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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on August 7, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, August 7, 2016 from Mark 11:1-6

Theme: When we walk before our Lord on paths of obedience, we’ll find that He has already providentially prepared the way before us.

This morning, we come to the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Mark—and to the beginning of the second main division of that Gospel. It’s the part of the Gospel that emphasizes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. From this point on and all the way to the end of the Gospel, the great theme is Jesus as our Redeemer.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; before we begin looking at this eleventh chapter, I ask that you first turn with me to an Old Testament promise. It was made in the Book of Zechariah—the second to the last book of the Old Testament. It was written a little over 500 years before our Lord was born into this world. In Zechariah 9:9, we’re given this promise concerning the Messiah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your King is coming to you;

He is just and having salvation,

Lowly and riding on a donkey,

A colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

What an amazing promise this is! Israel is told that her long-awaited and promised King would one day come to her; but not riding upon a white, magnificent steed of honor and glory and majesty—as if He were a conquering general. Instead, He would come to them meekly and humbly—sitting upon a donkey’s colt. That’s how Israel would recognize that it is He.

And it’s this prophetic promise from long before in the Book of Zechariah that stands as the background for what we find at the beginning of Mark 11. Mark 11 tells us of our Lord’s “triumphal entry” into the city of Jerusalem to die on the cross as our Redeemer. It’s a story that is told by all of the other Gospel writers. Jesus, along with His disciples and a whole host of followers, had just made their way from Jericho along the long road to Jerusalem; and in verses 1-11, Mark writes,

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?” And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:


Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Blessed is the kingdom of our father David

That comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest!”

And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve (Mark 11:1-11).

Chapter 11 is a very full chapter, and it describes three days of events. It involves three different trips into Jerusalem. The first one—the ‘triumphal entry’ into the city—happened on Sunday. The second trip into the city was on Monday; and that was when Jesus came into the temple to cleanse it of the money changers. The third trip was on Tuesday, when He had a debate within the temple with the chief priests and scribes. Then, as we read on in Mark’s Gospel, would come Wednesday; and then would come the Thursday on which He would celebrate the Passover with His disciples and then be betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane; and then would come the Friday on which He was crucified and gave His life for our sins.

This is a very serious and important and spiritually rich portion of God’s word for us to study—one that displays much to us about God’s immeasurable love for us through His Son Jesus. It’s very much worth our while to take our time through it.

And this morning, I ask that we concentrate on just the first six verses of Chapter 11—the story of how the two disciples were sent ahead to loosen and bring the donkey’s colt at the command of our Lord—the story of how they went and found everything amazingly prepared for them in advance, and found everything happening just as the Lord had said. It’s not a story that you hear a sermon on very often; but we should, because I believe it’s a story that teaches us a life-changing lesson about our Lord.

* * * * * * * * * *

Before we go to that passage in detail, please let me take you to a few other passages and remind you of something about our heavenly triune God that is truly wonderful.

The Bible teaches us that the heavenly Father is absolutely sovereign in all His ways; and that He so orders and directs the events, and the circumstances, and the various details of this world that they all do His bidding and serve His purpose. The Bible tells us that He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). And of His Son Jesus, we’re told, “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” or “hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

And in many of the stories from Scripture, we’re given some remarkable illustrations of just how much this is so. For example, do you remember the Old Testament story of how the prophet Samuel first met Saul—the man that God gave to the people of Israel to be their king? After their first meeting, and after anointing Saul as king, Samuel sent Saul away and told him—under the leading of the Holy Spirit—what would then happen that day. He said;

“When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall receive from their hands. After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”

So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day (1 Samuel 10:2-9).

There was, of course, much more to the story. But isn’t it amazing how God—through His servant Samuel—told Saul every detail of what would happen that day?—and how everything did indeed came to pass just as Saul was told? Clearly our heavenly Father knew all of those details in advance; and that was because every detail was under our His sovereign control and was serving His purposes for Saul.

We find some of the same kinds of stories in the earthly ministry of the Father’s Son, our Lord Jesus. We read of how He would tell the apostle Peter—who had been fishing all night and had caught nothing—“Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Peter did; and drew in such a great number of fish that the nets nearly broke! Imagine! The Lord Jesus is so sovereign that even some of the most uncontrollable things in the world—fish in the sea—go where He commands them to go!

Do you remember the time when those who collected the temple tax came to Peter? Jesus told Peter to “go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you” (Matthew 17:27). We’re not told in the Gospel of Matthew what happened next; but we can be pretty confident that everything happened as Jesus said, can’t we? (I suspect that people have been looking for that fishing spot ever since!)

