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John 12:12-22 The Reactions to the Humble King's Ride to the Cross

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Sunday, May 11, 2008 – Mother’s Day

The reactions to the humble King’s ride to the cross!

John 12:12-22

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!”  John 12:19 NIV

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Last week I briefly commented on the difference between rescue and prevention. We tend to make heroes of rescuers but rarely do we acknowledge the invaluable service of preventers. I don’t know that I spoke of this in both services, but in response to the heart attack that was prevented by early detection, I commented that prevention was certainly the preferred strategy over rescue.

I threw in my shameless plug for my nearly non-existent carpet business by saying that the best seams I ever made were those I eliminated. As good as I can make a seam look, I still can’t compete with the one I am able to eliminate through smart planning. Prevention is better than rescue.

The same can be said with regard to our physical health. Prevention is a far better strategy and much wiser use of our resources than emergency rescue operations.

Yesterday I engaged in some preventive maintenance on the lawn. I didn’t have the time to remove the dandelions and their roots, but, I did take the time to keep them from spreading their seeds and multiplying themselves. It wasn’t particularly something I wanted to do. But, knowing the consequences of doing nothing, I endured the pain of nipping the dandelions in the bud.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0GEv78335o  Dennis Swanberg, “Nip it in the bud.”

Folks, when it comes to dealing with sin in our lives, prevention is the smarter strategy. Keeping the seeds of sin from being planted in our hearts is a far better use of our resources than having to call on Jesus to always get us out of our messes.

O, don’t get me wrong. We all need Jesus to rescue us and get us out of our sin messes. But, once He has pulled us out of the muck and mire of sin, He sets us on the rock of His word and commands us to surrender to Him as Lord.

Here’s the deal. If we insist on having Jesus only as our rescuer, we will spend far more time and resources working with Him to clean up our messes than what we would ever spend working with Him in preventing the messes.

In other words, your car will spend a whole lot more time in the shop with a strategy of emergency rescue repairs than with preventive maintenance. Spiritually speaking, we’ll get a whole lot further down the road with a disciplined strategy of prevention than an undisciplined practice of emergency rescue.

Jesus enters Jerusalem 5 days before Passover so that He can be both our Savior and our Lord, rescuer and preventer. And I stand before you today to urge you to place yourself under His Lordship, obedient to His leadership, and let Him chart your path. The cost may seem too high to obey His commands, but I assure you that it will be far less than the cost that foolishness and sin will exact from your life.

It has been said that Sin will take you further than you ever intended to go; Sin will keep you longer than you ever intended to stay; and sin will cost you more than you ever intended to pay.

Jesus has come from Bethany where He raised Lazarus from the dead and where Lazarus’s sister Mary had anointed His body with expensive perfume, unbeknownst to her, for His burial. Now just 5 days before Passover, on Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem where the Sanhedrin has a warrant out for His arrest.

But, from the foundation of this earth, Jesus knew this day would come. He knew that without His intervention and without His sacrifice, we would not only have no one to rescue us from sin’s clutches, but we would have no one to lead us away from sin’s temptations, snares and traps.

In his book And the Angels were Silent, Max Lucado writes, "Forget any suggestion that Jesus was trapped. Erase any theory that Jesus made a miscalculation. Ignore any speculation that the cross was a last-ditch attempt to salvage a dying mission. For if these words tell us anything, they tell us that Jesus died...on purpose. No surprise. No hesitation. No faltering.

No, the journey to Jerusalem didn’t begin in Jericho. It didn’t begin in Galilee. It didn’t even begin in Bethlehem. The journey to the cross began long before." (Lucado, 15)

As I read our text, keep in mind that John, the writer, has put the details together very intentionally. There’s nothing in his Gospel that is accidental. Thus, it is completely appropriate that we ask, why is John making us aware of these certain people when telling us the story of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem?

John 12:12-22 (NIV)

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting,

“Hosanna!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

16 At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

17 Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised Him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!”

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

The text we examine this morning is what the other three Gospels present as Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This will be His final Passover celebration which will also result in His crucifixion which became the altar on which He was sacrificed as the ultimate and final Passover Lamb.

As John writes, he uses the least number of words to describe this event as compared with the other three Gospels. Also, he minimizes the festive character of this event by setting the story in the center of a burial theme.

John establishes the burial theme with his bookends to the story. First, he places the story of Mary of Bethany anointing His body for burial as the immediate front bookend.

