I want you to open your Bible to the text that we read earlier, the twelfth chapter of John. As we enter into this wonderful week of remembering the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that it all began with what is commonly called Palm Sunday, that Sunday in which Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and did so to the waving of palm branches and a hailing of him as King. And, of course, it ends with the resurrection. This is a great and glorious week for us to celebrate.
And in thinking about what we might look at today, I have been unable to avoid, over the last number of months and weeks and even days the flood of material that attacks the account of the Bible, whether it’s the gospel of Judas, which is the new National Geographic product being foisted upon the world. That has reached the front page of newspapers USA Today and every other newspaper, Wall Street Journal, every newspaper practically in the country. A new approach to the gospel that Judas and Jesus were buddies, they were good friends, and Jesus asked Judas to betray Him because it was a better way to work out His plan, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I went into a Barnes & Noble bookstore the other day, and I decided I would spend about a half-an-hour and find every book I could find in there that attacks the gospel. I couldn’t count them all. I couldn’t even find them all. I couldn’t even browse through the index of all of them – everything from The Da Vinci Code - which is like oxygen; it’s everywhere, down to every other strange and bizarre and demonic attempt to assault the gospel.
There was one section of books on Mary alone as co-redemptrix and co-mediatrix through whom all saving grace is passed to all humanity. That in itself is a category of assault on the gospel. There is a new treatment of the idea that John the Baptist and Jesus were both messiahs because there’s supposed to be two messiahs, and they were twin messiahs, and they kind of worked together to bring that all about, and everything beyond that.
There are old documents. There’s the gospel of Peter and the gospel of Thomas. There are gnostic gospels that abound. Gnosticism is a religion, and it hasn’t gone away. It’s still around. It come back in new forms all the time. There are those who advocate goddess worship. That attacks the gospel, repostures Mary as the primary personality in the gospel. It’s really endless.
And I found them in virtually every section of Barnes Noble except the travel section. So, they’re scattered all over everywhere: fiction, nonfiction, history, philosophy, religion, education – you name it.
How are we to respond to all of these things? Very simple. It’s very, very simple. There has always been a proliferation of trash out there. The Internet hasn’t created that; the Internet has just given a format for it. When somebody puts something on the Internet, it doesn’t make it true. In fact, if you have any sense at all, you probably ought to question it.
The same thing is true with ubiquitous material that’s been around since ancient times. It assaults the truth and assaults the gospel. And the answer to all of it is simply to compare everything with the Word of God. This is the inerrant, authoritative revelation from God Himself. It tells the real story, the only story, and anything that contradicts this is a hoax, whether it was written in 1990, whether it was written in 1750, 1620, or whether it was written in the third century, or whether it was written in 180 A.D., when the gospel of Judas first appeared. There has been spurious information from way back, even prior to the life of Christ there were spurious and false documents; they’ve always been around. The discovery of one doesn’t change anything at all.
No matter how old it is, if it contradicts the Bible, it is a lie, it is a deception, and it is spawned by the enemy of men’s souls, Satan himself. There are demonic sources to much of this material. Some human sources, much of it demonic.
How do we then understand these events around the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to Jerusalem, His betrayal, His death, and His resurrection? And so, I decided the answer is let’s just go back and see what the Bible says. And since this is the heart and soul of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and these are the main events, they occur in all four gospels, including the triumphal entry. It is one of the things that occurs in all four gospels. No one left this out because of its vital importance. It just so happens that I love the account of it that’s found in the gospel of John. And since it’s been a long, long time since we’ve looked at the gospel of John, I thought we would turn there. Let’s go to chapter 12, then, and consider this account.
Traditionally, Palm Sunday is a day filled with meaning for us as Christians. We sing hallelujah; we’ve done it. We sing hosanna. We praise the name of Jesus. We hail him as King, celebrating his entry into Jerusalem to the praises of His people. This is a day when everything that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist said in his Benedictus would come to pass actually came to pass. Do you remember when he was told by the angel that he was going to have a child who would be the great prophet to announce the arrival of the Messiah? His response was, “This is it; this is the great moment. All that was promised to David, all that was promised to Abraham, all that was promised in the new covenant is going to come to pass.” He said, “God has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David, His servant. This is salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. This is God showing mercy to us, remembering His holy covenant which He swore to Abraham. This is God bringing us to the holiness and righteousness that He pledged to us. This is God giving His people the knowledge of salvation and the forgiveness of sin through His tender mercy. The coming of Messiah,” said Zacharias, “is the sunrise visiting on us to shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of everlasting peace.”