Or consider the time when the evening in which our Lord would eat His final Passover meal with His disciples was drawing near. He told Peter and John to go and prepare the Passover meal; and when they asked where it was that He wanted them to prepare it, He told them;

“Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready” (Luke 22:10-12).

Peter and John went at His command—and found it all just as He said.

And then, there was that time—after our Lord’s resurrection—when the disciples were out fishing again. They had been fishing all night and caught nothing. (That seems to have happen a lot, doesn’t it?) And the resurrected Lord Jesus cried out to them from the shore, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (John 21:6). They did as He said, and drew in yet another catch that was so great that they were not able to draw it in!

Whenever He sent His disciples out at His command, and whenever they walked in faithful obedience to His call, they arrived and found—every time—that He had providentially provided the way for them in advance. You can’t help but get the impression that our Lord is absolutely sovereign over the details of life. And indeed this is declared to us to be so. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:20-30;

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

“All things work together” for God’s people! When our sovereign Lord sends us out to walk in obedience to His commands, we are simply walking in the paths of His providential care. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:10;

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

And I have been asking myself a couple of questions about this. First of all, I ask how far we should take this. Just how far—in our practical, everyday living—should we take the concept of God’s sovereign rule over the details of life? I have concluded that we should take it as far as to include everything. Literally everything! I have no justifiable reason from the Scriptures to believe that there is anything in life that is excluded from His sovereignty or that falls outside of God’s perfect foreknowledge and control. I don’t believe that I’m taking it too far in seeing every stop-light that I encounter on the road—those frustrating stop-lights that slow me down and keep me from getting where I want to be as fast as I can go—as under His sovereign control to place me under His divine time-schedule. I don’t think I’m taking it too far in seeing those occasions when I get a cold or a flu—those illnesses and limitations that sometimes keep me from going to the places I may want to go or doing the things I want to do—as in His sovereign hand to guide me into His perfect will for me.

And that being true, the second question I have been asking myself is what my reaction to all of that should be. And I believe the answer is that I should react to it all by resting—worry-free—in His providential care, and with an overwhelming sense of joyful confidence. If He is sovereign, and if I am walking in fellowship with Him and in obedience to His commands, then I will always be where I should be and will always be experiencing what He wants me to experience. Even my failures—which, by the way, are very many—cannot thwart His sovereign will for the bringing about of my good and for His glory!

I believe that this is one of the greatest and most practical theological truths we can grasp. If it’s true—and if we truly take it to heart—it will make every-day life a thrilling adventure! And I consider this morning’s passage from Mark 11:1-6 to be just one more proof of it.

Let’s look at it once more in a bit more detail.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; as I have been stressing, our joyful experience of our Lord’s sovereign provision presupposes our faithful obedience to His commands. We need to have placed our faith in the Lord Jesus, and trust Him as our Savior, and rise up to live a life of obedience and submission to His revealed will in Scripture.

I believe we see this illustrated to us at the beginning of this passage. Notice first …


Verse one begins by telling us, “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples …”

I have had the privilege of being in this spot twice now; and so I have a clear picture of it in my mind. As Jesus and His followers came round the road that lead east from Jericho, they came to two small towns near the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. The location of one of them—Bethany—is known today; but the exact location of the other—Bethphage—is no longer known. And as you ascend the slope of the Mount of Olives from that point, you would get to the top and behold the stunning panoramic view of Jerusalem. As you go down the slope toward the city, you’d come to the Garden of Gethsemane; and then see the Kidron Valley that would lay between the mountain and the city. In just a short while in this story, that valley would be filled with thousands of people—cheering, and waving palm branches, and singing the praises of Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem.

But before that could happen, and so that the promise made in Zechariah 9:9 would be fulfilled, Jesus sent two of His disciples to go loosen and bring the colt of the donkey for Him to ride. Which two disciples, by the way? Since He had sent Peter and John on another occasion, I personally suspect that it was them. When they’re together, they seem to have a good reputation of following orders.

And I suggest that we find an important lesson in that. This whole idea of our Lord’s sovereign rule over the details of our lives comes in the context of faithfully doing what He sends us out to do! I was talking with someone about this the other day and asking them, “When do you think we keep our confidence in the sovereignty of God from crossing the line into mere ‘fatalism’?—just merely doing nothing and figuring that ‘whatever will be will be’”? And they said, “It’s when it stays in the realm of our active obedience.” And I believe that this is absolutely right. A true faith in God’s sovereignty doesn’t result in our sitting passively and doing nothing. God’s sovereignty does not relieve us of our duty to do as He commands; but rather assures us of His providential outcome when we faithfully act.

