lord Jesus we are referring to Him as one who has authority and power over our lives. It reminds us to live under Him, submitting everything we are and everything we have to Him. He is the Master and we are the servants. He is the Creator and we are the creation. He is our wonderful, loving, and amazing Lord.
- Believers will often quote Psalm 118:24 saying, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (NLT). The reason you can rejoice and be glad every day is because you know that your Lord has the authority and power to use you to bless others, to provide and meet your needs, to walk you through the valleys of life, to help you face your Goliaths and some day to bring you safely home into His perfect presence.
- There are areas of your life where you are not living like Jesus is the Lord of your life. God knows that. You have some learning and growing to do. That’s why God’s Word says in 2 Peter 3:18, “You must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (NLT). As you follow Jesus you will learn how to obey Jesus. You will grow in living for Him rather than yourself. Keep growing, keep learning, and let Him continue to transform you from the inside out. God has not given up on you, so you don’t give up on yourself.
Every time you see this word Lord in connection to Jesus let it remind you of who Jesus is and who you are in relation to His authority and power. He is your Lord, your God, your Savior and relax in that, respond to that, and walk in confidence in Him.
Back to the disciples. If they are asked about what they are doing with the donkey they are to say, The Lord needs it…. Again, when does God need anything? The Bible makes clear that God owns everything (Psalm 50:9-12). Not only does Jesus own everything, but He created everything. Colossians 1 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him” (vs. 15-16, NLT). Jesus decided to leave everything behind, become a human, and even though He was rich decided to become poor (2 Cor. 8:9). The Bible tells us that even though Jesus created the stars, He had nowhere to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). He created the oceans and the trees, yet He borrowed a boat to teach the Good News. He created every spring, fountain, and river and every drop of water, but from the cross He cried “I thirst” (John 19:28). He created every pebble, every rock, and every stone but was buried in a borrowed tomb. He created every animal, every bull, every ox, every horse, yet He borrowed a donkey on which to ride. This is the paradox of His life! He was rich, yet made Himself poor so that those who believe on Him might enjoy His riches in heaven!
Jesus needing and using this donkey for Kingdom purposes reminds me that He has also chosen to need and use people like you and me for Kingdom purposes. You may feel like that little donkey all tied up, abandoned, wondering if you have any real purpose in life. But Jesus has sent His people into your life to untie you and bring you to Jesus so He can use you for something significant and life changing for you and others.
When I think of that little donkey it reminds me of something else. Do I have something that God wants to use? That little donkey belonged to someone in that village. When they saw the disciples untying their donkey they asked what are you doing? The disciples told them, “The Lord has need of it and will return it soon.” In verse 6 we are told they were given permission to take the donkey. We are not told everything that occurred in this encounter, but we are told these people trusted these disciples and the Lord enough to let them take their donkey. Is there a donkey in my life that I have tied up that God wants to use? Is there some money that I have tied up that God wants to use? Is there some time I have tied up that can be untied and used for God? What is it in my life that I have tied up that I need to give over to the Lord and let Him use for His kingdom?
The Lord’s omniscience
We have seen lessons from the Lord’s determination, the Lord’s command, and the Lord’s humility. We also see some lessons from the Lord’s omniscience. Verse 4 says, 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?”
After Jesus chose the two disciples for this mission, He gave them instructions on what to do and then we are told, the two disciples left. I love this! These disciples obeyed Jesus even though they didn’t understand everything behind it. I see obedience and faithfulness in these two disciples. When John talks about the triumphant entry of Jesus and Him riding on a donkey he says in John 12, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him” (vs. 16, NLT). There is going to be a lot of things in your life God will have you to do that you may not understand and God will do some things in your life that you will not understand. That’s okay. It’s not so much about understanding as it is about obeying, being faithful and trusting His commands.
Some people may wonder which two disciples Jesus sent. It doesn’t matter who does what as long as the Lord is glorified! I think they are left unnamed because its about Jesus not the disciples. If you are serving Jesus and you don’t get the recognition you think you deserve, that’s ok. If people forget your name, don’t get mad and offended. You want people to remember Jesus, not you. He must increase and you must decrease. Keep encouraging whether anyone is grateful or not, keep blessing whether anyone says thank you or not. Don’t worry about being forgotten, be concerned about being faithful.
In obedience the disciples left and went to the nearby village and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. This is exactly what Jesus told them they would find. How did He know this? How did He know they would find a young donkey that had never been ridden would be tied up exactly where He said it would be?
- Some people suggest that Jesus simply had contacted them ahead of time and made an arrangement for the young donkey to be tied up where it was. They believe that nothing unusual was happening here.
- However, everything about this event smells like the Lord’s omniscience is at work. I’m convinced that Jesus knew everything about this donkey because of His omniscience and foreknowledge as the Son of God. He knew it all. We are getting another glimpse and reminder of the Lord’s diety. Besides, if Jesus can provide a coin in a mouth of fish that Peter caught to pay taxes with (Matt. 17:27), He can definitely and sovereignly arranged for a donkey to be ready to fulfill prophecy. These events remind us that Jesus is God and He is in control of all things (Eph. 1:11; Isa. 46:10-11). You can trust Him. You can rely on Him. You can depend on Him. He is omniscient. He is all-knowing. He is all-powerful.
