These Things They Did Not Understand

These Things They Did Not Understand

John 12. Today, of course, this Palm Sunday is the beginning of passion week, celebration of Jesus coming to Jerusalem according to prophetic proclamation. So look to the reading of God’s Word if you join me in prayer. Heavenly fathers, we meet now in your presence. We ask you to open our ears to hear your voice, to open our hearts to love you more and more, to open our souls to receive your Word in its fullness so that your son, Jesus, the Word made flesh, would be glorified and honored in our lives. For it’s in his name that we do pray. Amen. Beginning in verse 12, The next day, the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 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. ‘ And Jesus found a young donkey and set on it, just as it is written, fear not, daughter of Zion, behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt. 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.

The crowd that had been with him when he called lasers out of the tomb and erased them from the dead, continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was they heard he had done this sign. So the pharisee said to one another, You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him. The word of the Lord. You please be seated. I was in a pastor’s conference with about 1200 in attendance, and one of the speakers said something funny to which we all laughed. One young man misunderstood what was said, and he took it the wrong way unintentionally. And how I know this is because he felt it was important enough to stand up and shout at the speaker. And after he done that, he rebuked all the rest of us for laughing. And having made his here I stand speech, he stormed out. Later, a kind soul went to him and connected the dots that he had missed. And there was a sheepish apology given. I was more intrigued by the idea of what makes a person feel that he should angrily stand up, interrupt the speaker, rebuke a room full of older pastors, rather than just double check what he’d heard in the first place.

When you’re 1200 to one, a modicum of humility might be an order. But no, I’ve also witnessed people intentionally misunderstanding something. And even after a very careful explanation was given, they still insisted on their own view. They could not admit that they were wrong because if they did, they would have to face something about themselves that they were adamant to refuse to see. We can misunderstand for lots of reasons, pride, envy, personal cost, foolishness, indifference, or incomplete knowledge. And we can do so intentionally or unintentionally. And both of these are at work in our text. We can see what Jesus was doing from this vantage point. He was communicating in his actions, and that was not understood by several groups for different reasons. His light was intentionally called darkness by the self righteous. For his disciples, only when the meaning of the cross became clear were they able to look back and to get it, to understand. The Lord alone can open our eyes and we must follow Him and walk in the way that He walked. And we see that as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the start of what we call the passion week. All four Gospels record this event showing its great significance.

John is the briefest. And here in Chapter 12, John ends the public Ministry of Jesus. The population in Jerusalem, it doubled in size. A hundred thousand, a hundred twenty thousand people came for Passover. The surrounding valleys were filled with people. The Old Testament, if you remember, required the Jewish people to come three times a year to Jerusalem for the great feast of Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Booth. And we see in verse 12, the next day, the large crowd. It’s talking about all those people in Jerusalem. They had come to the feast and they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem because his reputation was known far and wide. Is this the Messiah? And said they took branches of palm trees, they cut them and they laid them out, and they started crying, hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. Palm branches were a part of Israel’s national identity. Think of the Eagle for us. Two hundred years earlier, Simon Maccabe, Simon the hammer, had driven out Syrian forces from Jerusalem, and they had rededicated the temple, which had been desecrated. That feast of Hanukah comes from this.

And the people were waving palm branches in celebration of. So this word hosanna, it’s Aramaic, it just means save us. It’s a greeting or a blessing to give to people. They are quoting here from Psalm 118, Save us, we pray, oh Lord, oh Lord, we pray, give us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. This Psalm was a part of the Hallel. The Hallel means praise, and it’s a part of a worship package, as it were, for celebration of the Passover, another feast. They would recite and sing Psalm 113 to 118 as part of this festivity. Those words were already upon their lips as Jesus was coming into the city. Here, the Messiah coming into the city of the great King. And for the crowds, they are greeting in their mind a national liberator. But they miss something because of a distorted vision. In verse 14, Jesus, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah, He found a young donkey and He set on it. We read here from Zechariah 9, fear not, daughter of Zion, behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt. So in fulfillment of this prophetic message, Jesus is showing how God’s plan of salvation would come.

