May 11, 2014

Blessed Is Jesus Who Comes in the Lord's Name

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 12:9–19

Sermon from John 12:9-19 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on May 11, 2014

I’m hoping that the hodgepodge of a sermon I have for you this morning will help you see the blessedness of Jesus Christ. The entire thrust of this passage is meant to move our hearts to declare of Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” So, I have six observations to share with you to that end; and then after those six observations, I have six points of application that stem from us beholding Jesus in all his blessedness. So, hold on to your seats; we’ve got a lot to cover!

1. Remember that Jesus Gives Life to the Dead

Number one: as Jesus enters Jerusalem from Bethany, remember that Jesus is the one who gives life to the dead. Sometimes we have difficulty holding the story together as we keep reading, but John wants us to keep this in mind: Jesus is the one who gives life to dead people. On both sides of the event of Jesus entering Jerusalem, John again and again reminds us that Jesus is the one who raised Lazarus from the dead. We see it in verse 9, “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 [Jesus] had raised from the dead.” Then again in verse 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.”

It’s as if John is saying, “Hey, folks, you need to remember this about Jesus when you read about his entry into Jerusalem. I don’t want you to miss the connection, that the One who gives life is the One who comes as Israel’s King.” Those two things come together for us in between chapters 11 and 12: Jesus gives life and Jesus is Israel’s King—which is precisely the aim of John’s entire Gospel. Chapter 20, verse 31: “These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [another title for Israel’s King or Messiah; cf. 1:41, 49], the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). That Jesus is King and that Jesus gives life are one. You must embrace his kingship if you want his life. Jesus can’t be welcomed into our life as whatever we want to make of him, we must welcome him on the Bible’s terms if we want to have his life. And the Bible makes him out to be the King of Israel—and not just King of Israel, but King of the world. We’ll see more of that in a minute.

2. The Irrationality of Unbelief in the Jewish Authorities

Number two: notice the irrationality of unbelief in the Jewish authorities. The Jewish authorities despise the fact that Jesus gave Lazarus life and that Lazarus is still alive to confirm the miracle. Verses 11 and 19 expose their frustration over everybody in Jerusalem making such a big deal about Jesus raising a dead man. And then verse 10 tells us that such a loss of their own people’s allegiance—more keep crossing over to Jesus—now pushes them to want Lazarus dead as well as Jesus. They start making plans to bump off Lazarus, too. They don’t like how Lazarus’s life bears witness to Jesus’ glory; and that’s always the case with unbelief—it hates anything that brings Jesus glory (cf. 5:44; 12:42-43).

But this is where we see how irrational unbelief is in a world where Jesus raises the dead and in a world where Jesus truly is glorious. The chief priests make plans to put to death a man Jesus already raised from death. They hold death in their hands as if it’s some great threat to Jesus. The ultimate threat they hold against Jesus and against Lazarus is death, and Jesus has just publicly proven death has no hold over him or anybody else he chooses to resurrect. The most rational choice in a world where Jesus raises the dead is to admit he’s the Lord of life (cf. 1:4; 5:26).

And if Jesus has again and again and again proven that he is truly glorious by raising the dead, healing the sick, restoring the blind, and feeding the multitudes, then the most rational choice in that world is to cast off the shackles of pride that stiff arms reality and bend the knee to Jesus. Not to admit he is glorious is to live in denial of reality. In this world—which the Bible faithfully represents—Jesus raises the dead and Jesus is truly glorious. Don’t waste your life like these religious authorities, pretending you have any real power and living contrary to what’s really true. The truth is that Jesus has all power, even over death itself—he is Life; he is glorious—and he demands our total adoration.

3. Jesus Accepts the Crowd’s Praise that He Is Israel’s King

Number three: look at how Jesus accepts the crowd’s praise that he is Israel’s King. 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!” That’s basically a quotation from Psalm 118:25-26.

And the picture we get there—in Psalm 118—is one of Israel’s anointed king representing God’s people in prayer and then fighting on behalf of God’s people to deliver them from their distress (118:5-13; see more from Thanksgiving 2013 Sermon here). In fact, this king is one who’s even willing to lay down his own life in battle to see his people singing in God’s presence (118:17-18, 22-24). The Psalmist says this king was like “the stone the builders rejected [but which] has become the cornerstone” (118:22-23). In other words, the Lord actually ordains this king’s suffering and his rejection to establish his work in rescuing his people. And the work is so complete that the king even returns from battle with great victory over God’s enemies and brings all the people he represents in battle right through the gates of righteousness into the very presence of God (118:19-27). And in this great celebratory procession up to the temple-mount, all the people are called to bless God’s chosen king with these words: “Hosanna [or Save us!] Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (118:25-26).