The Lord’s provision
Finally, we see some lessons from the Lord’s provision. In verse 6 we are told, They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. There are two lessons here.
As a representative of Christ, you are only responsible to say and do what the Lord tells you to say and do. No more. They said what Jesus had told them to say.[v] That’s all you have to do. Let Jesus take care of all the rest. If God tells you to give $25 to a family or $2500 just give it, don’t worry about it. If God tells you to get involved in a ministry, get involved and do your part. Be faithful. Say what Jesus wants you to say and do what Jesus wants you to do. He will provide the words and He will provide the energy and the time. Be faithful.
Sometimes you have been given what the Lord plans on using. Until the Lord needs it you are its manager or steward. Everything you have actually belongs to the Lord. One day He will come and want to use it for His purposes. Your finances, car, house, time, energy, food, truck, trailer, boat, grill, furniture, and anything else you are a steward of. Whoever owned the donkey permitted the disciples to take it for the Lord’s use.[vi] Everything you have or will ever have is a donkey that God may require you to give up for His use. He has sovereignly chose you to give you something to manage for a later purpose in God’s kingdom. You may have received a skill, a bonus, an inheritance, extra time and God provided that to you so He could use it later to provide and bless someone else through you.
As a follower of Jesus, you can get up every morning knowing that God is in charge and that He has something important for you to do today. You may not recognize the importance. It may feel like a donkey assignment. It may feel insignificant. Don’t underestimate the little things, the mundane things that God would have you to do. God is sovereign and in control. He made you and He knows what you need to do. Your assignment may be to keep loving that difficult spouse, be patient with your children, keep praying for your grandchildren, and be the example of faithfulness that God would have you to be.
What would God have you to do today, this week? Something you need to change? Ask forgiveness? Apologize? Give? Serve? Bless?
- Why is it important to understand that God is omniscient? That He knows everything?
- What is the importance of Jesus riding in on donkey? Why is fulfilled prophecy significant in the life of Jesus?
- How does Jesus reveal His determination to go to the cross for us? How do we reveal our determination to take up our cross for Him?
- Why is it important to do ministry with others?
- Why is it necessary for God to give you specific instructions regarding your part in His mission? What are some specific instructions He has given you in the past?
- What types of ministries and acts of blessings often appear insignificant, but are important?
- What have you been given by God that He could use in His mission?
- What are some lessons about being a disciple we learn from the two unnamed disciples?
- What lessons are we reminded of through the donkey?
[i] We are not told which two Jesus sent.
[ii] The Mosaic Law specified that an animal devoted to a sacred purpose had to be one that had not been used for ordinary purposes (Numbers 19:2; Deut. 21:3). Jesus told the disciples to bring both the colt and its mother to Him (Matt. 21:2). The colt was unbroken, and Jesus was able to ride on it comfortably.
[iii] Our Lord needed this beast so that He might fulfill the messianic prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. Mark does not quote this verse or refer to it because he was writing primarily for Gentile readers. In fulfilling this prophecy, Jesus accomplished two purposes: (1) he declared Himself to be Israel’s King and Messiah; and (2) He deliberately challenged the religious leaders.
[iv] The Lord could save sinners and accomplish His work on earth just fine without us. Yet, He chooses to use frail, human instruments for His glory. When we are like that donkey, Redeemed, Released and Ruled, He can use us too. Being a little donkey isn’t so bad when Jesus is your Master. Look at what that donkey did. He got to carry the King of Glory into Jerusalem. The Lord used Him as His vehicle to get glory to His name. That’s what He wants to do with you and me! Let’s yield to Him and let Him rule us as He sees fit. By the way, when that little Redeemed, Released, Ruled donkey walked by with Jesus on his back, nobody saw the donkey! All eyes were on the Lord Jesus. That’s how it should be all time. If the Lord has spoken to you on any level through this message, you need to respond to Him. There are some here that need to be Redeemed. You need to come to Jesus. There are some here that need to be Released. Sins and the flesh hold you captive. Come to Jesus, He specialized in delivering the captives (Luke 4:18). There are some here that need to be Ruled. You need to submit to the Lordship of Jesus in your life. When you do, you will have no trouble submitting to the authorities the Lord has placed in your life. If Jesus has spoken to you on any level, you need to hear Him and heed Him today. Will you do that right now?
[v] In the ancient world, including Israel, one of the prerogatives of the king was to commandeer a beast of burden whenever he needed it. As the King, Jesus exercised that right and commanded His disciples to get a colt.
[vi] It’s possible that the owners of the donkey knew Jesus or at least knew of Him. If they knew Him personally and knew Him to be an honest man, they could be sure of having the colt returned. It also possible, the owners were already believers in Jesus being the Messiah and therefore trusted His disciples.