John 12:7 (NIV) 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial.

Second, John encloses the story with Jesus speaking of His death like a seed of wheat that must die if it is going to produce and be glorified.

John 12:23-24 (NIV) 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Then, John tones down the festive character of the triumphal entry by bringing his understanding of this event to the Zechariah 9:9 verse that he references and loosely quotes.

Let’s first look at the text of Zechariah 9:9 and then notice John’s paraphrase of that verse. Then, you tell me what you think is going on. Keep in mind that the phrase “Daughter of Zion” refers to the people or city of Zion or Jerusalem. Here is the prophet Zechariah:

Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Now notice how John paraphrases that verse. John 12:15, 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Maybe the first thing we notice is that John abbreviates the verse. That may in some way encourage those of you who are trying to memorize Scripture verses. If John can both paraphrase and abbreviate verses, then why can’t we? I suspect, however, that John knows what he is not including as he writes his paraphrase.

So, tell me, what’s the difference in saying to someone, “rejoice greatly” and “do not be afraid?” What’s the difference between those two? Wouldn’t you say that the context of the first statement is like celebrating a victory whereas the context of the second statement is the very real presence of danger but it’s not to be feared?

You see, my reading of John is that he wants us to see what the disciples missed when it was happening. John is bringing to his presentation of the triumphal entry his 20-20 eyesight that he gained after the resurrection. He doesn’t want his readers to miss what he missed as he witnessed this highly significant event. I believe John wants us to understand that Jesus never lost sight of why He was entering Jerusalem; that no amount of persuasion, ego-stroking or arm twisting would divert Him from the path on which He was walking. Jesus was going to the cross on purpose, on His timetable, to be the ultimate Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

Christ’s clarity of purpose is highlighted by His securing a young donkey on which to make His entry, a donkey that had never before been ridden. The fact that this donkey was unbroken, yet it submitted to the control of the Master, speaks of the compelling authority that belonged to Jesus. But, Jesus also chose this animal as the fulfillment of prophesy that, He, the long-awaited Messiah would make His entrance riding on a young donkey. Further, by riding a donkey and not a white horse, Jesus was visibly declaring Himself as a different kind of leader. Jesus was a new kind of king who led with humble authority. His kingdom would be established in the lives of those who would place their trust in Him. His throne would be the hearts of all men and women who truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

As we watch Jesus make His entrance into Jerusalem, we see both the powerful divine Son of God and the humble Messenger of God. It is a dynamic and mysterious combination for the Almighty God to so humble Himself to become one of us. Yet, such is the gracious expression of God’s love for us.

John crafts his version of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem by letting us see the reactions to His entrance by five distinct groups of people. Those groups are the great crowd, Christ’s disciples, the Bethany crowd, the Pharisees and some Greeks.

1. The Great Crowd: The Misguided.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting,

We see the great crowd as the foremost group that had caused the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin so much concern. These people had witnessed the miraculous powers of Jesus and concluded that He was invincible. Who better than Jesus to lead a revolt against the Romans? He would be unstoppable. “That’s the kind of Messiah we’re looking for,” they said. “Surely He will accept our nomination as the next president. Surely He will fulfill all our expectations of what we are looking for in a leader, particularly regarding our political goals. The government has become far too unwieldy. Taxes are too high. There is open corruption in the Senate. A leader like Jesus would bring needed change. How could He resist our request? The whole world will follow Him!”

But, we must conclude that this great crowd was misguided by their ambitions. They saw Jesus as a savior, but not from their sins but from an oppressive government. And, Jesus is unmoved by their shouts, their enthusiasm, their pressure. He stays His course to the cross. If only these people could see that the long term benefits that Jesus will bring will outweigh the short term gains of their desires.

That’s the first group we see; the misguided, great crowd.

2. His Disciples: The Committed, but Confused.

16 At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

The second group John highlights are Christ’s disciples. Frequently in the Gospels we read of the disciples being in a fog and not understanding what was really taking place in their presence. At least John helps us see that there is hope for the disciples. They will soon understand. Their confusion will come to an end when they meet the resurrected Jesus. Then, the Holy Spirit will bring to their remembrance all these things they had been blind to.

This reminds me a bit of my childhood. I lived in the presence of godly parents who extended God’s grace to me constantly. I observed their dedication and hard work, but I don’t recall that I made myself all that useful as a kid. But, after I left home, something happened. I began behaving more and more like my parents.