This crowd coming out to meet Jesus with palm branches in hand are using the words of Psalm 118 to bless Jesus. Now, they don’t understand everything about Jesus. We know they’re really excited about him raising Lazarus from the dead (12:17-18); but that’s about the extent of their faith. They’re amazed by his miracles, but they still don’t really understand the full nature of his mission (cf. 2:23-25; 12:11, 18, 37)—and John will point that out later in verse 37. But still, their excitement over Jesus builds to the point that they seem ready to welcome him as their King, even using Ps 118 to bless him.

And watch what Jesus does. Verse 14, “And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” That’s a quotation from Zech 9:9, where God promises to send Israel a King—much like the King mentioned in Psalm 118—who will deliver them from their enemies, but is willing to lay down his own life to secure that victory. When he comes to save them, he will come as a humble king riding on a donkey—as opposed to a great war horse and chariot. By sitting and riding into town on a donkey, Jesus deliberately identifies himself with what the Scriptures have spoken about the expected humble King of Israel.

Jesus’ response to this crowd of Jews is very different from the way Jesus responded to the crowd earlier in John’s Gospel, is it not? In 6:15, after Jesus feeds the five thousand, John says that Jesus perceived they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, but he didn’t let them. He withdrew again to the mountain by himself. But here, the people come out to meet him with palm branches and praises, and Jesus gets on the donkey and rides into Jerusalem. Why the different responses by Jesus? There he withdrew to a mountain; and yet here he accepts their praise.

The different responses by Jesus to the crowd is based on the closeness of his death. In chapter 6 his death was still far away, and so he rejected their desire to make him King. In chapter 12 his death is near—only days away—and so he accepts their praises to make him King. The point in both places is this: Jesus is not the sort of King that saves the world through pomp and pageantry and imperial force; he’s the sort of King that saves the world as a humble servant willing to lay down his life for the rebels fighting against his kingdom.

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, he’s telling us that his crown remains intact even when going to the cross—he doesn’t need us to make him King; he’s heaven’s rightful King already. It’s just that now we get an even fuller picture of the kind of King he is. He willingly goes to the cross to win God’s promises for God’s people, just as it was laid out in the Old Testament.

4. Several Promises Associated with God’s Humble King

That brings me to the fourth observation: Zechariah reveals several promises associated with the coming of God’s humble King—and all of these promises are bound up with what Zechariah calls “salvation.” Let me read to you Zech 9:9-11, “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. [And here we go with the promises. First promise] 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; [Second promise] his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. [Third promise] As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

So, peace finally brought to the nations, universal rule established over the earth, and prisoners freed by the blood of the covenant—those three promises are associated with the coming of God’s humble King. When Jesus sits on the donkey and rides into Jerusalem, he’s doing even more than simply identifying himself as God’s King; he’s also revealing how he intends to use his kingship to bring these promises to pass—how he plans to use his authority and exercise his power to fulfill these promises for God’s people and for the world.

5. Jesus Wins These Promises through the Cross

Which brings us to number five: Jesus wins these promises for God’s people and for the world by first enduring the cross. God promised peace for the nations; and the New Testament is replete with passages speaking to Jesus securing such peace first through his cross. He will come again to establish peace by forcing all his remaining enemies to submit to him, even if it’s against their wills (cf. Rev 19-20). But he comes first as the humble King to win peace for his people by securing everything necessary to conquer their hearts, to overcome their rebellion, to make them right with God, and give them the life that only his kingdom knows, a life of peace—peace with God and peace with one another (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:14-17). Even after he rises from the dead, some of the first words he speaks to his disciples are “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He can give them peace with his life, because he secured peace through his death. Paul tells us in Col 1:20 that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

God also promised to give his humble King universal rule over the earth; and this universal rule over the earth comes to Jesus as a result of what he achieves on the cross. Not only does he die to ransom men and women from every tribe tongue and people and nation by dying for their sins (Rev 5:9); God also gives Jesus universal rule over all peoples—as the God-man—after he dies for their sins. Heb 1:4 says it was only “after he made purification for sins that he sat down at the right hand of majesty on high.” This is also why the book of Revelation never loses sight of Jesus’ wounds as he reigns over the world—the reigning Lion is always the Lamb who was slain. His wounds forever stand as a reminder of how God would conquer and bring about his universal rule—through Jesus’ cross.

