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(078) The Gospel of John 23: Disappointed by God

Notes & Transcripts

The Gospel of John XXIII: Disappointed by God

John 12:9-19

July 5, 2009



·         “Palm Sunday Test” (esp. Dunbar house), 038, 077

·         Survey of Hasmondean history

·         First part of Driscoll’s sermon

Main Point(s) of sermon:

·         The Jews hailed Jesus as a conquering hero in the Triumphant Entry, but when he failed to remove the Romans, they turned on him, shouting "Crucify."

·         Jesus brought salvation (Hosanna means "Save us!"), but in a way they did not understand or recognize.

·         The Jews We want him to do when we wnat, but when he fails to do so, we likewise turn on him. When we trust and seek him even when discouraged or disappointed, we demonstrate that we want him more than what he gives.

·         Jesus will be king, not a provider of idols. When we come to Jesus in order to be healed, restore our family, take care of us, we are asking him to take care of our idols. Seek him for his sake and trust him.

·         Disappointment with God will take three forms: Doubting his plans, doubting his character, doubting his existence

Objectives of sermon:

·         To encourage us to trust God even when we don't understand, which demonstrates that we want him more than what he gives.

Scripture Reading: John 12:12-19


This story is traditionally called “The Triumphal Entry.” That’s how we celebrated it as kids (sword ferns for palms). But that is not the case, at least not in the way that anyone there but Jesus understood.

They thought he was coming to rule the city, he knew he was coming to die. They were thinking “Rocky,” he was thinking “Dead Man Walking.”

Within five days, these same folks were shouting “Crucify!”

John 19:14-16   It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

How do you go from “Hosanna” to “Crucify!” in less than a week? Some say that’s the fickleness of fame (seen in how we handle Michael Jackson). But I don’t think that’s what happened here – simply put, Jesus has failed them.

These stories together present a picture of distorted theology. They demonstrate an important point – what we believe about God, his character and actions (theology), and why we want follow him (worship) has radical implication.

·         When we are disappointed by God, our theology is tested more thoroughly than any skeptic could do.

Rather than looking at the crowd as a caricature, I want us to see ourselves in them, as to examine ourselves. My hope is that we will be encouraged to trust God even when we don’t understand and that we will deeply desire him more than what he gives.


Passover and the 4th

We first need to understand the background of the story. This occurred on the eve of the Passover.

·         Passover celebrated their deliverance, like our 4th of July.

·         But imagine if America was occupied – the 4th would be a time of unrest and rebellious sentiment.

All of Israel was hoping for a military leader to come and defeat the Romans.

The King of Israel

As you may know “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but a title, meaning “Anointed One.” In Jesus’ day there are a growing expectation that God would bring up new king to conquer the oppressors and restore Israel.

There were various rebels in Jesus’ day and false messiahs, yet the people kept hoping. They looked back on their history, and expected God to act as he had before.

Most recently (c. 160 BC), Judas Maccabeus and his family had fought against and removed Antioch Epiphanies. Not coincidently, Israel celebrated his victories by waving palm branchessymbols throughout the ancient world for victory.  

·         This was basically a ticker-tape parade.

John 12:12-13 (NIV) The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 

Q   Are you starting to get the picture?

Jesus already has large following, and his miracles demonstrated that God was with him. But when we raised Lazarus from the dead, on the eve of the Passover, it was settled it in everyone’s mind – this guy was the Messiah.

·         After 90 years of Roman oppression, they would be free.

They were not welcoming Jesus as “their personal savior” but as a national savior. “Hosanna” was not worship, it was a command –hosanna means “Save us now!”

In the Synoptics, the first thing he does in Jerusalem is to clear the temple, asserting his authority over the temple. They remembered that one of the first things Judas Maccabeus was to cleanse the temple (commemorated during Hanukah).

Jesus doesn’t come through

At this point, the atmosphere of the crowd would have been electric, The city was on the edge of a revolt. Here is the true king. He will lead them in victorious battle against the Romans.

The crowd knows His next stop; He’ll march on the Antonia Fortress, the Roman barracks. It will be just like the days of old; God will miraculously destroy the Romans. This is it!

But Jesus just goes back home. Imagine being part of the crowd: You wait. And wait. You are confused, disappointed, angry. But then comes the fear.

You’re sure the Romans will punish Jerusalem for Sunday’s demonstration. How many will suffer because of this false messiah? What are we going to do? How could we be fooled?

And so on Friday morning, when the priests tell you that Jesus is another pretender and that Lazarus’ resurrection was just a staged trick, it is a simple choice Jesus to be the scapegoat. He can take the Roman’s punishment.

·         And so you, along with everyone else, shout “Crucify!”

Disappointment with God

Q: Are you sure that you would have done any different?

Q: Have you ever felt like God has failed you?

You were in desperate needed God’s help, for yourself or someone you love. But instead of coming in and making everything right, he seems to just disappear.