Their peace and their well being comes from their King humbly seated on a donkey, not on a war horse, as many would expect. Because this is the nature of Jesus’ kingship. No one understood this at the time. Jesus was coming, as it were, to his coronation, which would culminate in his being enthroned on the cross. And their distorted expectations could not see Jesus’ power in serving and serving in humility. All of this was lost on the crowds and on the disciples. And we’re told that in verse 16, his disciples did not understand these things at first. But when Jesus was glorified after he had risen, then they remembered that these things had been written about him. Jesus would later tell them in John 14, when they were gathered together, he said, The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I’ve said to you. And that’s a part of this. It was not until after Christ rose from the dead that they were able to put all this together. Later, with the Spirit working by with and through the Word, they would understand the profound sense that Jesus had given to this humility and would reveal to them the way of the Lord’s servant.

This is not the world’s vision of leadership. This is not what sinful people think of when it comes to who are we going to have lead us to take the charge. See, we come with all the trappings of power and self importance. Come, wanting the hype and the bling. We come wanting the hype and the bling. And we see that in verse 17, The crowd had been with him when he called Lazars out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. And it says in verse 18, The reason the crowd was there because of the sign that he had done. This is no small event. It wasn’t then, it wouldn’t be now. If someone sits in tomb for three days and comes back to life, that’s big news. It’s huge. And they knew that. But we also see that even that is not enough. It won’t hold them. They want to follow the show, but Jesus’ way offends them. He’s offensive because the big show for Jesus comes in laying down his life for others, not in self promotion, not in grabbing and reaching for power. Their lack of commitment to the truth caused them to miss what the Father was saying.

A lack of commitment to the truth will cause us to miss what the Father is saying. They couldn’t see it. In the Pharaoh’s misunderstanding, verse 19, they’re saying, See, you’re gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him. Their cause seems to be momentarily lost. They cannot rejoice with the crowds. They’re so envious of Jesus and so hungry for the power that they desire that they actually conspire to kill not only Jesus, but Lazareth. To put a stop to Jesus’ popularity, in verse 10 of Chapter 12, it tells us this, plotting to kill them both. Think about that. So distorted by sin and hate that killing Jesus and Lazareth for a mighty miracle actually makes sense in their twisted, warped minds. I can’t believe it. He made a dead guy alive. Both of them must die. That sounds crazy. But not to a sinful process of thinking because the desire for their own glory was so strong that they were unable to see the Majesty of the glory of the Son of God before them. Their own pride and envy distorted their thinking. They want what He has, but they refuse to get it in the way that he has done.

They want to lead without serving. For then the path of power lay on the high road, the visible road, the great road. They could not discern the beauty of Christ’s humility, his self sacrifice. It was ugly to them. The humility and the self sacrifice of Jesus was ugly to a heart distorted on itself. Pride and envy, it blinds our eyes. It causes us to see what is not there and to miss what’s real. Where is Jesus to be found? One pastor from the 1800 asked this question, where do we discover Jesus? His response, Oh, descend into the basement of human society. Where do you find Jesus? Go low. Offer to God your utter dependency rather than your desire for greatness. Jose Anna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Christ, our victorious champion, he has gone ahead of us. And behold, he sits lowly on a donkey, showing us what a powerful champion actually looks like. But to embrace this champion, you will have to go it his way. See, we like to be waited on. But Jesus calls us to serve. And not just to serve the people that you like and who like you.

He will ask you to serve in places that are not visible, places that are missed and looked over. And the people, they miss this. In verse 32, Jesus said, When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself. And he was saying this to show what death he was going to die. And then the crowds answered him, verse 34, We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is the Son of Man? They’re questioning Jesus. And that’s some random thought like, I wonder who that is. They know who Jesus is. Jesus is being spoken of. And when Jesus is telling them what the Son of Man looks like, they’re like, Who is this guy? They misunderstood the law. Nowhere does it say anything about this. And any idea of a suffering Messiah was completely off their horizon. A corrupt heart produces a corrupt vision. They wanted liberated politically. Romans go home. That’s all they could think about. In my world in which I live, I want these people I despise politically to be removed from me.

Jesus came to liberate his people from sin and death, the real enemy of the human soul. They went to nothing to do with it. Jesus said to them in verse 35, The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. But they did not want the light of Christ to walk by. We want our enemies’ hearts revealed because they’re evil. But Christ’s light reveals the ugly parts of our own heart. And we have a choice to walk into that light or to hate it for showing us what’s there. John goes on, he said, When Jesus has said these things, He departed and He hid himself. He hid himself from these people. Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him. So if the Word was spoken by the Prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled. He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart. Lest they see with their eyes, understand their heart and turn, and I would heal them. Two different quotations from Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 44 here.

And here we come to a biblical principle that many in our day find very offensive. A refusal to see, a refusal to hear is met with judgment from the Lord. That’s why Jesus spoke in parables. Parables were, as we see in the Gospels, attributed to judgment. It wasn’t like, Oh, these are pithy little sayings that’s easy to memorize. No, it actually was a response to the heart, heartinesses of the people. If you wanted to understand what Jesus was saying, you had to push in as a disciple. You had to draw near to him. If you didn’t, you just sat there, he’s just saying strange things. And that’s a form of judgment if you refuse to hear. Jesus gives an stinging indictment in Matthew 21 to the religious leaders, to the Jewish people. He says, Therefore, I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Highly offensive to the religious leaders. Here in verse 48, The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge. The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

There’s judgment for following a distorted heart that puts us at the center. We live in a time where that is highly offensive. I mean, after all, who does God think he is to judge me? Who is God to judge me? Who is anyone to judge? Judge not lest you be judged. Bertr and Russell was a British atheist and philosopher, brilliant man. He was asked this question, What if you die and you meet God? What will you say to him? And he quit back. You didn’t give me enough evidence to believe in you. I don’t think that’s what’s going to be coming out of the lips of his mouth. We stand before God. He didn’t give me enough to believe in you. Russell went on to say that you and I must build our lives on the firm foundation of unyielding despair. He was a thoughtful atheist, and he recognized that if there’s nothing there, it’s just despair. But we must embrace that despair willingly, strongly. To what end? I don’t know. But to embrace the despair because of a refusal to have a relational commitment to the Lord. That great intellectual mind could not work his way to belief in God because he did not love God.

He loved himself. There’s no room for those who seek to wield their power and authority like the world in God’s Kingdom. There’s no room for those greedy for power and might in God’s Kingdom. Yet even here, we still see God’s grace at work. Verse 42 says, Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him. God’s kindness and mercy, hosanna, blessed is the way of the Savior coming lowly on the cult of a donkey to serve. This was the Father’s plan all along. It was His divine directive. In verses 20 to 23, some Greeks who had come to worship, they went to Philip and they said, Sir, we want to see Jesus. And by Greeks, that means non Jewish people, gentiles. They were either converts to Judaism or God fears like Cornelius and Acts. And so Philip and Andrew bring this to Jesus’ attention. And Jesus answers them, The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. Jesus sees the asking of these foreigners as a sign. And all through the Book of John, He has said repeatedly, The hour has not come. My hour has not yet. And the hour referred to as crucifixion.

And now, it has come. The world is going after Jesus. His time has come. The cross is before him. And Jesus goes to light the fuse. The gospel explosion which is going to follow is going to completely envelop the world. It is in his death. The Father would bring glory to the son. And no one, no one saw that coming. But the Father. And Jesus goes on in verse 24, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains s alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life, loses it. Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Unplanted wheat stays alone by itself. Those who hold on to themselves get exactly that and no more. Someone has said, Miserable people are nearly always selfish. If we concentrate on our own aims, our own life, we cut ourselves off from all that is beyond us. The selfish person, simply because he’s a selfish person, cuts off from all the joys of unselfishness. Joy is found outside of yourself. When we turn it all in on us, we lose joy because that’s not how we’re created.