And God also promised that prisoners would be freed because the blood of his covenant; and here we see Jesus now riding into Jerusalem to spill that very blood on behalf of multitudes held captive by their own sin (cf. Heb 9:20; 12:24). We took the Lord’s Supper last week and celebrated the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, which he poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28). The Jews simply want freedom from their political oppressors—but Jesus came to give them more freedom than that. He came to free his people from bondage to sin (John 8:31-38). This is the sort of King Jesus is—he gives us the deliverance we truly need, freedom from the power and consequences of sin. Before he comes as King to judge, he comes as King to rescue us from our sins through his own death. Jesus’ kingship is one of unspeakable humility—the King of all kings rides to his death in the place of countless rebels.

6. The Holy Spirit Testifies of Jesus, So That We Don’t Miss Him

Final observation before we get to application: please see that the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus, so that you don’t miss Jesus. Look at verse 16: “His disciples did not understand these things at first.” So everything we’ve said to this point about Jesus fulfilling Ps 118 and Zech 9—even the disciples didn’t understand these things when they were happening. They heard what the people were saying; they saw Jesus get on the donkey; but they didn’t understand their true meaning as they were happening.

It’s not as if everybody knows that Jesus has to die according to God’s plan in the Bible, and so they’re all just playing along: “Yay! Hosanna! We know all this is part of God’s plan! We know you have to die. It’ll be alright, Jesus, God will raise you from the dead.” That’s not how it was; they’re totally ignorant to the true meaning of all that’s taking place, yet they’re participating in it just as God said. It’s like what Peter tells the Jews in Acts 3:17-18: “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled”—meaning, God thus fulfilled through your ignorant actions (cf. Acts 13:27).

If that’s the case, then how do we know what God was doing in these events? Let’s read the rest of the verse: “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.” Something happened to the disciples’ understanding once Jesus was glorified; and we’ve already been told one place what it is that helps them know the truth. John 7:38-39, Jesus says this: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” So once Jesus is glorified—through the cross and resurrection—we’re told the Spirit would be given to those who believe in him.

Now turn with me to John 14:26, and listen to what Jesus says the Spirit will do once he dies, rises from the dead, and sends him: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Then 15:26-27, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” In other words, “You’ve seen it all, and now the Spirit is coming to tell you what I’m all about.”

The words, we’re reading about Jesus today are not merely the words of a man named John; they are the words of the Holy Spirit himself, bearing witness to Jesus. The Spirit taught John the meaning of these events; and they’re here in this book for you to believe them and stake your life on them. The Spirit gave John clarity about what he witnessed, so that none of us miss the truth about Jesus. The Spirit had John interpret Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in light of Zech 9:9, so that we would see who he really is. He is the humble King, who came to save countless rebels by giving his life for them. And therefore, we don’t say “Hosanna!” from ignorance, but from hearts full of divine revelation and illumination given from the Spirit.

Application #1: Bend Your Knee to Jesus, the King of Israel

So the first application is this: bend your knee to Jesus, the King of Israel. If you are to know eternal life—to experience the forgiveness of your sins and fellowship with God—then you must receive Jesus as this kind of person, the King of Israel.

Zechariah also promises a second coming of this King—and John does as well in the book of Revelation—but that day will not look anything like the one we read of today. On that day, heaven will open, and Jesus will come on a white horse; his eyes are like a flame of fire; his robe is dipped in blood from the enemies he tramples; and he will strike down the nations with the word of his mouth (Rev 20:11-16). “Their flesh will…rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths” (Zech 14:12). Everyone will hide themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:15-16).

The Spirit inspired this word about Jesus’ first coming in humility, so that you would not have to endure the wrath of his second coming in glory. His first coming in humility was to rescue you from that day of wrath. He rode into Jerusalem as a man to suffer under God’s wrath in your place on the cross, so that you would not have to experience God’s wrath ever through faith in Jesus’ name (cf. Rom 3:23-26). But that’s only true for you if you receive Jesus as King and adore him with your life. Confess from the depth of your being, “Blessed is Jesus who comes in the Lord’s name,” and you will have his eternal life and escape his eternal wrath (cf. Rom 10:13).

