Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Text: John 12:12-19
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 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!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
16 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. 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. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
While we have seen that not everyone who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus believed in Jesus, the word began to circulate widely throughout nearby Jerusalem about what had happened in Bethany. Now that it was Passover week, the city was packed with Jews from throughout Israel and beyond, and a large crowd gathered on the road into town as Jesus and the disciples also came to observe the feast. The crowd lined the streets, eager to see the arrival of the one who just might be the promised Messiah. They cut branches from palm trees and waved them victoriously shouting “Hosanna”, which means ‘save us’, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
Israel already had a king, at least in name if not in the traditional sovereign sense. And while King Herod was relatively impotent, unable even to order the execution of a condemned man without permission, Caesar was certainly not. The expansive Roman Empire was at the height of its power, and while Israel was able to retain some semblance of self-rule, Roman soldiers patrolled the crowded streets and the appointed Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, wielded power that Herod could only dream of. Thus, to declare Jesus “King of Israel” was dangerous, incendiary talk which warned of an impending revolution.
By shouting “save us” as Jesus came past, the people revealed their desire for deliverance from Rome, just as Moses had delivered the Israelites from the hand of the powerful, oppressive Egyptians. Surely the one who had power to so publicly and convincingly raise a man back to life after being dead for four days could expel the unwanted Roman oppressors. But the King appeared not on a powerful warhorse, but the diminutive young colt of a donkey, as a fulfillment of prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 that even the disciples did not understand the significance of at the time. While a stallion would have symbolized military might, a donkey by contrast was an animal of meekness and peace. In choosing a common work animal, Jesus revealed the true nature of His kingdom. By entering Jerusalem in this manner he was claiming His rightful title of Messiah, but not the one expected by the crowds. He would certainly save them, but not even the most optimistic observer could possibly understand the totality of the deliverance that Jesus came to bring.
The Pharisees watched the scene unfold and understood the full implications of such a public display of insurrection. They felt their hand being forced, even as they had planned to wait until after the Passover to entrap Jesus. They noted with extreme frustration and incredulity, “the world has gone after him!” And indeed it had, as we will see tomorrow, even the God-fearing Gentile proselytes make a request to have an audience with Jesus.
The triumphal entry into Jerusalem serves to remind us that Jesus comes in a most unexpected way, just as He had arrived in Bethany to heal Lazarus on His own timing, and with His own plan. The Jewish people wanted someone to deliver them from their bondage, but Jesus was concerned about the bondage of their hearts. The Jewish leaders wanted someone to die on behalf of the nation, but Jesus knew that someone must die on behalf of the world. The temptation of man has always been to attempt to make God fit into the boxes that we have left allotted for Him, but the reality is that to declare that Jesus is King, means that we must allow Him all of the space that He desires. He wants so much more of us, and for us, than we could ever hope or imagine.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, As we reflect upon your final week, and all that it signifies for us, we confess that our ideas for you are often very different than the ones You have for us. We often try and fail to make you fit into our preconceived notions, to give us only what we think we need, but we thank you that Your vision and plan are perfect. Thank you that you offer to us all that we could ever need. Open our eyes, to see You for who You have revealed Yourself to be today. Amen.