So; if we want to have the fullest experience of God’s providential sovereignty over our lives, we should trust in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us, walk by faith with Him, and rise up and do as He says. We should read His word, learn of His will, and keep His commands ever before us. As Jesus has told us—in a somewhat different context, but with a principle that certainly applies:

… seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

We must do our part; and as we do, we can trust confidently that He will always do His.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now; what was our Lord’s part in this arrangement? As the two disciples went out on their way in obedience to His commission, He let them know what it was that He would have prepared for them when they arrived. This is where we see …


In verses 2-3, Jesus told them, “Go into the village opposite you …” I believe, by the way, that that particular village was Bethphage. He told them, “and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat.” Now just think of that! The moment they turned the corner on the road and came to that tiny little village, there—just waiting for them along the road; not in the stable, but out in the open—they would find a colt of a donkey waiting for them. And it wouldn’t just be any ol’ colt of a donkey; but one on which no one had ever ridden before. In Jewish thinking, and animal that was set apart for special and sacred purposes was one that was kept unused for anything else. Obviously, they weren’t sent to do their best to find something that Jesus could ride on. This was something—perfectly appropriate for the purpose—that had already been prepared in advance.

Then, Jesus told them to do something that might have been a little hard to do. “Loose it and bring it.” This colt was, of course, someone else’s property. They might have been a little nervous about doing something that would have looked like a criminal act—Grand Theft Donkey! But Jesus then went on to tell them, “And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” (Some translations like the NIV, by the way, have the Lord as saying that, after using it, He would “send it back shortly.” And if that’s an accurate translation, then there’s another lesson for us: The Lord Jesus was careful to return the things that He borrowed. We should be to.)

How did the Lord know in advance what would happen? It’s because He holds such sovereignty over the details of life that those details do His bidding. There are some Bible teachers, of course, that say that Jesus had simply made arrangements—in a natural way—with the owner of the donkey’s colt in advance. The tone of this passage doesn’t make me think that that’s the way it went; but even if that had been the case, it would still prove my point. He always makes such arrangements in advance—and He does so in our lives today as our sovereign Lord and Master! If He could and would do such a thing when He walked upon this earth, then how much more does He do so now that He reigns in heaven and ever watches over His faithful servants?

* * * * * * * * * * *

And that leads us finally to …


Mark tells us, “So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, ‘What are you doing, loosing the colt?’ And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go” (vv. 4-6).

They went in obedience to do as Jesus commanded; and as they went, they found that everything happened just as Jesus told them. You might say that they arrived on the scene … and found that the sovereign Lord of providence had already been there.

* * * * * * * * * *

I believe that the same is true for you and me today. Let me close by quickly suggesting at least three things we should do about what we have learned.

You can sum-up the first thing with the word ‘obedience‘. We should be an obedient people, and do as our Lord commands. I believe that our Lord is so sovereign that He accomplishes His purpose with us or without us. And even if we rebel against Him, our rebellion ends up fulfilling His will. We can never thwart Him. But why should we try? And even if we sat passively and did nothing, He still brings about His will. But what reward is there for us in that? How much better it is to be an eager and obedient participant in His sovereign purposes. We have the greatest chance to enjoy the experience of His sovereignty in our lives if we will faithfully and swiftly do as He commands.

You can sum-up the second thing we should do in the word ‘confidence‘. We should walk in this world with confidence in His sovereign rule. If we were left to our own strength and wisdom and power to accomplish His work, then of course we would never have the confidence that we had done what we should—or that we had done enough—or that it would do any good. But the outcome of our service to our Lord is never up to us. It’s all in the hand of our all-seeing, all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, all-good Lord and Master. He sees the end from the beginning; because He determined that end from the beginning. And He will see to it that His perfect will is accomplished for His glory and our good. We can relax, be at ease, and know that our service to Him is never in vain.

And you can sum up the third thing in the word ‘thankfulness‘. If we know that our Lord exercises such complete sovereignty over the details of life, and that He always causes all things to work together for good, then we can put away all bitterness or worry and simply give Him thanks. Even when someone does evil to us, we can know that what they meant for evil is what He means for our good (Genesis 50:20); and we can thank Him even for that! In fact, I have learned that that’s the greatest way for me to wrap my hands around the wonderful truth of His sovereignty over the details of life—to simply give Him thanks. That truly honors Him in His sovereignty.

What a great way to live! So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ; let’s take this lesson from the life of our Lord to heart. Let’s walk continually in paths of faithful obedience to our sovereign Lord—knowing that as we do, we’ll find that He has already providentially prepared the way for us in advance.

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