Title: Jesus Arrives in Jerusalem
Text: John 12:12-19
It was a day to remember; there had never been anything quite like it before. Oh, Jesus had been to Jerusalem before, but not like this, you see, His time had finally come. This would not be like the other times He had been there, He wouldn’t appear on the scene and then slip out of town, let’s not make any mistake about that!
When the people heard that He was coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, there was electricity in the air. They had heard all about what had happened recently when He brought Lazarus forth from the tomb; some had even been there to see it. Nobody had ever done that before!
Everybody knew that their King was on His way, their King who had been promised by God to deliver His people from the Roman occupation, and with God behind Him, how could they lose?
Yes sir, the Messiah was on His way, and everybody went out to greet Him.
He rode in on a donkey, and while that may seem odd to us, for the people who were there on that remarkable day it was the sign of a king who comes in peace; hadn’t Solomon done the same thing? They waved their branches, they put them in His path, some even tossed their cloaks in the road… and they shouted:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
God was about to save them from the Romans and restore Israel to the glory of old. Oh yes, it was a glorious day!
Even His disciples believed this to be true. John tells us that they did not understand what was really happening…
There were Pharisees in the crowd, there always seemed to be Pharisees in the crowd. They were not pleased with what they saw on that great day; something had to be done about it. To be fair to them, the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders had much to be concerned about with Jesus. First of all, He was a threat to their lofty positions; He didn’t really seem to want to go along with the way things were done. Second, they were in a precarious position with the Roman authorities. The Romans were successful as an Empire because they allowed a certain amount of home rule in their provinces. As long as there were no insurrections, and as long as the locals accepted their authority and paid their taxes, the Romans would pretty much leave the locals alone, but if these conditions were not met, the Romans would crush the locals with a brutality seldom before seen. If Jesus encouraged the people to mount a revolt against the Romans, all Judea would be destroyed, and the Jewish authorities were not about to let that happen.
‘So, the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”’ They had tried to be lenient, they had let Jesus slip away several times, but this time they were determined to put a stop to this once and for all.
Luke’s View of Events
In these verses, Luke tells the same story that John told in John 12. Even though they both tell the same story, they differ slightly, as does any story when told by two different people. John tells us of how the disciples didn’t understand what was happening when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem; Luke doesn’t mention that, but then John was one of the disciples and was in a position to know what they were all thinking; Luke wasn’t there. Yet Luke is able to show us why the Pharisees were so concerned.
Let’s go back to Jesus entering Jerusalem; He’s on the donkey colt, the people are shouting and waving their branches when you can hear rising up from the crowd:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)
Do you see the problem?
“Blessed is the king who comes…”
The Romans are not going to like that, and the Pharisees have good reason to fear their reaction. Let’s be honest, and once again, fair about the Pharisees; they might be religious jerks who were overly impressed with themselves and all that. You might not like them very much, but they weren’t stupid! Their political situation was a very real danger for everybody in Jerusalem, so they said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
Looking at the situation from their point of view, I can’t say that I blame them for this. Jesus was having none of it, however. His reply to their request is classic Jesus, whose agenda is so far removed from what everyone else expects…
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (19:40)
The whole of Creation had been waiting for the day to come when the Messiah would ride into God’s Holy City, and that glorious day had finally arrived; this was not the sort of thing that could be hushed up.
Everybody knew when the Messiah was to come, the prophet Daniel had given them a timeline for His coming, and that’s why the Gospels are full of speculations about His coming, and of all people, the Pharisees would have known better than anyone, but there was a problem in all of this. The problem of course, was one of theological understanding, for their understanding of the Kingdom of God was based upon a false premise.
For the three years leading up to this climactic moment, Jesus had traveled the countryside preaching the Kingdom. Before that, John the Baptist had prepared His way. Jesus was the very embodiment of the Kingdom of God, and where ever He went, He preached the Kingdom, healed the sick, made the lame walk, restored sight to the blind, chased out demons… and made the authorities nervous. No one had ever taught as He taught, no one had ever done the things that He had done, and it would seem that no one quite comprehended what He was doing. Luke gives us a clue in the verses that follow…
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Imagine for a moment that you were Jesus. You’ve been preaching the Kingdom and performing miracles for three years; the people have followed you. Your time has finally come to enter Jerusalem in triumph as the King sent by God your Father to His own. The people have come out to welcome you, to cheer you, to praise God for you. You ride up the hill to where you can see your great city stretched out in the distance… and you say this?
Hold on a minute! You are the conquering hero sent by God to sweep the Romans before you, restore Israel to greatness and rule her as a mighty King, right? Haven’t you been telling everyone that the Kingdom of God was at hand?
I wonder… did the crowds know about this?
In due course, these words came to pass.
The disciples later understood that Jesus never had any intention to re-establish Israel to its former glory in the days of David and Solomon, for having an earthly kingdom within the pantheon of nations of this world was never God’s objective: No, not ever.
It would seem that there was a major disconnect between God’s purpose and the way the people understood God’s Kingdom. The understanding held by the people of that time, and frankly, many today as well, has much more to do with what they wanted from God, than it ever did with what God wanted. The people wanted to be free of Rome and go back to the way it used to be, but then how well had that ever worked?
God, on the other hand, wanted relationship with purpose, and sent Jesus to make that happen, and that is exactly what Jesus did: The people who cheered Him when He arrived in town that day had no concept of this, but that was about to change.
The next time we see Jesus in Jerusalem, He is chasing the money changers out of the Temple. Then we see Him teaching in the Temple and being under attack from the Jewish leaders. He defeats every attack and then He goes on the offensive, passing judgment against their whole way of doing things. After that, He is arrested on trumped-up charges, and many of those same people who shouted “Hosanna” when he arrived were now shouting “crucify”, for Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they wanted.
His disciples were stunned and dismayed, the Jewish leaders were on the verge of victory, but there was still one man who stood in their way, and in one of history’s greatest ironies, that man might have been the only guy in town who understood the real nature of the Kingdom of God…