A week can make a world of difference in outlook, opinion, and outcome. Jesus had become somewhat of a celebrity among people who had heard of his miracles and the works that he has done. As he entered the city of Jerusalem a week before Passover, the people welcomed him as a coming king. But by the end of the week, their shouts had turned to crucify him.
This Sunday we look at what happened.
- I will read John 12-19 this week.
- I will pray that my expectations and God’s intentions are in alignment.
- I will tell someone of my decision to follow Jesus.
We’re pressing pause on the Sermon on the Mount for the next two weeks as we prepare for Easter. Instead of the Gospel of Matthew, today we’ll be in John. John was one of the first to follow Jesus and was an eyewitness to the events he wrote of. He was clear about his reason for writing the Gospel that bears his name, saying, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) I want you to think for a second of your worst week; what happened, how it started, how it ended. *Maybe it was a relationship breakup *A job loss *A health issue *A financial collapse *The Raiders moving…again I’ve had some bad weeks in my life. You’ve had some bad weeks in your life. Maybe you’re in one now. But the worst of weeks you or I have had have not ended with either of us hanging on a cross. Today we’ll look at the beginning of a week in the life of Jesus. It begins with chants of “coming king” and ends with cries of “crucify him.” How did it get there? How do you get from the coming king to crucify him in a matter of days? We’ll be in John 12, so if you have a Bible I’d love for you to join me there. It’s just before Passover for the Jews, a celebration of God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. A little background for you. Before the last of the ten plagues, where the firstborn of Egyptian families would die because of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, God instructed each Jewish family to sacrifice a lamb and spread some of the blood on their doorposts. As a result, God passed over their homes in his judgment of Egypt. It led to Pharaoh releasing them to travel to the Promised Land. The Passover feast was an 8-day celebration remembering the emancipation from slavery in Egypt. Jewish families still celebrate it to this day. We find Jesus at Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’s home, a family he loved deeply. John tells us the word gets out, and soon, a crowd starts to gather, “…not only because of him (Jesus) but also to see Lazarus, whom he (Jesus) had raised from the dead.” (John 12:9) They’ve heard that Lazarus, dead for four days, is now alive, along with the stories of Jesus turning water into wine, feeding 5,000 (more like 15,000+ counting the women and children present) with five loaves and two fishes, people being healed, demons cast out, stormy waters calmed. They want to see this rabbi that’s unlike any other. We’ll start in John 12:12. The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 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!” John 12:12-13 Jerusalem was a city of 80,000 to 100,000 residents, but the week of Passover, it swelled to over two million. Streets were jammed, traffic was a nightmare, lines were long, and people were everywhere. And not just people. They’re coming with lambs, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands to sacrifice at the Temple as part of Passover. Josephus, a Jewish historian, recorded that over 250,000 lambs were slain one year. The crowd was growing in excitement that Jesus was the promised Messiah that would bring in the kingdom of God, that he would overthrow Rome, conquer the earth, and establish peace. The people coming out to meet him begin to proclaim him as the promised coming king! They are ready to get the independence movement going! They tear off palm branches and lay them on the road as Jesus approaches. It’s the first-century version of the red carpet. It was a common way to welcome a victorious king returning from battle. A palm branch represents victory. They were also a symbol of Jewish nationalism since the time of the Maccabees. They were a family of Jewish priests who freed the southern Jewish kingdom of Judea from foreign rule during the latter half of the second century. Palm branches were a symbol of revolution. The crowd is welcoming Jesus as a revolutionary who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and establish a new Jewish kingdom. The crowd was crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13) Hosanna means “please save” or “save now.” The word blessed means something different than what we’ve seen in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s from the Greek word eulogeō (yoo-log-eh’-o), meaning “to speak well of.” We know it as a eulogy. In eulogies, we speak well of people and the life they lived. The crowd is giving Jesus’ eulogy, chanting, “Blessed is he who comes,” declaring him the coming One prophesied and promised in the Old Testament. Expectation was building, the anticipation of what Jesus must have come to do. Save them! Bring freedom and liberation from their oppressors to regain their national identity, their place on the world’s stage as God’s chosen people. As I was reading the story this week, I stopped here and began to ask myself, what am I expecting from Jesus? What are you expecting from Jesus? What are you expecting him to save you from? *Maybe you want him to deal with all the complicated, challenging, unpleasant people in your life, so you don’t have to address issues. *Or you want him to save you from the financial pit you’ve put yourself in without learning wise stewardship practices. *Could it be your marriage that you’re just not happy in anymore, and you want Jesus to bring you the perfect spouse to replace the lemon you chose the first time around? *Maybe you just want to be free from the pain of the memories