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Apr 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 13, 2014 – John 12:12-21

Palm Sunday

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.
Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
 John 12:12-13, 20-21

Intro: We have taken this episode out of order

We’ve been spending time with people who met Jesus
– but because today is “Palm Sunday,” we have jumped ahead today
– there’s one weakness in my choice of these Greek visitors as our next example of people who met Jesus
• we don’t know if they actually met him — John doesn’t make it clear
• we only know that they wanted to meet him and requested an audience

John begins this story the day before

One of those rare scenes – Jesus relaxing in the home of friends
– John draws a contrast between Judas and Mary
• one takes, the other gives; one loves, other betrays
○ Judas attached a monetary value to Mary’s devotion
○ Mary loved Jesus beyond all monetary calculation
• “Let her alone” – how beautifully Jesus defended and protected her
○ he accepted her act of love
– we also learn that a “large crowd” showed up (v. 9)
• they heard about Lazarus and wanted to see him

It turns out, crowd is important element in story

They provide a counterpart to Jesus
– they’re like the ripples Jesus left in his wake
• in them, we can see the attraction of Jesus
○ it is like when we were children and dragged a magnet through sand
○ it attracted all these little iron particles
• the crowd’s interaction with Jesus also brings out pressing issues
– the two images, Jesus and the crowd, fit together naturally
• like a shepherd and his flock
○ he is what their souls need
○ even if they don’t know it, or even that their souls have a need

Coming into Jerusalem like this was rather daring

In chapter 11, disciples reminded Jesus – “The last time You went there, they were seeking to stone You”
– still, he came – and rather than sneak in, he rode in as if he were royalty
– there’s been a growing tension over his popularity among the common people (the crowd)
• this dramatic entry brings it to a climax
• the frustration voiced by the Pharisees is that  “the world has gone after him” (v. 19)

It’s at this moment of heightened tension that the Greeks show up
– we remember the ancient Greeks especially for their rational philosophy
• it’s possible that these visitors were intrigued by Jesus
○ perhaps their curiosity and questions begged for intellectual answers

“How does he inspire the masses–all these common people? What do these poor men and women see in Him? What’s the logic behind this? What is his method? In time, we will make our own evaluation of him, but first we want to see him for ourselves.”

– but it’s also possible they were not literally “Greek”
• in his gospel, John does not use the word “Gentile”
○ his world was divided into Jew and Greek
• they may represent the rest of the world — all Gentiles
– to get the big picture, we have to put verses 19 and 20 together:

So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after him. Now there were some Greeks . . .

Sir, we wish to see Jesus

Philip is not a Hebrew name, but Greek
– and Bethsaida was not that far from the Decapolis (ten Greek cities near Galilee)
• that may be why they chose him for negotiator
– but it is their request that stands out in this passage

Many Christians through centuries have been haunted by their desire
– I think, because it is so easy to identify with it — We wish to see Jesus!
– I imagine an average person standing outside a mega-church ranting:

“Do I need your clever sermons with catchy titles? Are you really helping me with your ‘how to’ achieve this, your ‘keys’ to unlocking that, and your ‘secrets’ to perfecting the other? –all of which are nothing more than I could come up with on my own, with a little research and common sense. Do I need to be tricked into thinking I’m growing in faith when all I’m really learning is how to be a person in the audience and a donor to your empire? Do you care to know what I want? You keep matriculating me through your ‘programs,” but I want to see Jesus!

It is impossible to nail down what attracts us to Jesus
– certainly, his unconditional acceptance and mercy are high on the list
• v. 47 – “Come and tell me whatever is troubling you, whatever keeps you from God. I’m not going to judge you”
– but there is also:
• his willingness to carry the heavy end of our relationship with him
• his empathy – he suffered and is able to feel deeply our suffering
• the fact that he listens – we do not bore him and he is not disinterested when we talk
• his patience with us and his determination that we learn, even if our progress is slow and faulty

If they the Greeks had seen Jesus, what would they have seen?

They would have seen his glory

. . . we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14)

– did Jesus tell Philip and Andrew, “Show them in”?
•  no — he said  “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified
• then three more times he connects himself with God’s glory in verses 27 and 28
○ why didn’t everyone see God’s glory in Jesus? Two reasons:
1.) their unwillingness to believe him (vv. 38-41)
2.) they were blinded so they could not see (vv. 42-43)
– there is significant irony in the fact that Jesus warned them to walk in the light, then immediately “went away and hid Himself from them” (vv. 35-37)

If they had seen Jesus, they would have seen the Father (vv. 44-45)

So what was Jesus’ answer to the Greeks?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (v. 24)

One author suggested that in saying this, “. . . he discourages them by making severe demands on them and by delivering a warning: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies . . .’”
– but I think that completely misses the big picture as John as set it up
• remember verses 19 and 20, “’the world has gone after Him.’ Now there were some Greeks”
• it is as if Jesus were saying:

“What you see today in these Greeks who want to meet Me is just the beginning. This effect I have on humankind will continue to grow until it reaches the whole world. On the one hand, its growth will be like that of agriculture–the shell of a seed that falls into the soil dies, but in dying it gives life to many more seeds. On the other hand, it grows in the way I explained to Nicodemus. When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.” (Regarding Jesus and Nicodemus, see my notes for April 6)

• in both cases, this is a movement from from death, to life, to bringing masses of people to God through himself

Conc: Yesterday at book fair, an athletic, sharp-looking man came by our booth and it turned out that he was quite a character. He asked me, “Are you a doctor?” When I said no, he asked if I had written the books lying on the table in front of me, and he wanted to know what they were about. I gave him a brief explanation. Then looking at me from the corner of his eye, he said, “Step into my office”–which meant around the corner to the outside canvas wall of the booth.

– he told a story about a woman who he knew and how she longed for relationship
• but she had obviously been going about it the wrong way
○ rather than enjoying a healthy, stable relationship, she went from one sexual partner to another
• when he tried to share his observations of how she was being exploited, she shut him out
○ she continued to rebuff his sincere attempts to care for her as she deserved until threatening him with a restraining order
– it became obvious that he too longed for a healthy, close relationship with another person

We want to see Jesus, because he might be the answer to this persistent and very human need for relationship
– and indeed he is
• he who taught, “Blessed are the peace-makers” is a peace-maker–the bridge-builder
• we hunger for connection
– Jesus is our connection — first to himself (“I will draw all men to Myself”)
• then, in him, we are connected with God and with others

But we can be slow in learning how to establish and nurture these connections
– it may help to know that even the Lord’s disciples were also slow on the uptake (v. 16)

Simply wanting to see Jesus is our first step, and coming to Jesus is our hope in taking all the next steps

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