The Triumphal Entry of the Messiah King
Introduction: If you grew up in the mid-1950s, you may remember that Parker Brothers came out with a game for church families. It was called Going to Jerusalem. Your playing piece wasn't a top hat or Scottie dog, like in the game of Monopoly. In Going to Jerusalem, you got to be a real disciple. You were represented by a little plastic man with a robe, a beard, some sandals, and a staff.
In order to move across the board, you looked up answers to questions in the little black New Testament provided with the game. You always started in Bethlehem, and you made stops at the Mount of Olives, Bethsaida, Capernaum, the stormy sea, Nazareth, and Bethany. If you rolled the dice well, you went all the way to a triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
But you never got to the Crucifixion or Resurrection. There were no demons or angry Pharisees. You only made your way through the nice stories. It was a safe adventure, perfectly suited for a Christian family on a Sunday afternoon walk with Jesus.
You know… traveling with Jesus wasn't meant for plastic disciples who looked up verses in a little black Bible. If you're gong to walk with Jesus as His disciple in this world, you may need to change your expectations. After all, Jesus said, “Take up your cross, and follow me.”
Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois
We could look at a synthesis of the four accounts of the Triumphal Entry in the NT (its account is recorded in all four Gospels; cf. Matt 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:29–44); however, each has a focus that best fits its portrait of the Lord Jesus. John’s version doesn’t really allow us to call this entry into Jerusalem a triumph. The context before and after the account proves that John’s emphasis is quite shocking - not a Sunday afternoon board game.
· Just before John’s account we read about the anointing of Jesus for burial (12.7).
· Just after his account we have two pertinent details:
o The recognition that the hour of Jesus’ glorification had come.
o The likening of his time to the death of seeds (12.23-24).
Jesus knew that the meaning of his entry into Jerusalem was an entry into his death. The reactions of four groups of people help us to highlight John’s pivotal turning point in chapter 12. In these reactions we learn a great deal about the true cost of discipleship!
Reaction #1 - A Great Multitude
“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’” (John 12:12-15, NKJV)
· Palm fronds were used as symbols of welcome for Jewish heroes returning from battle or at unusual periods of rejoicing. The crowd here obviously came out to meet a hero (12:13), They cried out their hosannas and pronounced a blessing on “He who comes” in the name of the Lord—namely, “the King of Israel!”
· The reference to the king of Israel (12:15) is thematic in John:
o Nathanael had already identified Jesus as the “King of Israel” (1:49).
o Jesus had withdrawn from the people when they attempted to force him into becoming king (6:15).
o The designation of “king” for Jesus was clearly an appropriate title for him, but his kingship was not what people had expected (18:33–37).
o Not only was he not a political ruler, but he was surprisingly a king who would die on the cross (19:19).
· The great multitude gathered might well hail Him as king, but they did not understand what that meant for Him or them.
· “Hosanna” = “Salvation Now” - the great multitude cried out for something far beyond what they could have anticipated. There’s some irony here: the hour had come for the King to enter Jerusalem (see 12.23), but it was on the cross where He would become the ‘Savior of the World’ (cf. John 4.42).
o The great multitude needed to look to the context of the Psalm they quoted (see Psalm 118:22 ff.).
o See also Matt 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:4, 7; cf. also Eph 2:20.
o Although the crowd did not understand the implications of their cry for salvation (Hosanna), John knew Jesus did.
§ He knew that the road to salvation would be a traumatic experience.
§ This was hardly the message the excited crowd wanted to hear. They were in for a shock.
Application: Just as shocking today is that would-be disciples still cry out, “Salvation Now.” When Jesus hears that cry and takes them down a road that resembled His triumphal entry, they rear back when they see their own cross just over the incline.
If any here this morning would experience the glory of eternity and Heaven above, they must first experience the cross. What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Him? The answer will not be found on a broad and gilded path. Many are on that path headed for destruction. It is found on a narrow arduous path filled with adversity and rejection. Yet imagine avoiding the eternal shock of the words, “Depart from Me …I never knew you!”
Reaction #2: His Disciples
“His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.” (John 12:16, NKJV)
· The disciples did not understand these things. They were confused. This foreshadows the reaction of Thomas and Philip in John 14.5-11. Where was Jesus going? Who is the Father? And yet Jesus had taught them; Jesus the Master Teacher.
· The crowd missed the real point of the entry, and the disciples were confused about the significance of all the events. It did not fit together for them.
· But the situation of the disciples was not hopeless, and their confusion was not a permanent state. John writes in retrospect and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He provides us with a window into the future reality that helps us understand the transformation that occurred in the disciples.
o This happened in John 2.19-21 as well.
o When Jesus was glorified, the disciples would remember this event in its proper perspective. But at this point they still could not put it all together.
Application: Discipleship demands fortitude and patience. The picture we have of Jesus can seem muddled and confusing at times. Even when it is quite clear to us, we have great difficulty communicating it to others. Transformation comes at various stages. Many gathered here this morning remember certain truths clicking as God revealed them over the process of time.
