Scripture: John 12:12-29
Date: March 24, 2013
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
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 these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
It is Palm Sunday. Today we celebrate what we so-call “triumphant” entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and of course this is the week before the Easter Sunday where Jesus who died resurrects from the dead. Question for you: Why do Christians call Jesus’ entry, only few days before his Crucifixion, triumphant entry? What is so glorious about it? If you are only considering the fact that people have gathered to lay down the palm tree leafs and shouting Hosanna and “blessed is the King of Israel”, I’m afraid that you haven’t understood the nature of the Gospel and therefore the nature of Jesus our Lord.
We will all see “glory” in NFL champions Baltimore Ravens. We will all see “glory” in LeBron James and his 2012 NBA championship and Miami Heat’s 25 consecutive wins (as of today). We see glory on red carpets and movie stars. These “glories”, no doubt a form of glory, is not the glory our Lord Jesus Christ will experience in today’s scripture!
To be sure, we may easily misread and misunderstand Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and confuse world’s glory with Christ’s glory. Why wouldn’t we? Jesus seems to be appreciated, adored and worshiped. Furthermore, Jesus seems to be recognized as God and he seems to be held up in a high place. In modern day terms, Jesus is on a red carpet, Jesus is in the cover of GQ magazine, news about Jesus has been thoroughly shared on facebook, re-tweeted by the millions and there is a twitter trend and re-blogging happening about his entry. So why wouldn’t we think that this IS the glorious moment for Jesus?
Gospel of John insists that the red carpets, magazine covers and millions of followers on twitter aren’t glory for Jesus.
1. So then what IS the glory according to John and according to our Lord Jesus Christ? Let’s first take closer look at today’s passage and understand what his mission was because glory and purpose for an action has close relationship that they cannot be so easily separated. Think about it this way: not too long ago, there was a Youtube sensation with an infant named Titus between the ages of 18-24 months old. That infant couldn’t even speak but he started making all these trick basketball shots. The baby was talked about on ESPN, Good Morning America, Today Show, Anderson Cooper and other talk shows. And people are talking as if he WILL be going to NBA in the future but given that kind of talent do you see NHL being excited? MLB being excited? Of course not. The infant’s skill has nothing to do with the purpose of “other” games such as baseball and hockey. Purpose and Glory are closely associated. So then we HAVE to understand Jesus’ mission before we can understand his glory.
To know Jesus’ mission, we have to see that Jesus has chosen a donkey rather than a horse. A horse is an animal of war whereas the donkey is an animal of peace. But peace with what? Or with whom?
Is it peace between Israel and Rome? No, if that was Jesus’ mission, he probably accepted Jewish people’s desire to become political king over them and started a diplomatic foreign policy.
Is it peace among Jews? No, if that was Jesus’ mission, he would NOT have picked fights with the Pharisees and other religious leaders. (You ever noticed how Jesus always seems to brew trouble wherever he went?)
Is it a world peace? Well, we are little closer but if, by “world peace”, you mean the type of peace where people are focused on getting along with each other while abandoning faith that binds us to Christ and therefore God the Father, we are wrong on that. If such was case, Jesus would have used his charm and intelligence to focus on his humour skills to keep people laughing instead of teaching but of course that wasn’t the case.
So peace with what or whom? It’s the heavenly peace where the Kingdom order is restored. It is the peace that restores mankind to what it was meant to be – in a loving relationship with God the creator, fellow neighbors and rest of God’s creations. So the peace that the Gospel is talking about is peace between God and man. Romans 5:1-2 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”
Without our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not have access to grace and without grace, there is no peace with God. That is to say, without Christ, we remain under God’s judgement of death and without Christ all we can see is the anger of God. Making peace between two parties is called “reconciliation” and Jesus’ mission was precisely the reconciliation between God and man.
2. Only under this purpose, we can understand the glory of God. Take a look at verse 23 – 24 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus would say this not during his entry but after the fact? Only after the adoring public has gone away, Jesus talks as if the “hour of glory” is still coming rather than has just passed. Yuna Kim of Korea won Gold medal in World Championship just the other day. Do you remember where she stood during the medal ceremony? She stood on the highest place on the podium. In today’s scripture, to many people, his way into Jerusalem appears to be THE moment for Jesus. Jesus appears to be having highest point of podium moment BUT instead of savouring it and say “that WAS my glory”, Jesus says the hour is “coming” and “has come” only after the public recognition. Why is that?
It is because public support had no value to him whatsoever – Jesus’ agenda was much greater than THAT. For reconciliation, the Cross was the ONLY way to achieve purpose, so for Jesus glorification had all to do with the Cross rather than people’s approval and praise of Him.
You see, we may not understand what it means to be “absolute”. Absolutely pure means, there is no blemish. Even a slightest spot takes away the status of “absolute” pure. That’s just the definition of “absolute”, there cannot be any other element. So for God to be absolutely “Holy” means there cannot be any “unholiness” in Him. Which in turn means there cannot be any wink at sin or any hint of sin in Him. There is no such thing as “Ah, we’ll just let them get away with one”. So God must pronounce the judgement of death on every single sinner who commits sin!
You and I are no different. There WAS pronounced judgement of death upon us! That is until Jesus took away that judgement from us and placed onto himself to pay for our sins instead. THAT is the reconciling work of our Lord Jesus Christ and because the Cross completed reconciliation (as in achieving the purpose of Jesus’ mission), Gospel of John insists that Cross is the glory of God. Cross is the place where the purpose of God is achieved and both his Loving character AND justice character in whom no sin is found are (displayed ultimately) and (reigns supremely).
3. We live in a world where high places are envied. High grades, high income, high square footage of your house, high number of followers on your twitter, facebook, Tumblr and/or any other types of blogs you might maintain. What Jesus has done on Palm Sunday 2000 years ago was exactly the opposite. What Jesus had done on Good Friday 2000 years ago was also exactly the opposite of what this world understands as glory.
Instead, Gospel of John insists that Cross, the lowliest of lows, IS God’s glory. That’s because it is the place where you and I have found life in God and God’s purpose is achieved – this is how much God loves you and me. The only thing we could do is to stop doubting, start believing and forever remain thankful about it. So while I usually give out one or two applications, there is no application for this message other than as we start our Passion Week 2013 I just invite you to rethink Jesus and his reconciling work and remain thankful in everything you do.
We live because Jesus died and resurrected.
Thanks be to God.