Blessed is He

Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018

Scripture: John 12:12-16

Blessed Is He - Logo12 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, “Hosanna! 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.

Way back in 1945 (some of you remember 1945) there began a radio program called “Queen for a Day.” In 1956 the show arrived to television on NBC. It moved to ABC in 1960 and finally came to an end in 1964. On the show, the Host, Jack Bailey, would bring out several women contestants and interview them. They would tell all about what they would do if they were Queen for a Day. They would talk about the difficult times in their lives and then Bailey would ask them what they needed the most. Maybe they needed medical care or equipment for a sick child, maybe a hearing aid or a new kitchen appliance. The winner was decided according to the applause of the crowd which, of course, was measured on the applause meter. After the winner was determined, they would play Pomp and Circumstances and drape a red robe on her. They would place a glittering crown on her head, sit her down on an upholstered throne and given a dozen long-stemmed roses while they listed the prizes she had won. Naturally, she would weep uncontrollably at her good fortune. The prizes, donated by their sponsors, attempted to meet her greatest needs along with lots of extras. The host would then give his trademark sign-off: “This is Jack Bailey, wishing we could make every woman queen, for every single day!”

How does that sound to you? Have you ever wished to be queen, or king, for a day? I’m telling you about this show because it’s Palm Sunday. It’s the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on donkey’s colt to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus had, very recently, raised Lazarus from the dead and the crowd was going wild over it. They were ready to give him a crown and make him king. In fact, when they said “king of Israel,” it was a messianic reference. They were calling him Messiah. But it didn’t last. He was king for a day but, by the end of the week, he would be nailed to a cross and abandoned by just about everyone.

Actually, Jesus is King for all eternity. You and I know that already. But the people didn’t expect the Jesus we all have come to know. We understand the messiah as our savior from sin and death; those in Jerusalem were looking for a king to save them from Roman rule. They were looking for an earthly king, not the savior and giver of life for their souls. King for a day and executed soon thereafter. Some king.

They were shouting “Hosanna!” It literally means, “save now.” This whole procession is fascinating for two reasons: first, these shouts were typical for the festival of booths and, second, these shouts were typical of a victory celebration when a conquering leader came home from defeating the enemy. In the festival of booths, this song would be sung to welcome worshippers to Jerusalem. Using the messianic reference here, the crowd is connecting this feast to Jesus and urging him on to victory.

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.”  It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t explain all this to the disciples. The Holy Spirit guided them in understanding this later, when they saw more clearly who Jesus really is. Like the disciples, we don’t always understand what is happening, or why it is happening, until later.

Looking around the world it’s plain to see that people still don’t understand King Jesus. They live in the here and now and the future is always in the future. When they see Jesus, they’re hoping for someone who will come and fix their lives – make it easier and give them what they really want in life: riches, comfort – heaven on earth. They want absolution for their sins and permission to live the way they want to live. They’re looking for a god who affirms the way they live and always gives without ever asking for anything. They want the world; not heaven. Many will meet Jesus and see the promised fulfillment of what they most desire. Some will meet Jesus and see the hope of eternity, forgiveness of sins, life breathed into their spirits and fellowship with their Creator.

The branches are waving and the crowd is shouting. Palm Sunday is here. What are you looking for today? Which King will you show the world when you leave this sanctuary? The king they want, or the King they need? King for a day, or King for eternity?

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The Dangerous King

April 9, 2017 – Sunday
The Dangerous King - Logo
Read: John 12:1-16
Focus: 9-11, 13

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

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, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!”

Why is it that so many of our leaders, throughout history, are assassinated? Surely there are many reasons but often it’s simply because they have become too dangerous to those who don’t want to lose their power. More recent examples in American history might include such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Go back a whole lot further and add Jesus to your list of those who became too dangerous to the powers that be.

In John 12:12-16 we have the curious event of Jesus entering Jerusalem to the waving of palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Taken alone these verses lack the context necessary to understand what is going on. If we open it up to the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus we learn that this event was foretold in such places as Zecharaiah 9:9 where it says, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This was also the time of the Festival of Booths (Feast of Tabernacles) in Jerusalem where Israel remembered their exodus from Egypt and God’s provision in the wilderness. It was also at the Feast of Ingathering that recognized the end of the harvest that happened sometime in September or October. This was a time when many Jews made a pilgrimage to the temple so the city was filled with a lot of people. On the seventh day of the festival the people would wave palm branches and quote Psalm 118:25-26 saying, “Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.” In verse 27 it says, “With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”  By the way, check out verses 22-24 in that Psalm where David talks about how “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  There’s a lot going on here!

Oh, and the Jewish leaders were watching and they were getting worried about this dangerous man known as Jesus.  To better understand the context of our passage you really need to back up a bit. In John 12: 1-7 we see Jesus in Bethany at the house of Lazarus. This is the place were Mary takes a pint of expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus feet before wiping it with her hair. We talked about a similar event a few weeks ago when we looked at the story in Luke 7:36-50 (the woman who was forgiven much, just like us) that happens much earlier in Jesus ministry. Mary understands she was forgiven of much as well and this special act of devotion has a different meaning here as Jesus claims this perfume was for the day of his burial which, he knows, will be soon. He’s a dangerous man.

Now we need to back up a little bit more. Back in John 11 we see why Jesus came to Bethany. It was where Mary and Martha lived along with their brother Lazarus, a friend of Jesus. By the way, John 11:2 tells us that it was this same Mary we read about in Luke 7 who cried at the feet of Jesus and wiped those tears off with her hair. Here we learn that Lazarus is sick. Jesus receives this word but waits two more days before coming. The disciples don’t want him to go because the leadership is hostile to him there. But they must go and, in John 11:11 he tells them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I’m going there to wake him up.”  The disciples don’t realize that Jesus is saying the man is dead and he’s going there to reverse the unreversable; to revoke the irrevocable. He says to them, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. (vss. 14-15)” This would be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

You know the story. When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany he finds a funeral and Lazarus has been in a tomb for four days already. Martha comes out to meet him but Mary stays home, fixed in her grief. How many times had she seen Jesus heal another? Surely, if he had been there on time, Lazarus would still be alive. Jesus says, “Your brother will rise again (vs. 23.” Yeah, sure, on the last day – at the final resurrection. “No,” Jesus says. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Mary comes and they take him to the tomb where we find the shortest verse (John 11:35) in all the bible: “Jesus wept.” The stone is removed at his command people are starting to worry about what it might smell like. Then he utters the command that rocks the world: “Lazarus, come out!” You know what happened. Lazarus comes walking out all wrapped in the strips and linen he was embalmed and buried in. What else can Jesus say? He says, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Wow.

Now is when things get crazy as the Jewish leaders hear about what happened. What would you do if you heard about an event such as this? Might you believe this man was who he said he was? Or would you see him as too dangerous to keep around? Oh the hardened heart that chooses the second option and sees Jesus as too dangerous. Yet so many still see him that way today. Witness all those who attempt to stamp out our Christian faith and deny it. They will do anything to get rid of it because it still stands in the way of their designs today.

Fast forward again to John 12:12-16. This is the Palm Sunday event. This is Jesus entering Jerusalem just a few days after he raises Lazarus from the dead and the people are buzzing. Everyone knows what he has done and they give him a triumphal entry into the city, just as foretold in prophecy. The people had decided he was a king but the day before it was the chief priests who decided he was too dangerous. They plotted to kill him. The made the decision in their minds and hearts and that was the only option they were willing to accept. It had to be done and, if they waited much longer, he would be too popular to do the deed safely.

This is the beginning of Holy Week and it comes in triumphantly with the dangerous king named Jesus. By the end of the week he will be crowned – but not with gold – this crown will be made of thorns. And the Cross, something that is so often nothing more than a symbol worn around your neck, will be the instrument of his death.

I want you to think about this dangerous man throughout the week. When next Sunday dawns we will see Jesus crowned with the crown only worn by the King of kings and ruler of all there is. Our greatest enemy, death, will be defeated with a resurrection even more amazing than that of Lazarus. But, to get there, we have to go through Good Friday. This is the Way of the Cross and we’re almost at the starting point. The Way of the Cross follows this Dangerous King and we must die with him. This is the total sacrifice and He has paid the penalty of our sins on our behalf.

Day 23 – Blessed Is He!

Thursday – March 3, 2016

Day 23 – John 12:12-19 triumphal entry

Focus: v. 13

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!”

The 1942 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner stars Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Woolley. Woolley plays a self-absorbed critic who slips and falls in front of the home a local factory owner. He takes over the house of Ernest Stanley and suddenly everyone’s life revolves around the famed critic Sheridan Whiteside and his grand personality. Sheridan has many friends and it’s Christmas time so crazy gifts keep showing up at the house including a box full of penguins.

At one point Whiteside’s old friend and actor Banjo shows up, played by Jimmy Durante, and makes an epic entrance. He sweeps into the house as big as life and goes on and on about his poor friend. He starts the scene by sweeping Whiteside’s nurse off her feet and carrying her about the room before planting a big kiss on her, despite her many complaints. He then strolls over to the piano and starts into one of his famous songs. He sings, “Did you ever have the feeling you wanted to go but then you had the feeling you wanted to stay . . ..”  It’s a magnificent scene and the one I look forward to the most every time the movie comes on the TV. It’s one of the grandest theatrical entrances of all time.

In acting terms that scene is a Stage Entrance or Theatrical Entrance. It’s the moment a new character is first introduced and the way it’s choreographed determines so much of how you, the viewer, sees the character. Will you love him or hate him? Will you boo him or cheer him? The director is there to help you see what that character is all about.

Cue the entrance of Jesus into the scene in Jerusalem at the start of the Passion Week. The people take palm branches and wave them around and lay them on the ground before him. They’re shouting phrases that belong to the Messiah. They are giving an entrance fit for a king and that’s exactly what Jesus is. By the end of this week He will be betrayed, put through a sham of a trial and sentenced to die in the worst way the Romans could come up with. But right now He’s given the grandest theatrical entrance you can imagine. The Divine Director is showing Jerusalem the real Jesus and giving them the opportunity to root for the real hero of the story.

This is the story of Jesus, the King. God is telling you exactly who this guy is and giving you the choice to accept it. By the end of the week you will have to choose which side you will be on. Are you rooting for the hero of the story or will you side with the mob that is shouting “Crucify him!” This is the choice all of us have to make in life. Do we accept Jesus as King of our hearts or do we reject Him. John is working on his case that Jesus is the Son of God and the King of all creation. The two lawyers are arguing their case and you are a member of the jury. Which side will you land on? How epic of an entrance does Jesus need to enter your heart?

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, You are my King. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Help me to make you the King of my heart. Amen.