April 5, 2020

Hope for Zion

Speaker:
Passage: John 12:9-27

Have you found yourself anxious or fearful these past few weeks? The COVID-19 virus is now a global pandemic, and many have called for the US to take war-like action. The president of the United States has assigned American businesses to produce medical equipment. Schools and businesses have closed, people quarantined, jobs and lives have been lost because of this unseen enemy.

This pandemic is a strenuous circumstance that God will use to reveal the heart of people. Like a sponge, when squeezed the heart pours out its contents. For some, fear, covetousness, distrust, anger, or hopelessness has poured forth as a result. Church, we are not immune to these sins of the heart. When our faith fails, we often give in to these sins. But we don’t have to be controlled by them. God will use the furnace to burn the dross. When you see such things come from your heart, I encourage you now, employ the gospel to put them to death! When you fear, remember God is sovereign and good. When you covet, remember he will provide for your every need. When you distrust those around you, trust God to deliver you! When you are angry, do not sin in your anger, but trust the one who will bring justice to all. When you are hopeless, remember the promise of God to deliver His people, and bring them to His side.

Trial reveals what you trust and love most. Therefore, when confronted with fear, lean into FAITH! And let us not be overwhelmed by our circumstance, but let us be trained by it. May this because for us to draw near in prayer and fasting, for earnest confession and repentance, to love and have concern for our neighbors, and to be bold and proclaim our hope in Jesus as we see the Day drawing near.

In the end, may we see this time as God’s mercy to us, that He would use the trial to purify His church and in us produce endurance, which develops character, and character, HOPE, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts … (Romans 5:4-5). 

We await an eternity with God, therefore, we will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday… because we have made the Lord our dwelling place, the Most High, our refuge, (Psalm 91:5–6, 9).

This is the aim of our message today: With fearless-faith we await our salvation from God, our Hope for Zion. This is Palm Sunday. We are going to look at John’s account of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. We must view this passage in the context of all of what John has taught us up to this point. 

We will look at the passage under the following headings: Overarching Context, The King You Want, The King You Need, and The King and His Servants. 

Though you are home, would you stand in honor of God’s word, as I read?

John 12:9–26

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. [13] So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [14] And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

[15] “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”

[16] His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. [17] The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. [18] The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. [19] So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

[20] Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. [21] So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [22] Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. [23] And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. [24] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. [25] Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26] If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (ESV)           

 [Pray]             

The Overarching Context:

Each week we have been in John, it has been my aim to remind you of John’s overarching purpose: to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. John’s gospel is different than the others. He employs much more of a “show, not tell” writing style. He testified to Jesus’ deity through 7 signs, the last was the resurrection of Lazarus. Thus far in John, Jesus has been declared the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, the bread of life, the one with living water, he has been sent from the Father. He is the good shepherd of Israel. He is declared the King, the Messiah, or the Christ, which literally means, anointed. 

John recorded the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, the day before the triumphal entry. Each sign and teaching John had recorded was rich with meaning. In his narrative we see elements of Jesus as prophet, priest, and King.

Our text today occurred at the last Passover before Jesus’ crucifixion. The Sanhedrin had already decided that Jesus would die. Shortly after, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and many people had heard of it. Thus they too believed Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel. Therefore, Lazarus also made the Sanhedrin hit-list. Let’s pick up the narrative in verse 12. 

The King They Wanted

[12] The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. [13] So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 

The crowd took palm branches and went to meet Jesus. Palm branches had become a nationalistic symbol for the people of Israel. Two centuries earlier, Simon Maccabee was honored with palm branches after he led forces against Syria and drove them out of Jerusalem. That the crowd waved palm branches signaled their nationalistic hope that a political liberator had arrived. 

Thus, they cried out, “Hosanna!” Which is a Hebrew transliteration of “give salvation now!” And this was their plea to Jesus, as they lauded him the Son of David, “He who comes in the name of the Lord.” They quoted Psalm 118:26, the finishing psalm of Hallel, sung at the Passover celebration. It pointed to the Messiah, the king of Israel. The one who would say, The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me… and All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!

The people declared Jesus was their Messiah, the king. But why? They had heard he had fed the thousands, that he had healed the blind and lame, and now that he could raise the dead (v18). Think of it, no more foreign countries to fear, kick the Gentiles out of Judea, no more death or sickness because Jesus could heal and raise the dead! He could feed an army, heal an army, and raise an army from the dead. During festivals like Passover, millions of Jews would enter the city of Jerusalem. This is the PERFECT TIME to overthrow the Roman government! Were they wrong? No… they were, indeed, correct. 

But they didn’t understand the kind of King they had received, and it appears that the disciples at that time, didn’t either. Look at verse 16:

[16] His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

What didn’t they understand? What are “these things” John eluded to? 

The King They Needed

Look back to John 12:

[14] And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, [15] “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”

John alerted us that Jesus had fulfilled a Messianic prophecy having ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. He cited Zechariah 9:9, but also pulled from Isaiah 40:9. In order to understand what the disciples and the crowd failed to see, we need to see the passage in its context.

First, Isaiah 40:9-12

[9] Go on up to a high mountain,O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

[10] Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

[11] He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (ESV)

Zion, God’s city, which we know as Jerusalem, is to be the herald of the gospel, the good news. It is the birthplace of the gospel, for it was in Jerusalem that Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. John drew on Isaiah specifically in the words, fear not. Why are we not to fear? Behold Jesus! Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might and his arm rules for him…  We are to see and trust that God is our protector. He will do the fighting for us. His salvation is won, not by our help, but by his arm! We are his reward and he will get his recompense, or justice. We cannot take Jesus as king and manipulate him as a means to our own end. Instead, we come to him like a lamb, are gathered into his arms, and we trust him to lead us, even carry us away to safety. Fear not…

Here is the passage in Zechariah 9:9-10

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. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Behold, your King! There are a few observations we need to make about this passage. First, the King did not come to you on a warhorse, but a donkey. A donkey was a beast of burden, a beast of peace. And not just a donkey, but a colt. A young donkey. As far away from violence, and as low to the ground as Jesus possibly could be. He comes as a humble king. Though possessing heaven and earth, though commanding legions of angels, though able to still the wind and waves, he does not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but came as a servant. Behold your God. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim. Ephraim represented the Northern tribes of Israel. Then, it is said, “and the war horse from Jerusalem,” representing Judah. The battle bow shall be cut off. There will be no more war. “And he shall speak peace to the nations.” Peace, but not by means of war. Peace with Gentiles and foreigners. Peace by means of his word. Behold your King. “And His rule shall be from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.” He is the King of the world.

There is one more phrase we need to observe. Look back to verse 9. “Righteous and having salvation is he.” Upon first reading this passage, I understood this to mean that He had salvation that he would give. While I believe this to be true, one commentated wrote that the language “suggests a situation in which the king was both accused and attacked by his enemies. However, he was vindicated and saved by the Lord.” This fits Jesus very well, and it fits verse 22 of Psalm 118, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and chief priests. But Jesus didn’t come to be the king they wanted, he came to be the King they needed.

So, the misunderstood Messiah came to Jerusalem, knowing the people wanted to leverage his power, and the priests and Sanhedrin wanted to send him to his death. He had stirred up the city because they could not deny his miracles, the raising of Lazarus being the most prominent. And John records an interesting statement in verse 19: So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

From the outset, John’s gospel declared the Jesus was the Savior of the world. In Zechariah, we see He speaks peace to the nations. With this statement John foreshadowed our next glimpse into that day. Look at verse 20.

[20] Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. [21] So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [22] Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. [23] And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 

We have spoken much recently regarding Jesus’ hour of glorification. How would it be that a few greeks wanting to see Jesus would cause him to make such a statement? Had Jesus paused any length of time, the disciples might have interpreted that Jesus was in fact going to take the throne by force and expunge Rome from Jerusalem. But his hour of glory was something far different than expected. Instead of casting foreigners out of the city of God, he signaled that they would be brought in. Instead of slaying the Romans he was going to die by their hand. Listen to what he said:

[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Jesus was indicating the only way they would enter His kingdom would be through his death. If he chose not to die, there would be no resurrected life for anyone. The prisoners would not be set free. There would be no forgiveness of sins. He was, in fact, righteous and saved, but we are not. In order for you and I to be declared righteous and thus saved, God’s recompense, his justice had to be satisfied. This was not a recompense that we get to participate in. We are not the instruments of justice, for our scales are not balanced, but he is perfectly just and has accomplished salvation by his own saving arm. And just as a grain of wheat is planted and sprouts many grains of wheat, so the death of Jesus has and will produce many who are righteous and saved sons and daughters of God. Who are those sons and daughters? What does it look like to be His servant?

The King and His Servants

[25] Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26] If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (ESV)

Let us not make light of his words: “Whoever loves his life loses it…” Church let us take a long look at our own hearts this day. The palm-laden road into Jerusalem was filled with so-called believers who “loved their life.” They wanted Jesus to make it better! The Sanhedrin loved their life and sought to protect it from Rome by crucifying Jesus. Gentiles and Greeks and Romans and Americans love their life. When we love our own life, we act not in obedience to God, but in the preservation of our own interests. We look out for our own needs and wants first. We, in essence, are saying, “Jesus gets to be king, as long as I get what I want.” 

Jesus said this kind of person will lose their life—eternally. The context is salvation and eternal life. Look at the juxtaposition: whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. And, If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Obedience is not an option! To follow in the greek is an imperative! And it is his servants that will be with him where he is! The honor of the Father is reserved for those who follow Jesus into eternal life!

What does it look like to hate your life now? It looks like Jesus, that’s what it looks like. Jesus, though possessing all power, was the most humble of kings. Jesus, though having every right to exact justice upon his betrayers and murderers, prayed “Father forgive them…” Jesus, though knowing their intent and that they’d betray him, fed the thousands. Jesus, though he came to arrest him, healed the ear of the guard in the garden. He blesses his enemies, he gives to the poor, does things that normal people think are just stupid, foolish even, because it makes no personal sense! He trusts God to deliver him even while knowingly walking to his death.

What does that look like, church, to follow King Jesus, here and now, in the 21st century, amidst a pandemic? It looks like this: absolute faith that you belong to God, in life or death, and He will bring you home when it is time. It looks like loving and serving others, giving food, making masks, doing things that look like the opposite of “self-promotion” but instead putting others before yourself. It looks like proclaiming and sharing the gospel that Jesus is the Son of God, that there is hope in His name! It looks like abandoning comforts for the sake of knowing Him, sacrificing time and food and money because He is better.

I want to end with these opening words from the Heidelberg Confession of 1563:

Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong— body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Amen.

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