Application #2: Jesus’ Coming Should Drive Away Our Fears

Second application is this: if we are truly God’s people, then Jesus’ coming should drive away our fears. Look how John quotes Zech 9:9 in verse 15: “Fear not, daughter of Zion [“daughter of Zion” is another name for God’s people]; behold, your king is coming.” In Zech 9:9, the people are actually commanded to rejoice and shout aloud over the coming of God’s king, because by his coming, the people would not merely be delivered from their enemies, but even more, delivered from God’s hand of judgment which sent those enemies against them. There’s good news attached to the coming of this King.

John just picks up the other side of that rejoicing—true rejoicing comes from a heart that no longer fears God’s judgment, but actually gets to experience his protection and his comforting presence through God’s humble King. Zechariah 9 even mentions that when this King comes, the Lord of hosts will protect his people; he will even save them as a Shepherd caring for his flock (Zech 9:15-16). And now Jesus—the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18)—comes riding into Jerusalem to take away God’s wrath from God’s people, to win them all the protection they need through his blood, and then to comfort them with God’s very presence.

Church, we overcome fear by knowing that Jesus reigns for us—he was reigning for us when he rode into Jerusalem to die for our sins, and he’s reigning for us now to ensure that God’s wrath is forever removed from us (1 Thess 1:10). He reigns also to protect us. Even if we meet our greatest enemy, namely death, he reigns to bring us immediately into the presence of God (John 12:26; Phil 1:23) and reigns to give us a new body at the resurrection of life (1 Cor 15:1-27). We don’t have to fear any dangers, if Jesus is our King (Rom 8:31-39). We gain all we need for acceptance with God by “his coming,” for protection by God through his kingship, for fellowship with God by his presence with us. Satan can threaten us with darkness and despair; the world might hold death over our heads—but none of it can compete with the security we gain through the care of our King, Jesus (1 John 5:4-5, 18-19). And that frees us to love God with all our might and love others as we have been loved, even if they mock us or imprison us or put a gun to our head (cf. 1 John 4:18-19).

Fear not, church of God, your King has come, died, and rose again to secure you for God (cf. John 10:15-16, 27-29). Fear not God’s wrath anymore; his King has died to remove it from you if you trust in Jesus (Rom 4:25-5:1; 1 Thess 1:10). Fear not whether this world and all its turmoil will do you in; God’s King has already triumphed (John 16:33)! Fear not the devil’s threats; God’s King already smashed the dragon’s head (cf. Gen 3:15; Luke 11:22-23), took the power of death from his hands (Heb 2:14-15), and will finish him off in the lake of fire (Rev 20:7-10). The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Rom 16:20).

Application #3: The King’s Humility Should Characterize His Citizens

Third application: If this is what God’s King looks like, what ought the citizens of his kingdom to look like (cf. Matt 5:2-5, 9)? If this is how the King has loved us—coming to the world in humility; willingly laying his life down for our eternal well-being—then how should we love others as citizens of his kingdom? If his rule is characterized by humbly serving others and humbly giving himself for others, then it’s incumbent on his citizens—in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells—to do likewise (cf. Phil 2:1-10; Col 3:12).

That doesn’t mean we imitate the King’s sacrificial death for sin—only he can bear that cross—but it does mean we imitate the King’s sacrificial love for others. Jesus will tell his disciples later, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (13:34). And Peter makes the sacrificial nature of that love even more explicit: “for to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). If we truly follow Jesus as our King—if his humble lordship rules our souls and our church—then we will interact with each other and the world in ways that reflect our Lord’s humility, his gentleness, his compassion toward sinners.

So for example, if we are parents, Jesus’ humility must saturate our interaction and dealings with our children. I’m thankful for the many mothers the Lord has given this congregation that model such humble parenting every day—even when only the Lord sees your labors. If we are part of a congregation like this one that has many children that need care on Sunday mornings and in Care Group meetings; then we should not overlook the opportunities to serve them when they come up—such as with DIG and Nursery and other forms of childcare. Having the humility of Jesus means we jump at the opportunity to serve the least of these, and never view ourselves as too high above them. I’m so thankful for the example many of you already set in this respect—DIG and Nursery servants, you model the humility of Jesus for us when you take on these responsibilities for the eternal well-being of all the children God brings us.