·         What do you do when God disappoints you and leaves you confused, discouraged, or angry

Here’s the thing: I don’t think God is threatened, or even upset by our confusion, disappointment, or anger. The Bible is full of saints who got angry with God. But what do you do next?

·         The “Why’s” probably can’t be answered (though it’s okay to ask them), the only question we can answer is “What now?”

How we respond when God fails us is one of the most important tests both of our trust in him and our motives.

The trust test

How we respond to God in the midst of our disappointment will tell us a lot about how we view God (which is theology), it test how much we trust him, his plans, and his character.

Q   Do we genuinely believe him to be a good God who loves us and cares about us?

There are at least three different reasons God doesn’t come through for us the way we think he should and each test a different part of our faith.

1. It may be something we shouldn’t have. As James says:

James 4:3   When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Sometimes this stuff is obvious (kill my boss, but make it look like an accident), other times we want the right things for the wrong reasons. One key example is asking God to give us an idol.

·         (From last week) An idol is anything that we pour ourselves into more than God, even a good thing.  

Some theology makes Jesus the idol-giver: “Come to Jesus, he will save your marriage, give you wealth, etc.” And when he does not, then the feel betrayed. The church must not teach Jesus as the means to anything.

Whenever we’re angry at God for not giving us things we want but shouldn’t have, we are being forced to ask, “Is he truly Lord?”

·         Choosing to sin means we don’t trust his way is truly better.

The Jewish crowd was calling him Lord and king, but that doesn’t mean anything if “Lord” means “magic genie.” He must be truly in control of us.

“Make Jesus king” becomes a blasphemous attempt to co-opt the sovereign power of God for corrupt human ambitions. (Newbigin)

2. Sometimes it is something that is perfectly fine, but God has something better.

If we are genuinely seeking God, he will guide our paths:

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Sometimes we want something that’s morally okay, but he knows better, so in his mercy God doesn’t give it to us.

·         EG: The first house we wanted to buy.

When we want something that’s good, but doesn’t work out, we are asked, “Do I trust his plans?”

Our perspective is so limited. We only can only see “dimly, through a mirror.” God doesn’t expect us to understand, but He does want us to trust His plans. 

John 12:16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 

3. Sometimes it is a good thing and his “no” doesn’t make any sense.

This basically the same as #2, but even more clearly good – a house is one thing, restoring a marriage or healing a young mother with cancer is another.

I was recently asked “Why doesn’t God heal so-and-so?” The short answer was, “I don’t know.” There are no clear answers; God frequently doesn’t do the miraculous.

In these times of deep hurt and disappointment, we are asked, “Do I trust his character?” Even though I cannot understand why, can I trust that he is good?

·         I stand firm in my belief in his goodness, love, and kindness.

ESV Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.

Even in his cruelness, there is an underlying kindness, as Micah expressed with giving Kaitlyn shots.

Shortsighted desires

Our problem, like the Jewish mobs’, is that we want too little, not too much. Given a choice, would they choose 1) temporary freedom from the Romans, or 2) eternal life for all mankind?

·         Ironically, they were correct, he was “the King of Israel” but in a far bigger way than they imagined.

God’s plan was so much bigger than anything they could have imagined, or we can imagine. Our goal is a betternow,” his is a betterforever.”

We want comfort, ease, and blessing, God wants faithful people who trust him and love him. God does not want us happy, he wants us holy.

·         If our faith in God is based on what does for us, it will fail, because he has different idea of what “for usmeans.

Ä  Being disappointed by God will test our faith him, if we trust his Lordship, his plans, and his character, but it will also test our motives for serving him.

Testing motives – desiring God

Q   Simply put: Do we want God or what he does for us?  

Throughout his earthly ministry, people were more interested in what Jesus would do for them, a magic show, than desiring to “know the Father.” And nothing has changed today.

That’s not to say we don’t desire and earnestly pray for God’s supernatural hand. It is not wrong to bring all of our needs and concerns to him, in fact he desires it and even commands it:

Philippians 4:6   6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

God delights to give us good gifts, never at the expense of the greatest giftshimself. As I said last week, the very best thing he can give us is himself.

Our first desire must be him. The whole purpose for prayer is to draw us closer to him, to make us desire him more, to trust him more, and need him more, and see his glory more. 

·         We will always have mixed motives, just like a kid tearing through a birthday card from grandma looking for money.

But hopefully, on some level, our prayers will be more fueled by a desire for God than for what he gives us, to see his glory more than his gifts.

·         Sooner or later, we’ll be tested when God disappoints us.

Q & A


I know that some of you are currently in the midst of being disappointed by God, and I hope the Spirit brings you comfort and strength during worship through these words.

And if you are in smooth sailing, I don’t want you to go through painful times any more than I want to, but I hope that God is developing our theology and worship now so that they can take us through them, our faith and motives refined.

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