I mean he knew that with the coming of Jesus, all of those great, prophetic elements of salvation were coming into focus. And so, Jesus comes. And He comes to do all that had been promised to David and Abraham, and promised in the new covenant to bring salvation. We now come to the end of those 33 years we come to the end of His life and His ministry. It’s really over. All that He needed to do to prove who He was is done. The announcement was made at His birth by the angels. The affirmation was confirmed by the shepherds. His perfect, sinless life was an evidence that He was, in fact, God, the Messiah, the Lord, the Christ, the Redeemer, the Savior.
His words and His works demonstrated His supernatural power. His power over demons, to command them and to direct them wherever He desired and deliver people from them, His power over disease, His power over death was proof enough. And He had banished illness from Palestine, from the land of Israel for the duration of His ministry, and raised the dead and cast out demons. And it was wonder upon wonder, day after day after day. And he had fed tens of thousands of people by creating food. He had walked on water. You know the wonderful record of all His miracles.
All the evidence was laid down. All the proof was in. Nothing more needed to be said, nothing more needed to be done. One capstone miracle. That miracle was designed to happen in proximity to Jerusalem. Just a couple of miles walk over the hill on the east side of Jerusalem into the little village called Bethany. And there that capstone miracle to His life and ministry was done, and it was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Not after He had just died, as if it was a resuscitation, but after he had already been wrapped and buried and entombed. And He came and raised Him from the dead.
This was the pinnacle; this was the capstone of His evidence to be the Messiah. All that needed to be done was done, and now it is time, based upon all that evidence to which the people have exposed both in Judea in the south and Galilee in the north, and now it is Passover, and they have all come to Jerusalem, all the people from all across the land had all come to Jerusalem for Passover, and they all came with all their stories of Jesus. This was the perfect time with the capstone miracle to make His official presentation of Himself.
And so it is that He comes into the city of Jerusalem on this Sunday. Before we look at the actual entry of Jesus, I want you to look at verse 1, because there is presented in the opening section here a perspective that I think sets the tone for the extremes and the tensions and the paradoxes of this event.
“Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” And the account of that is in the previous church. “So they made Him a supper there” - as they often had done. They were very close friends of Jesus; he had stayed at their home many times. “And Martha” - as always – “was serving. But Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him” - which would make this the happiest dinner that family had ever had, for he who had been dead was now alive.
And one can only imagine the questions and the discussion and the dialogue that was going on. And the first question certainly I would ask was, “Where were you and what was it like while you were gone?” And nothing is said about that, but what an event it would have been.
“And Mary” – always the devoted one, the one who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His words – “took a pound of very costly perfume” – a pound in their measurements would be 12 ounces. Twelve ounces of very costly perfume. Part of the cost of the perfume is indicated that it was made from pure nard. Nard is a root that grew in India. It had to be dug up, and then it had to be extracted; the oil from it was extracted. It was a dense oil. They made the perfume out of extracted from the root. And then it had to be carted on the backs of camels or some other animal all the way from India to get it there. Twelve ounces of that would have been a huge amount. In fact, you see in verse 5 that it was worth 300 denarii; that’s a year’s wages. Just imagine what your annual salary is. And in that economy, that would buy you this perfume. Very expensive. It would have been probably the largest component in Mary’s net worth.
“And she took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus.” Now, foot washing was a common thing to do, but you certainly didn’t waste something like this on feet. Maybe you washed the feet and put 1 drop, but not 12 ounces. This is way over the top. And then, she did what was totally unacceptable for a Jewish woman to do, she let her hair down in the presence of men, which was considered a disgrace and a shame and she used her hair to wipe His feet. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” No doubt not only then but for a long time afterward. Twelve ounces of that.
This is lavish love. This is extravagant love. This is unimaginable devotion. This is shocking disregard of the Jewish rules for female propriety in the presence of men. This is forbidden stuff. This is love at its most extravagant, at its most extreme. And this is to be understood on this day, when Jesus rides into the city. There are those who love Him extremely. There are those who love Him lavishly. There are those who love Him extravagantly.
But juxtaposed to that, in verse 4, “But Judas Iscariot” – and now we go from one extreme to absolutely the opposite extreme at the same moment, in the same situation, over the same commodity. “Judas Iscariot” – that is to say Judas from Kerioth – “one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?’” He was a hypocrite of the rankest kind. He was wretched. Jesus called him “a devil.” Jesus said Satan entered into his heart. There is no way to do revisionist history on Judas and come up with a good Judas without ignoring what the Bible says.
