The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Destiny

We have reached the last major part of Mark’s Gospel. Having considered the Servant’s Identity (1:1-13), Activity (1:14-8:21), and Itinerary (8:22-10:52), we will now study His Destiny (11:1-16:20).

The destination before the Lord was two-fold. First, His face was set “like a flint” for the city of Jerusalem (Isa 50:7; Mar 10:32). This was the geographical location toward which He travelled. Second, He “must suffer” and “give His life a ransom for many” and “rise again” (Mar 8:31; 9:12; 10:45).[1] This was the spiritual mission to which He was fully committed.

In this final section of Mark (the Servant’s Destiny), the Lord arrives in Jerusalem and accomplishes the work with which He was entrusted. Just as each prior section in Mark links with one of Isaiah’s Servant Songs, so this final section connects with the last of the Servant Songs. The final week of the Lord’s earthly service, leading to His suffering and sacrifice and, ultimately, to His resurrection, contains the fulfilment of many of the predictions of Isaiah 53. Here He is “despised and rejected” by the important leaders in Jerusalem, “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, … cut off out of the land of the living” and, finally, raised to “see of the travail of His soul, and … be satisfied” (53:3,7-11).

References to the temple permeate these last chapters of Mark. From chapter 11 to 13 the temple (the building in Jerusalem) is the hub of the action (see 11:11,15-17,27; 12:35; 13:1-3). Then, from chapter 14 to 16, another temple (the body of the Lord Jesus) is repeatedly mentioned (see 14:8,22,58; 15:29,43,45). As far as the temple in Jerusalem was concerned, the Lord’s assessment was that they had made God’s house “a den of thieves” (11:17), and there would “not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (13:2). As far as the Lord’s body was concerned, Israel saw “no beauty” that they should “desire him” (Isa 53:2) and “began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him” (Mar 14:65). Finally, “they crucified him” (15:25). In contrast, His body was anointed at Bethany (14:8), symbolised in the bread at the last supper (14:22), buried in a new tomb by Joseph of Arimathea (Isa 53:9; Mar 15:42-47) and, after three days, raised in triumph (Isa 53:10-11; Mar 14:58; 15:29; 16:1-8).

We have in these final chapters the climax of the Lord’s earthly ministry.

The Servant’s Conflict (11:1-13:37)

The Lord’s arrival in Jerusalem, His authoritative cleansing of the temple, and His answers to challenges from the religious authorities and from His own disciples form the content of this section.

His Arrival in Jerusalem (11:1-11)

With the journey to Jerusalem almost over, the Lord and His disciples “came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives” (v1). Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem, with Bethphage being a little closer.

The Colt (vv1-7)

At this point the Lord sent two disciples to obtain a colt, the foal of a donkey (v2). This animal had never been ridden before; it was reserved by God for the arrival into Jerusalem of His Messiah. The disciples were to find the animal, release it and lead it back to the Lord. If there was an objection, they were to respond, “The Lord hath need of him” (v3).

The Lord’s necessity for the colt lay in Zechariah’s prophecy, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9 ESV). The Old Testament Scriptures foretold the Messiah’s arrival upon a donkey, and the Lord Jesus ensured that the prediction was perfectly fulfilled.

Returning with the colt, the disciples threw their coats over it and the Lord sat upon it. His moral beauty is seen in His sovereignty (the King) and His submission to God’s Word (the Servant). Dignified royalty and gracious humility combined harmoniously in Him.

The Crowd (vv8-10)

As He rode, “many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’” (vv8-10 ESV).

By these actions the crowd welcomed their King. Two groups, “those who went before and those who followed” (v9), shouted “Hosanna,” or “Save now!” They cried out for the deliverance of the nation from Roman oppression by means of this King. As the disciples had done before, the crowd anticipated a conquering Messiah and had little conception of the Lord’s true character. Their shallow understanding would soon become evident because, before the end of the week, many of them would shout repeatedly, “Crucify him” (15:12-14).

The City (v11)

And so the Lord “entered into Jerusalem and into the temple.” He stood at the symbolic heart of Judaism and the Jewish nation and “looked round about upon all things.” He inspected the temple and its precincts to assess firsthand whether God’s house was being honoured. At the close of the day He left, going out to Bethany with His disciples. The result of His assessment will be confirmed by His startling actions upon His return (vv12-19).

The Servant-King’s arrival in the “city of the great King” (Mat 5:35) upon a donkey was in fulfilment of prophecy and a testament to His personal humility. His coming “to his temple” (Mal 3:1) enabled Him to assess the level of departure from God’s will before His actions in cleansing and judgment would begin.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.