If we have neighbors in need—and all of us do—then we will look for opportunities to serve them in the name of Jesus, even if they decide to reject our care or mock us for following Christ in the process. Our business practices should also emulate Jesus, as we humbly look for ways to serve the well-being of our co-workers, even if they’ve cheated us a time or two. When we engage the lost world around us, our attitudes and demeanor and tone of voice should be shaped by the humility and compassion we find in Jesus. That doesn’t mean we jettison truth or that we’re never called to be firm and bold with the gospel. But it does mean we won’t simply be trying to win arguments or shame another party or gloat over the wicked for their ignorance—they must see our tears and our service and our sacrifice accompanying the truth we speak about Jesus. We must spend our lives for each other and others in our community in humble, sacrificial ways, just as our King spent himself for us.

Application #4: Christianity Does Not Take Lives to Advance the Gospel

That also means—and here’s application number four—Christianity does not advance the gospel by taking the lives of others. Jesus says in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” In an age of increasing terrorism, where there’s a growing pattern of religious martyrdom like suicidal bombings in the name of radical Islam, we must keep looking to how our King desires us to respond, and it is not with violence and vengeance (Rom 12:17-21). While church history sadly proves otherwise, Christians should not take life to advance the gospel, but offer life in the gospel while laying down their own life (John 12:24-26). When the world dishes out hatred, lies, and violence; we, like our King, respond with love, truth, and self-sacrifice.

Application #5: True Manhood Displayed in Jesus’ Humble Kingship

Number five: men and boys, I think we see an excellent picture of manhood in this scene with Jesus as the humble King. And I don’t think that’s a stretch in application either, considering that the One who is King in chapter 12 is also the Bridegroom in John 3:29 (1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:25-30). Our culture normally associates manliness with the power to get what you want when you want it at the expense of others. The world equates strength with domination. But that’s not what we observe in Jesus, who bore God’s image perfectly and always did what was pleasing to God as a man. We see in Jesus what every man was created to be like; and what does he do in this scene? He is King of the world, and yet he stoops to serve the world. He doesn’t assert his power at the expense of others; he uses his power to serve and to save others. He doesn’t exercise his authority as King to take from others; he exercises his authority as King to give to others what they truly need.

Remember this the next time you’re tempted to establish your authority in the household by force and a raised voice and domination, or the next time you’re tempted to assert your power at the expense of others. Look to how your King loved you, that you might be with him and look like him, and then humble yourself to serve as he humbled himself to serve. True manliness revolves not around boasting your best game, or flaunting your riches, or dominating others; rather, it revolves around how much you reflect the character of the King of kings.

And even more could be said to you men who are fairly passive in your leadership of the home and of your wife and in your relationship to other men in the church. There’s nothing passive about King Jesus. He came from heaven for us. He’s going to the cross when he rides into Jerusalem. He took the initiative to serve others and to save his bride (Eph 5:25-33). So, men let’s pray to be made more and more like Jesus. We should repent everywhere we don’t look like Jesus and make it our longing to be like him more and more (1 Cor 11:1; 1 John 3:3). If you have no desire to be more like Jesus, then you need to be saved. Repent, come to Jesus, and God will forgive you and will put his Spirit in you and will conform you to his image. And ladies, please keep looking to Jesus even when we fail you. Jesus will never fail you.

Application #6: Pray with Confidence for Jesus’ Kingdom to Prosper

Last word of application: we should pray with great confidence for Jesus’ kingdom to prosper. Great confidence for prayer comes from a passage like this one, because in it we see God’s king on his way to accomplish everything needed to bring about God’s kingdom. Whether that’s peace for the nations; or his universal rule over the new creation; or the setting of prisoners free through his blood—all of these things Jesus is in the midst of accomplishing them for God. And we further know that he not only went to the cross as King, but God also vindicated him as King as a way to tell us that what he began with his ride into Jerusalem will be finished. And therefore, we should pray based on what our King accomplished in his first coming until we see God bring it in full at his second coming. We should pray for the kingdom of God to advance among our neighbors and our co-workers. We should pray that God sets them free from their sins through the same blood of Jesus. We should pray that God would bring his peace to all peoples through the gospel and soon split the sky with his glorious return. And to that end, let’s go to prayer now.

other sermons in this series