“He said this” – verse 6; here’s the commentary – “not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” How does a thief get the money box? By being really a good hypocrite. When they vote you treasurer, they think they can trust you. That’s the stock and trade of a clever embezzler.
And so, Judas is clearly characterized there. Here is extravagant hatred. Here is extreme animosity. Judas has grown to despise Jesus. It didn’t start out that way. At the beginning, he thought Jesus was his ticket to the big time. He followed him out of greed. He followed him because he loved money and power and prestige. And he thought, “This might be the Messiah who will bring the kingdom, and when He sets up His kingdom and He sets up His throne, and He becomes the King, I’ll be on the inside, and I’ll get a position of rank, and power, and money.”
And the more Jesus talked about dying, which He did talk about – in fact, back in chapter 11, in verse 16, “Thomas said to the fellow disciples, ‘Let’s go to Jerusalem that we may die with Him.’” He made it clear that He was going to die. They thought if they went to Jerusalem with Him, they’d probably get killed, too.
Things were really going south for Judas, and it wasn’t any real way out. And the more he could begin to see that Jesus wasn’t following the path that he expected, no doubt the more he began to steal to make up for the lost time. It’s not three years he’s been following Jesus, and he’s got nothing for it. Nothing. And by the time you get to this point, this is the last straw. This is where Judas comes completely unglued and he’s going to get what he’s going to get and get out. He’s starting to feel frenzy now. There is a kind of mad despair welling up in his heart.
And by the time it all shakes out, he figures out a way to at least get 30 pieces of silver out of this wasted life. He sells Jesus to the Jewish leaders as the price of three fruitless years. And in horrific remorse and guilt goes out and hangs himself. And he can’t even do that well. Either the rope or the branch broke, and he fell down a cliff and his bowels were burst open.
I mean you can’t even think of a more horrific person than Judas, nor can you think of a more wonderful one than Mary. And the Juxtaposing of those two characters in the same event shows you the discrepancies and the extremes in this very life of Jesus. There are those who hate Him profoundly. There are those who love Him profoundly. And it’s been that way since then, and it is that way now. And there’s a lot of mishmash in the middle, but the extremes are very real, and they show up on Palm Sunday. They show up on Palm Sunday.
It’s almost as if the love and hate tension set the stage for what will happen. By the way, Jesus said to Judas, “Let her alone in order that she may keep it for the day of My burial.” It was as if she was using it to anoint Him for His burial. “It’s okay. She did it out of lavish love, and it’s a fitting anointing for My burial.” And by saying that, he rubbed in the reality that Judas didn’t want to hear, that He was headed to death. And He said, “The poor you always have with you, but you don’t always have Me.”
Well, that brings us to verse 9, and that’s where we want to pick up the story of the next day. And this is the next day; this is Palm Sunday as we call it. “The great multitude, therefore, of the Jews learned that He was there” – a huge crowd learned that Jesus was there, meaning in Bethany, at the home of Lazarus – “and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that” – now, this is still on Saturday till we get to verse 12; this is still on Saturday – “He was there; they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.”
So, part of the crowd in Jerusalem moves out there on Saturday. “The chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also” – it’s not going to be enough to kill Jesus now; they’re going to have to kill Lazarus. Because if they don’t kill Lazarus, Lazarus will run around telling everybody he’s been dead and he’s back. And that’s going to make them look bad because they killed the One who raised him from the dead. So, now they not only need to kill Jesus, but they need to kill Lazarus.
Now, this shows you the extreme hate. I mean they’re just so hateful; they are really on the Judas side of attitude toward Jesus. But the crowd in general is curious. And so, they come out to see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. The leaders are panicked, verse 11 says, “Because on account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Jesus stock has arisen, and the people are fascinated by Jesus. It’s very fickle at this point, as we know. The same crowd that’s so excited about what He did to Lazarus is the same crowd that screams for His own death a few days later.
But you have this crowd, then, going to Bethany to find Jesus to see Lazarus. Now you’re coming to the next day, verse 12. “On the next day” – and this is where we want to pick up the story – let’s call this the fateful or the final presentation; let’s say the final presentation. Okay? This is it. This is Jesus’ final presentation of Himself to the nation. This is the official presentation at the highest point of exposure. Because of the Passover, everybody was there – not only from the land of Israel, but from other parts of the Gentile world where Jews were living and proselytes had come to Judaism, and they were all there as well.