The second group John highlights are the committed, but confused disciples.

3. The Bethany Crowd: The Committed.

17 Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised Him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him.

This third group that had been with Jesus in Bethany when He raised Lazarus from the dead seems to have been rightly captivated by the authenticity of Jesus. Though they may not have been able to explain all that was going on, there was no doubt in their minds and hearts that Jesus was for real, that He was telling the truth and that He really was the Son of God. He was not only worthy of being followed, His story needed to be spread around.

John presents this third group in a very favorable light. They had witnessed a life-changing miracle and it had captured their hearts and their imaginations. They couldn’t stop speaking of what happened and who made it happen. As a result of their telling their story, many others were at least wanting to check things out for themselves to see if what they were hearing was true.

John seems to also be setting this crowd in contrast to the great crowd. There’s no political agenda with this Bethany crowd. They see Him as a life-changer that everyone needs to meet. So the third group is the committed Bethany crowd.

4. The Pharisees: The Opposition

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard these words spoken by the Pharisees. At this point they are probably wishing they had earlier followed through on their instincts. Now it looked like things were really getting out of hand and maybe they wouldn’t be able to stop the train.

These religious leaders had lost sight of their calling. Leadership was now all about them. So, when Jesus came on the scene all they could see was competition. As more and more people went over to Jesus their jealousy and frustration increased. It’s almost like they didn’t know how they were being manipulated by the devil himself.

But, that’s how jealously and envy and self-centeredness works. They turn us into toys for the evil one to use in his wicked games. If only they could see that their sin was making them partners with the destroyer of life and goodness and joy.

Now, instead of channeling their time and resources into doing righteous and gracious and generous things, they were consumed in a war with God. If they were not so destructive, if they were not guilty of weighing people down with needless burdens, we should pity them for their blindness.

The fourth group is the opposition party of the Pharisees.

5. Some Greeks: The Curious

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

This fifth group was likely an assembly of God-fearing Greeks who were still feeling on the outside of things. They realized that not being Jewish naturally kept them a safe distance from the insiders in the Jewish faith. But, they were keenly intrigued by Jesus. It’s entirely reasonable that they would want to meet Jesus. But, how would they go about making this happen?

They probably saw Jesus’ disciples as body guards, protecting Him from trouble makers. So, they needed to connect with an insider and negotiate an appointment with Jesus. Possibly, because of the Philips name being Greek in origin, these Greeks figured they had something in common with him and he would be their best means of getting time with Jesus.

What these Greeks understood was that much of life is about networks and relationships. If you want to get somewhere you need to know the right people.

What is interesting in their request is that it unveils a hesitancy in Philip to go directly to Jesus. O, it’s possible that Andrew just happened to be nearby when Philip received this request and so Philip simply told Andrew about the request. But, the sense of the text is that Philip quite intentionally went to find Andrew so that Philip could bring the Greek’s request to Jesus. It’s almost as if Andrew was a gatekeeper for Jesus, even among the disciples.

It shouldn’t be missed that it was Andrew who may have been the first or close to the first disciple of Jesus. And, John records that it was Andrew would went and found his brother Peter and introduced him to Jesus. So, Andrew is presented as a person who is quite comfortable in Jesus’ presence. So, it’s reasonable that Philip would go through Andrew to meet with Jesus.

All of this to say that Jesus had caught the attention of these Greeks, these curious outsiders, and they wanted to connect with Jesus. We’re not told of their motives. But, they have come to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast. So, we can fairly safely assume their hearts are in a good place.

These Greeks share something in common with the people that the Bethany crowd had been witnessing to. As a result of the testimonies of the Bethany crowd, many people wanted to meet Jesus.

The fifth group John presents are the curious Greeks.

So, here we have five groups of people who were impacted by Christ’s life and entrance into Jerusalem. Just as Jesus’ life was coming to a decisive moment, His presence in these people’s lives was also calling for a decision: Are you going to move closer to Jesus or are you going to resist Him?

Are we among those who want Jesus to fit around our agenda? Are we among those who are now unnecessarily in the fog about what Christ wants to do through our lives? Are we among the committed who have found great joy in following Jesus? Are we among the opposition? Or, are we among the seeking curious?

Wherever you are, Jesus gave His life for you and He rose again that you might have eternal life. As Jesus went through the crowd He saw each face, He knew each story. Jesus knows your story. Will you welcome Him as your Savior and Lord today?

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