What we must never forget is that we have every thing we need to clear up confusion. We must occupy ourselves with that which is dogmatic and straightforward in Scripture. We need more disciples who are quite willing and content to understand that which the Holy Spirit yearns to show them each and every day!
Reaction #3: The Pharisees
“Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!’” (John 12:17-19, NKJV)
· Before John turns to identify the reaction of the Pharisees, he reminds us of the setting for their reaction by referring to two important contexts.
o First, he draws attention once again to the climactic sign of the raising of Lazarus and the fact that the people in the crowd that had been at that event were continuing to bear witness of Lazarus having being brought back from the tomb. So startling was that event for everyone that the authorities had moved immediately to hatch their Passover Plot (11:47–50). As they suspected, that situation (11:48) did not improve with the passing of time but in fact got worse.
o Second, (12:18) John rehearses the fact that the large Jerusalem crowd (a different crowd) had gathered (cf. 12:9, 12) in response (“they heard,” ēkousan) to the witness of the Lazarus crowd. Although the crowd hardly understood John’s sense of “sign,” here the crowd’s praise of Jesus raised the concern of the Pharisees. They were concerned about the power Jesus seemingly wielded; He was a threat to them.
· The Pharisees represent religious men. They were men frustrated by a messianic movement among the people. Jesus was pulling people away from them. Their prediction of His growing popularity was right on the mark.
· They saw their helplessness as they debated among themselves - ‘you accomplish nothing.’
· They were spinning their wheels and in frustration, they cry out, “The world has gone after Him.”
o God so loved this world (3.16-19)
o Jesus is the Light of this world (1.9; 8.12)
o Jesus came into this world (1.10) to take away the sin of the people of this world (1.29)
o But because many in this world reject Him, His coming means judgment of the world (9.39)
· The Pharisees are exaggerating. The world had not gone after Him. It just seemed like it. Control was collapsing for the Pharisees.
· But there’s a twist: Jesus had not come to threaten them or reign as a political savior; He came as the Savior of the World!
Application: Sometimes, the very things we kick against are those things God is using to reach the world around us. Religious people often move forward with plans and ideas with great zeal. The only trouble is that they running forward into a brick wall. Whenever we grab control we lose control. When we seek to save our lives, we lose them. Discipleship demands the discernment needed to see God’s will and plan and our place in His story! We are not building our own little empires as disciples - we are building the Kingdom of God.
Reaction #4: Certain Greeks
“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.” (John 12:20-22, NKJV)
· These Greeks are best identified as proselytes or God-fearers (those who had not yet committed themselves fully to circumcision and the Jewish rites).
· The point of these three verses seems to be that nontraditional/non-Jewish persons had become intrigued by this powerful-heroic Jesus and they wanted to become involved with him (“to see” [idein] Jesus here means to meet him).
· They approached Philip, not Jesus, with the hope of gaining some way to see Jesus (12:21).
· Philip turned to Andrew who had earlier shown himself to be a witness when he brought Peter to Jesus (1:41). Together they served as go-betweens for the Greeks (12:22).
· What follows is the amazing pivotal section in the Gospel (12.23 ff.). It’s not clear what these Greeks were after. What is clear is what Jesus reveals to Andrew and Philip.
1. The request of these Greeks to see Jesus was fulfilled in a response which contains truths that we all need!
2. Jesus used the image of a seed to illustrate the great spiritual truth that there can be no glory without suffering, no fruitful life without death, no victory without surrender. Of itself, a seed is weak and useless; but when it is planted, it “dies” and becomes fruitful.
3. As disciples we are like seeds. We are small and insignificant, but we have life in us, God’s life. However, that life can never be fulfilled unless we yield ourselves to God and permit Him to “plant us.” We must die to self so that we may live unto God (Gal. 2:20).
4. In these words, Jesus challenges us today to surrender our lives to Him. Note the contrasts:
a. Loneliness or fruitfulness
b. Losing your life or keeping your life
c. Serving self or serving Christ
d. Pleasing self or receiving God’s honor
5. Jesus knew that He was facing suffering and death, and His humanity responded to this ordeal. His soul was troubled, not because He was questioning the Father’s will, but because He was fully conscious of all that the Cross involved.
6. In the hour of suffering and surrender, there are only two prayers we can pray, either “Father, save me!” or “Father, glorify Thy name!” Jesus chose the latter and so must we.
7. The prayer, “Father, glorify Thy name!” received a reply from heaven! God the Father spoke to His Son and gave Him a double assurance: the Son’s past life and ministry had glorified the Father, and the Son’s future suffering and death would glorify the Father.
a. It is significant that the Father spoke to the Son at the beginning of the Son’s ministry (Matt. 3:17)
b. Also as the Son began His journey to Jerusalem (Matt. 17:5)
c. And finally, as the Son entered Jerusalem for the last days before the Cross. God always gives that word of assurance to those who willingly suffer for His sake.
8. This marked the end of our Lord’s public ministry as far as John’s record is concerned. Jesus departed and hid Himself. It was judgment on the nation that saw His miracles, heard His messages, and scrutinized His ministry, and yet refused to believe on Him.