So, we find, “On the next day, the great multitude who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees” – and we’ll stop there for a moment.
So, we’ve got two crowds. We’ve got a crowd in Bethany; and we’ve got a huge, massive crowd – hundreds of thousands – we don’t know; the numbers are hard to reconstruct, but there are occasion in which people go up to two million people because as many as a quarter of a million animals could be sacrificed, according to some historians, in one Passover period, and it was often one animal for ten people. So, if you multiply that, you get as many as two million. It’s maybe more likely hundreds of thousands of people. A massive crowd in and around Jerusalem.
Then you’ve got a crowd in Bethany. So, the next day, the crowd from Bethany comes on the way, Jesus leading that crowd back to Jerusalem. Filling in some details, he would leave Bethany, come up the back side of the Mount of Olives and down the front side of the Mount of Olives and toward the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. On the way, He sends two of His disciples to a nearby village, a suburb, and He asks those disciples to go into this little village and go to a certain home, and there he will find a donkey and the colt of a donkey tied to a post.
And the disciples go into that little village. They go to that home. They tell the owner of the home, “The Lord needs these animals.” The owner – probably followers of Jesus – quickly complied, gave them the animals. The disciples then take the animals. They threw their own outer garments over the colt and over the colt’s mother, and Jesus gets on the colt. So, when Jesus, leading this crowd from Bethany, meets the crowd coming out of Jerusalem, He is riding on the colt with its mother alongside.
Most of the people who accompanied Jesus from Bethany, Scripture says, began to throw their cloaks down in front of Him - like producing a red carpet kind of thing – and throwing palm branches down. And the crowd coming out of the city of Jerusalem are waving - cutting tree branches from the palm trees and waving them and then throwing them at His feet, creating this sort of royal road. This is the climax to a life of healing and a life of casting out demons and raising the dead and speaking profound truth.
So, the Passover pilgrims come out, the ones from Bethany come in – this massive, massive crowd. And what circulates through the crowd is that this man Lazarus has been raised from the dead. And there’s more interest in Jesus than there’s ever been at that moment. Massive enthusiasm engulfs the crowd. Everybody gets swept up in it.
We all know that kind of mob attitude, the collective mob emotion. The two crowds come together. The enthusiasm is contagious. Some people start to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” And the cry of the crowd escalates and escalates. And finally, they’re all engulfed – and we’ve seen this. This is like a riot. This is like a protest, only it’s a positive one and not a negative one.
We’ve even seen recently a hundred thousand people, two hundred thousand people marching in the street for some cause here in America or over in France. We’re used to that. Well, that’s this kind of massive, uncontrollable event. And the point of it all, what’s carrying the crowd away is that Jesus is the King; He is the Messiah. And in no way does He deny the hosannas. That is His final presentation. And He is saying something by riding in on a colt, by the way. He is riding in a donkey’s colt – not a white horse; this is not how a typical conqueror would ride in. And this is saying, in a sense, He comes not to make war, but He comes to make peace. He comes not to kill; he comes to die.
So, the final presentation has behind it the fulfilled prophecies. Look at verse 13, and we come to the second point the fulfilled prophesies. When “they took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to cry out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” – that statement was right out of the prophecy of Zechariah. Zechariah 9:9. And the prophecy of Zechariah is this: it is that, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, the King comes unto thee; He is just and having salvation, lowly, riding upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.”
So, the image is from Zechariah 9:9. The words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” are directly out of Psalm 118. Psalm 118, the “Hallel,” verse 26, the last of the Hallel psalms, the praise psalms. Jews sung them all the time. They still do. And 118 is called the Conqueror’s psalm. So, they know this is their conquering Messiah. They are singing the “Hallel.” They are reciting the words of the Conqueror’s psalm, while He, in posture, is fulfilling Zechariah 9:9.
Verse 14 comments on the fact that came on a young donkey as fulfillment, verse 15, of Zechariah’s prophecy that the King would come seated on a donkey’s colt. So, these two prophecies are fulfilled. The prophecy of Jesus’ posture on a colt from Zechariah and the cry of the crowd which is taken right out of Psalm 118:26. This is the “Hallel”; this is the, “Hail the conquering hero, the Lord has come.”
The phrase added, “Even the King of Israel,” is not in Psalm 118. They do an interpretation of Psalm 118 with that comment. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” they knew to be messianic. So, they add, “Yes, this is the King of Israel.” So, here is the coronation moment.
By the way, calculating from the prophecy of Daniel 9 – in Daniel 9:24 to 27, Daniel said this event, the coming of the Messiah in the official sense would occur 69 times 7 years – 69 weeks of years. So, that’s 483 years – 69 times 7. Daniel said it will be 483 years from the decree of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem. That decree is 445. That decree was what freed up, of course, the Jews in Babylonian captivity to leave and go back and rebuild their city and their nation. Four hundred and eighty-three years from there can be calculated down to the 9th of Nisan A.D. 30. The 9th of Nisan A.D. 30. If you do all the calculations – I won’t take you through all of that – we know exactly this day, and it is exactly, to the day, 483 years from the decree of Artaxerxes exactly on schedule.
There’s another fulfilled prophecy. On a colt, that’s fulfilled prophecy. The crowd says exactly what the Old Testament says is the appropriate thing to say when the Messiah arrives, and the event occurs precisely at the moment it should occur on the 9th of Nisan 30 A.D. when you do all of the necessary calculations.
Now, just to show you that Jesus wasn’t fooled by this very superficial response, I want you to look at Luke chapter 19. This has to be taken into consideration at this moment if you’re going to understand the event. You pick it up at verse 38 – actually, you can see prior to that that it talks about the colt and spreading their garments on the road. “And as He was” – verse 37 – “approaching the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen” – and these are the ones coming from Bethany with Him, and they’re all saying – and they probably launched the great hosannas – they’re saying, “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord’” – and – “‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” And that’s all messianic stuff.
“And some of the Pharisees in the multitude that are obviously colliding here said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’” Tell them to stop this claiming that You’re the Messiah.
“And Jesus answered and said, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!’
“And when He approached” – this is so interesting – “He saw the city and wept over it.” He wasn’t caught up in the emotion of the event. He knew better; He wept. And He said, “If you had know in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!” If you only knew the peace – the eternal peace – temporal peace and eternal peace that’s available to you; if you only knew. “But now they’ve been hidden from your eyes.” That is a judicial judgment by God on an unbelieving nation: you wouldn’t believe, and now you can’t. “For the days shall come, and they’ll come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you and surround you” – that’s a siege; it happened in 70 A.D. 40 years later – “and hem you in on every side” – that’s exactly what the Romans did – “and level you to the ground” – that’s what they did – “your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another” – and they did that; they tore the city to the ground and the wall – “because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” It isn’t the Romans that are judging you; it’s God judging you by use of the Romans.
And then it goes on to say, “He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling.” Judaism was apostate. The nation was apostate. This fickle kind of attitude that was going on, this huge emotional movement that was launched on that day had nothing substantial behind it and He knew it. He knew they were fickle.
It might have been a triumphal entry in one sense, but in another sense it was a tearful entry. A tearful entry. When a king came in to proclaim war, he rode a horse – a white horse. Historians say that when a king rode a donkey, he was coming in peace. It wasn’t a single Roman soldier in a garrison – in the garrison that was established in Jerusalem on duty that day who saw Jesus riding on a colt that would have thought that He looked like a threat. And He had no soldiers anyway.
But the next time He comes, according to Revelation 19:11, it says this, “Behold a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” This time He came in peace to die. Next time He comes in war to kill. So, the final presentation fulfills prophesies.
A third point, the faithful’s perplexity. And I think this is understandable, verse 16, “These things His disciples did not understand at the first.” How could they understand? I mean they were being yanked from pillar to post. How could they sort it all out? One minute He was telling them, “I’m going to die; I have to go to Jerusalem, and I have to die.”
And Peter’s saying, “Lord, no, you’re not going to die. We’re not going to let that happen; that’s the wrong plan.”
Jesus says, “Get thee behind Me, Satan,” to Peter.
The next thing you know, He’s healing people; He’s raising the dead, and they’re thinking, “This is it; this is triumph. The kingdom is going to come.” And then He goes back to saying He’s going to die.
Now they’re coming into the city, and it all looks like, “This is it! The moment we’ve hoped for and prayed for. Forget all the death things, forget the words of Thomas, ‘Let’s go to Jerusalem and die with Him.’ Look at this; this is phenomenal! He’s going to establish the kingdom, and we’re all going to reign with Him in that kingdom.” And before they can barely catch their breath, it’s apparent to Jesus that this is very fickle and that nothing has changed, and the whole place is apostate. And the next moment they see Jesus cleaning the temple out, creating massive public conflict with the leaders of the temple operation that eventually escalate to the point where the crowd screams for His blood – the same that screamed hosanna – and He winds up, at the end of the week, dead.
No wonder on the road to Emmaus they’re saying, “It’s over; that’s the end. What’s the point?” They were perplexed; they were confused. They couldn’t understand it, and they didn’t, it says, until when Jesus was glorified, “then they remembered” – verse 16 – “that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”
They didn’t understand all of this. They didn’t und the death of the Messiah. They didn’t understand that He had to die until afterward, after it all was over and the Spirit of God came, because when Jesus was glorified, He sent the Spirit, “And the Spirit” - according to John chapter 14, verse 26, Jesus said - “will teach you all thing, bring all things to your remembrance. And the Spirit will teach you the things concerning Me.” Oh, when the Spirit came, the light went on. They got it all. They understood the whole thing.
Now, you have to understand it seems easier for us to understand; we’re on this side. We have the full revelation of this in four gospels and all the epistles that explain it in the New Testament. They were dealing in the moment with things that were incomprehensible to them. It just didn’t make sense until the Spirit came and they understood. And now we understand; we’re not confused about what was going on here. We’re not – I’m not confused about Judas; I’m not confused about Jesus; I’m not confused about the triumphal entry. I know exactly what the events are because I have the written revelation of the Spirit of God and the illumination of the Spirit in my heart. I don’t need to read the gospel of Judas, the gospel of Peter, the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Mary or any other heretical gnostic document. I’m not searching for the historical Jesus. I know where the historical Jesus lies; He lies on the pages of Scripture, just exactly where God placed the divine revelation about Him.
But they didn’t have the Word of God. Talk about being emotionally jerked around, that was them.
But from the faithful’s perplexity, we look at the fickleness of the people. Look at verse 17, “So the multitude who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were bearing Him witness.” They were saying, “This is the guy that did it. He raised that man from the dead.”
“For this cause also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.” I mean there’s the dead giveaway right there. They were just - there was this curious, fickle, thrill-seeker mentality. They were all there. They were in Galilee when He fed them all. They were in Galilee when He walked on the water and showed up the next morning, and all they wanted out of Him was another free meal. They were in Judea when He did all of His wonderful miracles of healing there. They were always the thrill seekers, always looking for the next miracle, wanting the next show. They are the same crowd that scream for His blood and prefer Barabbas, a terrorist, to be released to wreak havoc in their midst again than to have Jesus released.
And if we meet the fickle people and the perplexed faithful, we come now, in verse 19, to the frustrated Pharisees, and they’re caught in the middle of this thing. We know how they feel about Him because of our study of Luke. They want Him dead. They can’t wait till He’s dead. Go back to chapter 11, verse 53, “From that day on they planned together to kill Him.” And that was exactly the way God wanted it. Jesus needed to die on the Passover. He needed to die as a paschal Lamb, a Passover Lamb on the Passover. The Jews didn’t want that to happen. They wanted to avoid the crowd. They didn’t want to kill Jesus when the crowd was there, especially when the whole world was going after Him. They are in a panic, but He is causing them to have to act.
Verse 19, “The Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you’re not doing any good” – nothing we have done has worked – “look, the world has gone after Him.’” They are really irate; they are really frustrated; they’re really in a panic. Already Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year, said, “You know what’s going to happen to us?” Verse 48, “If we let Him go on like this, all men are going to believe in Him, and the Romans are going to come and take away our place in our nation.”
“We’re going to lose everything. The Romans are going to come and get us, because if everybody follows this Jesus, the Romans are going to read that as a rebellion and an insurrection because He’s a King, and they’re all hailing this King, and Caesar’s not going to like that, and the Romans are going to see that as a real revolution, and the Romans are going to come and make war against us, and we’re going to lose our position, we’re going to lose our place, we’re going to lose” – they were appointed or allowed to be appointed in the positions they were in of power and money by the Romans – “we’re going to lose our nation, and we’re going to wind up getting killed and slaughtered at the hands of the Romans. This man keeps drawing people after Him.”
So, he says – Caiaphas says, “Look” – verse 50 – “it’s better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” We’ve got to kill Him. If it’s not Him, it’s going to be us. If it’s not Him, it’s going to be us.
Witlessly, “not on his own initiative” – verse 51 – “this was a true prophesy that Jesus was, in fact, going to die for the nation” – but not in the way that he thought; die for them spiritually for their souls, not to preserve their physical life and position. They were in a frenzy.
And this is what Jesus wanted. He wanted them to panic and to force His death so it would occur on Friday. This was critical in the plan of God. They would never determine when He would die. They had tried to do that before. They tried to kill Him on day in Nazareth, and He passed through their midst because His time was not right. This is the time; this is the hour. Not because they want it, but because God wants it; He wants it, and this is, then, when it will happen.
So, you see confusion among the disciples. You see perplexity; they can’t sort it all out. You see fickleness on the part of the people who one day are saying, “Hosanna,” a few days later, “Crucify Him; frustration on the part of the Pharisees.
The little glimmer of blessing is in verse 20. Let’s look at the following pagans. Trailing along in this crowd were some Gentiles – people from pagan countries – called Greeks or Gentiles here. Verse 20, “There were certain Gentiles” – or Greeks – “among those who were going up to worship at the feast.” Remember, when they had the Passover, Jews came from everywhere. But these aren’t Jews; these would be proselytes to Judaism, people who converted to Judaism somewhere in the Gentile world, and they joined the Jews to come to the Passover.
And so, these Gentiles are curious. Having not lived in Israel, they don’t know all that Jesus has done; they’re not eyewitnesses to any of this. They hear about Him raising this man from the dead, and no doubt they asked further questions, “Who is He? What has He done?” And they got some kind of a history of the amazing life and ministry of Jesus.
So, “They came to Philip,” - who they could see was associated with Jesus – “working their way through the crowd from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’” We want to know more about this; these things are so interesting to us.
“And Philip came and told Andrew; and Andrew and Philip came and they told Jesus.” Philip probably went to Andrew and said, “Hey, what do I do, man? I don’t know what to do with these people. There’s this group of Gentiles that want to see Jesus, and what do I do?”
And Andrew said, “Well, let’s go tell Jesus and see what He wants to do. We don’t know who they are, but they obviously had become proselytes to Judaism.” They had embraced Judaism, so, they came to the Passover event, got caught up in the mob, heard all of the celebrations of Messiah. They were now in the messianic mentality, because when you become a Jew, you embrace the messianic hope. And they want to know if, in fact, Jesus is the Messiah, and they desire an interview.
You know, there’s something about this that’s so amazing to me. This is like a – this is like a rebuke to the whole nation of Israel. The only people who want to talk to Jesus aren’t even Jews. What does that tell you? The mob is obviously the Jewish people. They’re crying about Jesus being the Messiah. They’re hailing Him as the King of Israel. They’re in the middle of the emotion and the celebration.
But the people who want to talk to Him are Gentiles, and they’re just awakening to the consciousness that Jesus could be the Messiah. This is like a preview of the church. This is like a preview of the Lord turning from Israel to the world.
They came, and I’m sure Jesus received them. I actually think the conversation in verse 23 and following was with them. I think when Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus, these people were with them. Because what He says was so important for them to hear. Their point, “We want to know about Jesus.”
“Come on. Him that comes unto Me I will in no wise cast out.”
I’m sure they were brought along to hear this fatal prediction, the last point, sixthly, the fatal prediction. “Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’” This is it; this is the hour. Many times He had said, “My hour is not yet come.” He’d said it over and over again. This time He says, “The hour has come” – this is it – “for the Son of Man” – that great messianic title from Daniel 7:13 and 14 – “for the Son of Man” – which they would know about, because now remember, they had proselytized to Judaism – “the Son of Man is now to be exalted; the Conqueror is to be glorified. This is My time,” He says. But not in the way that they expected, because in verse 24 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth an dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He is talking about His death now.
In the middle of this explosion of emotional affirmation, He talks about His death. He’s weeping; we know that from Luke 19. He knows this is fickle, temporary, but He has a little group there that are legitimate. They want the message, not just the emotion of the moment. And so, He turns their vision for the Messiah, He turns their anticipation and their interest to His death.
“I say to you” – He doesn’t say this to the crowd. We know He doesn’t say it to the crowd because in verse 29, “The multitude therefore who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’” Somehow the multitude is now disconnected. They’re just hearing noise. And even in the end of that noise is the voice of God out of heaven. But I think that may be an indication that there was separation.
He’s talking to this group that’s interested, and He’s saying, “Okay, you’re the ones that need to know this. If I don’t die, there is no life for anyone.” As long as the grain remains in the granary, it is preserved by its outside shell, but it can’t produce. It only has the power to produce itself. Any grain, when it goes into the ground, when the shell decomposes. And in the decomposing of the shell, the rotting away of the shell, the dying of that external grain, the life inside begins to flourish. And that is a beautiful analogy. Grain alone has no fruit, produces nothing. It has to die. That’s what planting seeds is all about. Then it produces and multiplies. Jesus is saying, “I have to die. If I don’t die, I abide alone.”
If Jesus doesn’t go to the cross and die, it’s real simple, there are no people in heaven ever, no souls redeemed. There wouldn’t be anybody there from Adam to the end of human history if Jesus doesn’t die. Nobody in the Old Testament is going to go to heaven, and nobody living since the coming of Christ would go to heaven. There is no spiritual harvest apart from death. He must die if anyone is to live.
And so, He says, “Here’s the gospel; the message is the cross. I must die. I must die, but out of My death will come life: My own life and your life as well.”
His example could give no life. His teaching could give no life. His miracles could give no spiritual life. His transfiguration could give no life. Had He been translated into heaven like Enoch, or had He been taken to heaven in a chariot of fire like Elisha, had He been escorted above in a – like a golden grain of wheat, He would have remained forever in heaven alone, and there would be no redeemed humanity, there would be no people in heaven worshiping Him forever and ever. But He saw a spiritual harvest coming out of His death, and that was the joy that was set before Him.
And then He told them and us, “He who loves his life loses it; he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to eternal life.” Now, what are you going to do about it? “I’m going to die, and you’re going to have to die, too.” Here’s the principle, oft repeated – we’ve seen it again and again: Luke 9, “If any man come after Me, let him deny himself. Whoever loses his life keeps it; whoever keeps His life loses it.” Matthew 10, Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 14 – it’s all over everywhere.
The point is this, “If you want the life that My death brings, then you give up your life. You deny yourself; you take up your cross; you follow Me. You turn from your sin and your personal ambition and personal will, and you fall at My feet, embrace Me as Lord and Savior.” He even calls it, verse 25, “He who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.” You want life eternal? Then you have to turn your back on your life in this world, recognize you’re a sinner, that everything in this life is folly. Abandon yourself to Christ. Lose your life; give it up. We’ve looked at that so many times. “I’m going to die to give you life, and you’re going to have to die to receive that life.
But, verse 26, “If anyone serves me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be.” What’s the end reward of this? Why would I do this? Why would I hate my life in this world? Why would I give up my life and forfeit it to embrace Jesus Christ? Because if I serve Him, if I follow Him, I’ll be where He is. Where’s that? Heaven. It’s about heaven.
This is always the promise of the gospel. It’s not about a happy life here; it’s about heaven. It’s about eternal life in the glorious presence of God. What’s the payoff? Eternal heaven. And what is eternal heaven? The end of verse 26, “If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” If you ever wonder what heaven is, it’s where God honors the sinner: saved and cleansed. Staggering, staggering thought.
They came to the disciples and said, “We want to know about Jesus; we want to talk to Him.” Sure, here He is.
He takes them to the cross, “I have to die. Then you have to die. But the payoff? You get to go with Me where I am, and there be honored forever by God.”
As He said in John 5, “Whoever honors Me honors My Father. Whoever honors My Father, My Father will forever honor.” What we will experience in heaven is the honor that comes to us from God. That’s the greatness of saving grace.
Lord, as we come to the conclusion of our service this morning, we feel in a little bit of a sense like we were there that day, experiencing something of the incredible drama of the moment, seeing the component parts kind of unfold: the attitude of the fickle people, the attitude of the perplexed disciples, the attitude of the frustrated and angry Pharisees, the horrible attitude of the hateful betraying Judas.
But the window in all of it is the love of Mary - so lavish, so extravagant - and the true interest of a few Gentile Jewish proselytes who asked the right questions and got the right answers and were led by Jesus to the cross and to personal repentance and abandonment and a willingness to follow Him, to obey Him, and thus to enter into eternal life, to be honored forever by God. What a great, great, glorious moment in an otherwise terribly tragic and disappointing day.
We see Jesus doing personal evangelism, promising heaven to those who will give up their lives to embrace His life, His death, His resurrection. That’s still the message, and we bring it even today, hoping that there will be some like those who will hear it and believe.
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