of what was done to you. *Or freedom from the guilt of what you did and the damage or destruction it caused. *Could it be you simply want to know if there is more to this life and your existence than the temporary things that surround you? We all want something from Jesus. We all need something from Jesus. We shout “Hosanna!” in our own ways just as they did. And the temptation when Jesus doesn’t act in the way you expect is to take control back. I “trusted” you with that God, and you let me down. You didn’t show up, so I’ll take that one from here on out. Or it causes a loss of faith. “I thought you were the One.” What are you expecting from Jesus? John continues, Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt. John 12:14-15 A donkey? That is not what I would expect an incoming king to cruise into town on. But here’s the crazy thing; it was the fulfillment of prophecy from 500 years previous. The prophet Zechariah said, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) It wasn’t that a horse was not available. Even the animal Jesus rode into Jerusalem on was to prove who he was, the promised Messiah! 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 these things had been done to him. John 12:16 John’s looking back, “we didn’t get it at that moment, it didn’t make sense to us, but now we see and understand what was happening.” It’s hindsight. It’s interesting that hindsight is so often a rearview mirror of regret. *I wish I hadn’t *If I only would have known *If I could do it over again *If I could take that back *If only I could change … We have the privilege of hindsight, but have to ask, “How did they miss it?” The same way you and I do. This is the tension between … *when what you want or “need” doesn’t match what God is doing. *when you’re so caught up in the moment, you lose sight of God’s movement. The tension is when our expectations and His intentions are not in alignment. The people were expecting a Messiah who would free them from foreign rule. Jesus came to defeat the power of sin and death. Jerusalem was full of hundreds of thousands of lambs that would be sacrificed. Jesus came as THE perfect, sinless lamb to die once and for all AS a sacrifice. 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. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” John 12:17-19 The crowd following Jesus wasn’t going to waste this moment. You could call them Jesus’ unofficial press core, his PR team. They had seen a dead man walk out of a tomb (symbolism not lost on us) and were telling everyone that Jesus was in town. And the crowd kept growing. This only increased the agitation of the religious leaders and raised the attention of the Roman occupiers. They already had brought in extra troops to keep the Jews in line as they celebrated Passover. In other words, all eyes were on Jesus. Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. John 12:20-22 What’s going on here? Why were Greeks in Jerusalem for a Jewish celebration? Maybe they were after a cross-cultural experience? Or, more likely, they were much like the magi who came to see Jesus as a young child. They’d heard of this rabbi and wanted to know more. They were spiritually curious. Maybe that describes you today. You wouldn’t call yourself a follower of Jesus, but you’re open to learning more about him. Your spouse, a member of your family, maybe a neighbor has been telling you what Jesus has done in their life, maybe they even invited you to watch this. My prayer is that you will discover who Jesus is and the depth of his love for you. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, 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. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:23-26 Ok, thanks, Jesus. Now, about the Greeks who want to see you? I mean, doesn’t this kind of strike you like that? Maybe the fact that Greeks were there to see him caused Jesus to reflect on his life’s purpose and why he came. He begins to share the paradox that life comes through death with a grain of wheat analogy. How many wheat farmers are watching? I’ll admit I do not have green thumbs or a farming bone in my body. A grain of wheat on its own is simply a single grain. To become anything more, it has to be planted. The seed itself has to die to become something more. If planted, eventually a green sprout will appear, then the blade, then the plant, then the stem, and finally, a head of wheat. At last, it turns golden; the harvest has come. And then what? You plant again, and soon they’ll become a vast wheat field. In one seed, there are potentially millions of other seeds that can come out from it if it’s planted. If Jesus had not died on the cross, been buried, and rose again, we probably never would have heard of him at all. Think about it. After three years of his teaching, only a handful stood with him at the end of the week. But look at what was birthed from his death and resurrected life. A movement that has withstood everything Satan has thrown against it. Followers around the world, and it continues to grow. The Apostle Paul echoed these words when he said, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4) Jesus continues. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”… “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:27-28, 31-33 Jesus is being honest with us. He knows his death is coming. He sees the cross on the horizon. Even in saying, “it was for this reason I came,” in a few days, he’ll be praying in a garden, “…My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:38-39) Why? Why wasn’t this just an “I got this” moment for Jesus? Because in his death, he took on the total weight and penalty of sin. Not just my sin, not just your sin, but the sins of the world past, present, and future. You think the weight of your sin is heavy? Try all of humanity! The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light… Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” John 12:33-36, 44-45 The disciples weren’t the only ones who missed the message of what Jesus was saying. The people in the crowd didn’t understand either. This wasn’t adding up to their expectation of what a coming king would do. Kings conquer, they liberate, and they build kingdoms. They don’t come to die. So they ask, “Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” And Jesus responds to understand that, to know that, you have to believe. The word “believe” appears over 100 times in John’s Gospel. It means more than simply agreeing in your mind that what the Bible says, or what I’ve said, is true. It doesn’t mean that you have to… *have Jesus all figured out *understand everything the Bible says *not have any doubts or questions It simply means you trust in the person and work of Jesus. It’s a starting point that grows into a way of life. As I said a few minutes ago, this is only the beginning of the week for Jesus. He spent the week teaching, and people listened, watched, waited, and expected. For them, the week was a daily reminder of the occupation they lived under and the freedom they longed for as they prepared for Passover. And Jesus wasn’t living up to their expectation. As the week wore on, the parade party feeling wore off, and the palm branches were forgotten. And instead, they begin to feel… *doubt *disappointment *discouragement *disbelief Days later they would trade the palm branches for the wood of the tree, and Jesus would be hanging on a cross. John tells us later in his Gospel, …Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. John 19:12-16 Jesus is no longer the coming king. The cries of the crowd have now turned to “crucify him!” Do you find yourself in the crowd today, your unmet expectations of Jesus swept up by… *opinions of today’s culture *deconstruction of your faith *church trauma you’ve experienced *doubts or disillusionment You’re not sure he’s the coming king you thought, or you were told he was. Please, hear me when I say this: Jesus did not come to satisfy your expectations. Jesus didn’t come to satisfy your expectations. Your expectations are not high enough for what he wants to do in you, for you, and through you. Jesus did not come to meet your expectations, He came to exceed them. So, I ask you: Who is Jesus to you? Jesus made it personal when he once asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus said to believe in him is to believe in the one who sent him. To see him is to see the one who sent him. Jesus is claiming Deity, he’s claiming to be God. Now, either that’s true or it’s not. In the mid-nineteenth century, Scottish preacher John Duncan formulated what he called a “trilemma.” Here’s what he said: “(Jesus) either  deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or  He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or  He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is (unavoidable).” The argument goes like this: If Jesus is not God, he would either be a fraud or a fanatic. If Jesus is God, then he’s your greatest Friend. Is Jesus a Fraud? If Jesus claimed to be God, and He wasn’t, and He knew He wasn’t, he was a fraud. Lately, I’ve been hooked on documentaries and series about modern-day fraudsters: The Tinder Swindler, Inventing Anna, The Dropout and The Inventor about the Theranos corporation. All stories of individuals who misled and lied to others for personal gain. Defrauding people, not of thousands of dollars, but millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. It was amazing to see how easily lies were told with no sense of guilt or shame. If Jesus is a fraud, he has pulled off the greatest scam the world has ever seen. Billions have lived and died for a lie for over two thousand years, and Christianity is a hoax. What we’re doing here today has no foundation, no truth, no value whatsoever. Or, was Jesus a Fanatic? Think of it this way: let’s say your coworker thinks she’s more intelligent than you. True or not, it makes her arrogant. If she thinks she’s the most intelligent person in the company, she’s an egomaniac. If she thinks she’s the most extraordinary mind ever to walk the earth, she’s delusional. As self-perceptions become more and more divorced from reality, the more you’re forced to conclude a person is a fanatic with a delusional disorder. But if he’s neither of those, Jesus is a Friend Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft once said, “Jesus has in abundance precisely those three qualities which (frauds) and (fanatics)…lack: (1) His practical wisdom, (and) His ability to read human hearts …. (2) His deep and winning love, His passionate compassion, His ability to attract people and make them feel at home and forgiven…and above all (3) His ability to astonish, His unpredictability, His creativity.” Jesus said it this way, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) The crowd put Jesus on a cross, but he went there willingly for you, taking on your sins so that you could take on a new life in him. So, Who is Jesus to you? Here’s my challenge for you this week. Read the story of Jesus’ week found in John chapters 12-19. If you don’t have a Bible download the YouVersion Bible app on your phone or simply go to bible.com. If you are already a follower of Jesus, prepare your heart this week to celebrate on Easter Sunday the grace and life you have experienced in him. If you are not sure who Jesus is, simply ask God to reveal himself to you through what you read. Here’s what I believe … he will! And lastly, if you are choosing to believe that Jesus is who he said he is, even though all your questions aren’t answered, tell someone. Tell the person you’re sitting with. Tell someone you know is a follower of Jesus. Email me at [email protected] and tell me! You are making the single most significant life-changing decision, and Jesus is now your Friend. Let’s pray. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA