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  • Pastor Brett

Temporary Triumph

Please read John 12:12-19.

Matt Gurney, reporting for The National Post, wrote the following three years ago; “In 1967, Paul McCartney was 25 years old and already a legend. A founding member of The Beatles, he and his band mates had risen to global fame so gigantic that McCartney’s partner John Lennon had proclaimed, that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now.”

McCartney’s fame failed him when he attended the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony. “After the show, the former Beatle attempted to enter a private party being hosted by Tyga, a rap artist. Security personnel at the event turned McCartney away as he wasn’t on the list. The entire incident was, of course, caught on someone’s smart phone and quickly uploaded to the Internet. A mini-scandal soon followed.

“Let’s not pretend that this is earth-shattering news. But there is something worth noting in the case of McCartney and the bouncer. Even for a Beatle, fame is fleeting.

“Video of the incident shows him jokingly inquiring, ‘How VIP you gotta get?’ and musing that he needs some new hit songs. It was an appropriate response to a mild but probably healthy snub — and in its own small way, a lesson in grace and humility for us all.”

Worldly things (fame, acceptance) are important only in serving God’s purpose.

Its heart-breaking to think - in the space of a week - Jesus went from being hailed as a king to being ridiculed as the “King of the Jews.” What’s ironic about the Triumphal Entry is that the crowd blessed Jesus as the King of Israel (v. 13), but He was not crowned by them. The only crown He ever wore was the crown of thorns shoved on his head by cruel Roman soldiers (19:2). The only royal garment He wore was a purple robe they put on Him to mock Him before bringing Jesus to Pilate.

We remember the Triumphal Entry as the one time in Jesus’ life that He got the recognition He deserved. Sadly, it was a moment too fleeting as Jesus’ own disciples deserted Him and His fellow Jews cheered for His murder. While this event tells us some about Jesus, it also tells us about the fickle and superficial nature of human beings.

1. Three clues Jesus organized this event.

First clue: throughout the gospels Jesus demonstrated sensitivity to what the crowds thought about Him and reacted appropriately. An example of this is found in John 6:14-15. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000 the people began to refer to Him as “THE PROPHET WHO IS TO COME INTO THE WORLD.”

Jesus knew exactly what they meant by that: THEY INTENDED TO MAKE HIM KING BY FORCE. Appropriately He WITHDREW from them before they could act on that impulse. Jesus’ mission was never to be that kind of king and certainly not by means of violence, so He left them for a time to allow their passions to cool down.

Second clue: even though John did not go into detail about it, the other three gospel writers offered considerable detail about the instructions Jesus gave His disciples to prepare for this moment. For example, in v. 14, John wrote Jesus merely FOUND a YOUNG DONKEY and SAT UPON IT. John makes it sound almost accidental. But in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He sent the disciples on ahead to get the animal and have it ready to use in His approach to the city.

Third clue; in v. 12, THE GREAT CROWD knew when JESUS WAS ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM. They self-organized to meet Him there. The question is, how did they know? One answer is that Jesus and/or His disciples announced it. Another answer is that there had been a CROWD around Jesus for days; they were there when Lazarus had been raised from the dead and hung around afterward (11:45; 12:9).

2. Our text supplies four reasons Jesus had for doing it.

First, to give His disciples a testimony they would understand after His resurrection (16). The Gospels often say the disciples did not understand something until later. I have no doubt that their receiving the Holy Spirit more than 50 days later is the chief reason they understood these things later.

Second, to fulfill Old Testament prophecies that would identify Him as the Messiah (12+15). The prominent example is the matter of Jesus riding a donkey into the city. There are two sides to the donkey riding. In verse fifteen, John cites Zechariah 9:9 as a prophecy of the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled by appearing on the back of a donkey.

In the customs of the time, if a king rode to the gates of a city on a horse, he announced he was coming as a conqueror. But if he rode a donkey - a more humble means of transportation - he was coming in peace. Surely these connections between their experience and the Scripture were also apparent to the pilgrims headed to Jerusalem.

Third, to use a public demonstration of His kingship to put maximum pressure on His enemies, resulting in His crucifixion (19).

As we observed in v. 11, the Jewish leaders were thoroughly intimidated by the number of followers Jesus was gaining. Their statement is clearly an exaggeration and just as clearly shows their desperate state of mind. Their actions during the days to come cannot be satisfactorily explained if we don’t appreciate how intimidated they’d become.

This was, I believe, Jesus’ chief purpose in orchestrating this event. The passions of the pilgrims were sincere and so was the panic of the rulers of the Jews. When the Pharisees said, “LOOK HOW THE

WHOLE WORLD HAS GONE AFTER HIM,” they used a figure of speech to express two things: the size of Jesus’ following and their exasperation at His success. They saw Jesus as a credible threat to their rule.

I wondered why the Jewish leaders would need to be prodded into action when it’s clear they feared and hated Jesus. The reason they needed to be pushed along is indicated in all three of the other gospels; they had decided to wait until AFTER the Passover to have Jesus killed (Matthew 26:5; Mark 14:2; Luke 22:2).

Why is the timing crucial? That was not the Father’s plan. The Bible gives several reasons it was important for Jesus’ crucifixion occur during the Passover.

There would be more of God’s people in the city at that time; more to hear Jesus’ final teachings and witness His death. If Jesus had suffered a private assassination and an anonymous burial, we would not have the proofs of His death and resurrection that we find in the Bible.

The connection of Jesus’ death as the ultimate sacrifice for sin with the Passover lamb bridges both testaments. It is affirmed in three New Testament texts. In John 1:29+36 John the Baptist indicated

Jesus was the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world. Paul indicated in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Jesus is our Passover Lamb our sacrifice for sin. In Revelation 5:6, Jesus is represented as a lamb that looked as if it had been slain. John’s gospel implies Jesus died on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, the same day that lambs all over the city were being killed.

The leadership’s fear of a riot made them easier to manipulate.

History tells us that riots had occurred in the city before and the Romans ruthlessly put them down. They were cruelly assertive in discouraging rebellion by over-punishing their rebellious vassals.

A fourth reason Jesus had for creating the Triumphal Entry was to create a “platform” from which He could deliver more of His message (chs. 14-17). To this point, it’s instructive that about one-fifth of John’s gospel takes place at the Last Supper. That event gets much more attention John than the other Gospels combined. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem created “buzz” among the people in the city. Coming into the city the way He did prompted people pay more attention to Jesus’ message than if He’d just walked through the gate.

Worldly things (fame, acceptance) are important only in serving God’s purpose.

I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. Jesus was not playing to polls like a politician, worried about His “legacy,” or posturing to gain points in His “approval rating.” In John 6 we saw how little Jesus cared about those things.

Instead, with purity of motive, He used public opinion as one of many tools to turn the tide of events toward the cross. Because the cross was necessary, the Triumphal Entry was too

Here is Jesus as a victor, not a victim. In orchestrating this event, Jesus was proactive, taking steps toward His own death on a cross. In 18:18, at the moment of His arrest, after Peter had acted in Jesus’ defense, He said to Peter, “PUT YOUR SWORD AWAY! SHALL I NOT DRINK THE CUP THE FATHER HAS GIVEN ME?”

In this, Jesus demonstrated His obedience to the Father’s will. He will demonstrate it again in the Garden of Gethsemane and a final time on the cross. He set an example for us to follow in single-mindedness and determination to be obedient. None of us will have to face anything like what lay before Jesus but our obedience is very much needed just the same.


Message #748

The Anchor Bible, Raymond E. Brown

One Perfect Life, John MacArthur

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