That’s not the way of Jesus who’s coming in to this city to die for a people who refuse to see who he is. By the Lord’s directive, bearing fruit always involves a death of some kind. Jesus goes ahead of His disciples, He must die so that the Spirit would be giving to bring fruit in them. We are to share in His death, the death of the Lord’s servant, so that we might bear fruit for the Father. That was the Father’s divine doing from the very beginning. In verse 49, Jesus said, I have not spoken of my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment, what to say and what to speak. And I know that this commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me. Jesus comes as the Son, the Word made flesh, submitting himself to the Father, showing us that this is where life is found. This is what this looks like. And to live for Christ, for you and I, means that we die at 100 deaths a day. We die to our expectations of how we want others to treat and care for us.

We die to our desire to lift ourselves up so that others can see how wonderful we are. We serve in places that are often unseen by all except our heavenly father. And entourage is far more glamorous, to be sure. The world clamors for likes, subscribers. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. That’s the message of our time. Everybody, look at me. Millions of people all wanting everybody to look just at them. But that is not the way of the servant. That soil will bear no fruit. It is alcoholic, it is toxic. There is no life in it. That’s the world that we live in. People dying, joyless lives, focused on themselves. And the strange thing is that even in the midst of that, even when we look at how we create our own persona on social media, a constructed image still depresses us. Even when we know it’s not real, there’s something about that that causes us, by comparison, to feel diminished, depressed for a lie. If you will not pursue the truth, you will be consumed by a lie. And the truth has come to set us free. If anyone serves me, he must follow me.

Verse 26, And where I am there, my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. We’re called to not shut our eyes to what God is doing around us. When the Father is directing our lives, we must then see even our disappointments in a new light. He cast a new light on those things, the things that we’re often the angriest about, the most hurt by. God alone brings growth out of that. Even here in the midst of all of this, his disciples didn’t understand. It didn’t stop Jesus from going to the cross. His mercy to his people was not dependent upon how much they got it. He knew they wouldn’t get it. He said, The Holy Spirit will recall to you after I’m glorified these things. Even Peter, in the midst of his greatest failure, when you have returned, that’s the God we serve. That’s his way. He calls on you and I to do the same, not only as we focus on him and get our eyes off ourselves, but even when we think of the hurts and the disappointments of the people around us. Not to focus on that.

Why? Because God has forgiven us, therefore we can forgive them. That’s the way of the Kingdom. It’s beautiful to see. It’s easy to miss, to misunderstand. In the midst of it, you and I draw closer to Jesus. We follow Him where He has gone, and we follow Him in the way that He has led. We’re not looking for a liberator for our finances, for our politics, for our schools, for our country. We’re not looking for a liberator for all the things that we think will make us have a better life here. We’re looking for someone who can set us free from sin and death. When he returns, all of those things will be renewed and the focus is put there. Then the rest of those things will fall into line as God directs. But we don’t have to worry about that. We just have to worry about what’s in front of us and we put Jesus in front of us. We’re grateful his mercy for when we move our eyes to other things, he’s so kind, sometimes a little hard of a slap. To put our eyes back on him. And as we enter into Holy Week, we remember that.

We looked at that. We see at the center of our faith is Easter, a risen savior in the midst of a broken world. Pray with me. Father, indeed, we are grateful for all that you have done on our behalf. Father, we thank you that you have in the midst of our own blindness, sometimes intentional, sometimes not, you have shown us such kindness. We bless you for the kindness that we have received through your son, Jesus. Father, we pray that you would not only forgive us for, Lord, our own self deception, but Father, that you would be pleased to open our eyes to see more, that you would continue by your Spirit to draw us ever near to our Savior. Teach us to walk in his way. Father, teach us to hope in the hope that you have given to us through him. We pray and ask for all these things through the mighty name of our risen Savior, Jesus. Amen. You please stand together as we sing, how deep the Father’s love for us.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription