Jesus Christ is greeted in Jerusalem by the cheers and praises of thousands of Jewish people . . . only to die at their hands 7 days later. What happened during that week to change their minds? What did Jesus do? The Apostle John gives us the answer.
Here Comes the King
The moment has finally arrived. The air is thick with excitement. Jesus is about to ride into Jerusalem and the crowds are going to shout triumphant hosannaa.
But unknown to the casual observer, behind the scenes there were a great number of important things interwoven into this incredible day.
Let's pick up our story at John 12:1. On the next day the great multitude 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..." Josephus, the Jewish historian estimates that on any given passover in the 1st century the population would swell to some 3 million people. This is no handful who would come out to greet their King, and later, cry out for his crucifixion.
Now you need to understand the significance of what this crowd does:
First they wave palm branches. This is activity reserved for royalty. The Palm tree had long become a sacred symbol in Israel. Tamar, or palm tree was a popular name; the palm branches were part of the Festival of Booths. The Maccabean coins had been decorated with the palm and vine. When Titus destroyed Jerusalem he had medals created that showed a slave sitting under a palm tree - a symbol of Israel's capture.
It's interesting in the book of Revelation that the believers in Chapter 7 will do this: overhead Revelation 7:9. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne of the before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands, and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
And what are they doing here - look at John 12:13 again, "they took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to cry out "Hosanna!" - Hebrew - "save us now".
The Jews expected Jesus to come to Jerusalem to ultimately overthrow Rome and restore the nation to sovereign rule.
The second thing this crowd is doing is singing. Look at the middle of verse 13. "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel." This happens to be a portion of the hallel from Psalm 118.
Every Jewish boy had memorized this early on.
HOWEVER - they've added something - David only wrote the words, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. This crowd has added, "even the King of Israel.
What's happening? Israel is welcoming Jesus to the holy city and virtually crowning him King.
Did you notice what Jesus is riding on? Verse 14. And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; The other Gospel writers fill us in on the fact that this was an unbroken colt - a young donkey that had never been ridden before.
This fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah, some 500 years earlier who wrote - it's quoted here in verse 15. "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, you King is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
Not only does this fulfill prophecy but it is a miracle of Christ's authority as creator over creation. Imagine riding an unbroken colt - We took our kids to a rodeo a few months ago - the cowboys tried to do that sort of thing as hung on for 7 seconds.
Remember, this colt would have not only been unbroken but skittish and afraid - yet here it is carrying Jesus with thousands of people milling about, throwing garments before it's path, waving palm branches and shouting - what a miracle.
By the way, the donkey was the royal symbol of peace in this part of the world. So Jesus is signifying that he is in fact, royalty - he is a prince, the Son of God, but he is the prince of peace.
Now you notice that John has made specific mention of the days in this chapter. Chapter 12 begins with, "Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany" And verse 12 of chapter 12 begins, "On the next day the great multitude who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem..."
Now just when did this happen - when did Jesus arrive in Jerusalem and when did the crucifixion to come take place...
I was tempted to put this off until the crucifixion, yet for reasons I'll show in a moment, I want to deal with the problem of chronology today. . .I can tell you're excited.
Well, I myself have to admit to you that chronology has never been an interest of mine. Yet as I studied for this sermon, I was already troubled with a very simple question.
It was a question raised from Matthews account of this passion week as it related to Jesus' death and entombment. overhead Matthew 12:40 reads, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The question is this, "How could Jesus have been crucified on Friday and rise again just before dawn on Sunday?"
Now I know that Jews would claim that a portion of a day or night would, in their writings, be considered a whole day and a whole night. I have no problem with that.
The problem lies in Matthews declaration that Jesus would be the tomb not only three days but three nights! If Christ were crucified on Friday afternoon, then that leaves us with Friday night and Saturday night. Not even the slightest sliver of a third night, anywhere, no matter how you slice it!
What I uncovered in my study is a series of debates and arguments - good scholarly men arguing with one another. I found at least four different chronologies listed. One scholar I respect by the name of Frederick Godet actually moved the resurrection ahead one day to Monday in order for there to be at least three days and three nights.
Another popular answer by men I respect is that we must not take Jesus literally. Many times, days and nights are merely portions of one or the other. I do agree that this issue is of relatively small importance - what's important is the fact that Jesus died on the cross and he rose again.
So what's the answer. I'm going to provide a chronology for you that I believe is correct for one primary reason. And it has to do with one advantage that I believe is beautiful enough to spend time explaining chronology auditorium filled with people who may be a lot like me - somewhat uninterested.
Stay with me, because I think you will be fascinated by the conclusion I'll draw later.
There are three key passages to deal with.
Mark 15:42-43 is the passage upon which the traditional church view takes it's stand. "And when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of
Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council...and asked for the body of Jesus."
The traditional view rests firmly upon the Biblical statement that Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath. What day is the Sabbath? Saturday, good; you are excited aren't you.
Now here's a point that is often overlooked; it is the simple fact that during the Passover celebration there were two Sabbaths.
According to Leviticus 23, there was to be a "high Sabbath" observed during the week of the Passover celebration. The Jews were to rest on that day just as a normal Saturday/Sabbath rest. Is it possible that this particular year, the Passover Sabbath was on Friday - therefore making it possible that Mark was referring to the High/Passover Sabbath, not the normal Saturday/Sabbath.
The answer is yes.
Two scripture verses prove this point:
Matthew 28:1 "Now after the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave, and behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it."
The plural sabbaths (Sabbatwn) has been a puzzle to many commentators and translators who usually change it to the singular, "sabbath." However, there isn't any problem if the Passover/High Sabbath and the normal Sabbath on this particular year were Friday and Saturday. Therefore, these women were not allowed to anoint the body of Jesus until after the Sabbath period, which was two days in a row.
The next clue is even more conclusive:
John's Gospel 19:30-33 "When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up
His spirit. The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs."
You catch that - the leaders wanted Jesus and the others buried because that evening they were going to prepare for the Sabbath. And bless John's heart - he's the only Gospel writer who lets us in on an incredible fact - the next day was not the normal Saturday Sabbath - it was the High Sabbath.
So here is the chronology that I believe actually took place. By the way, this is not unique with me - there are several careful exegetes who have been instrumental in convincing me.
overhead - read through!
Now the question your all asking is - what difference does it make.
So we're celebrating on Friday what we should celebrate on Thursday. Do I want to change good Friday to good Thursday?
No - no more than I want to change December 25th - the point is that we celebrate his crucifixion and resurrection.
I spent all this time so that I give you the correct context for what happened in John 12:12 and 13. And what an incredibly beautiful context it is.
But first, let's look at one more passage - a passage that spelled out the instruction for the original Passover - perhaps you remember the story surrounding the very first passover. The death angel was coming. Everyone who wanted to have their firstborn son live had to select a lamb, kill it and put blood on their doorpost. Wherever their was blood, the death angel would pass over that home. Thus the word "Passover".
Moses told them to choose their Passover lamb on the 10th day of Nisan. They were to keep it until the fourteenth day and then kill it in the evening.
Let me show you:overhead
Exodus 12:3, 5-6 Speak to all the congregation of Israel saying, On the tenth day of this month they are to each one take a lamb for themselves, according to their father's households, a lamb for each household...you lamb shall be an unblemished amel a year old...and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.
Over the course of generations, the Jewish leaders instructed the people to carefully follow Moses' guidelines during that very first Passover.
So all the way up to Jesus' day, on the 10th of Nisan which this year fell on Sunday, people who had come to Jerusalem had with them their passover lambs.
Josephus, Jewish historian who lived in early Israel, informed us that a census was taken of the lambs slain at a first century Passover Feast. The number of lambs was 256,000 - if one lamb served a family of no more than ten - there were also nearly 3 million people who had flocked into Jerusalem for this Passover
According to this chronology of events:
Passover lambs are brought to Jerusalem - Jesus arrives
The lambs are killed - Jesus is crucified
The nation rests in its redemption - The penalty for sin is paid.
What's happening on Thursday, the day before the High Sabbath? Jesus Christ is hanging on a cross! The lamb of God is paying the penalty for the sin of the whole world. At the same time the Jews are killing their lambs in memory of their redemption in Egypt.
Jesus is the final Passover Lamb - they just didn't see the connection.
On Friday the 15th - the nation rested on it's High Sabbath - it was a rest that commemorated it's redemption. And Christ in the tomb signaled the payment for sin was paid - mankind could forever rest in their Redeemer!
But notice now the Sunday prior to all of this - the Jews are herding thousands of sheep, thousands of lambs into the city. And who's in the middle of it all? Jesus is! And He's surrounded by passover lambs who would die in memory of Israel's past redemption.
The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world is riding into Jerusalem. Can you imagine the picture - He, the ultimate sacrifice, the heavenly Lamb surrounded by thousands of sacrificial lambs.
What a picture.
Down to the last detail, God's plan of redemption is a beautiful story.
Now remember, we have the whole story - not so with the somewhat confused disciples who, until later wouldn't put the prophetic and symbolic picture together. Notice v.16. These things his disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. And so the multitude who were with Him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead were bearing Him witness. 18. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.
In other words, the news is out - Lazarus remains, as we've already studied the chief miracle that undeniably reveals Christ's authentic claim to be God.
Now what about the Jewish leaders?
Turn back to John 11:53 - "So from that day on they planned together to kill Him (Jesus)." Turn over to chapter 12:10. But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also."
Notice the last verse of chapter 11:57. Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.
HA! Here they are forced to stand on the sidelines while the multitudes shouted praises to their King.
Can you imagine the irony.
Notice what they, in total frustration say, v. 19. The Pharisees
therefore said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him."
The word, "you see" could be translated, "Look at that sight." We want to kill him and the people want to coronate Him.
I happen to love it when unbelievers who want to silence the Son of God are compelled to see God's Son honored.
My wife and I watched the late President Nixon's funeral. You heard the prayers; you watched the proceedings along with millions of people on prime television - the block of time reserved for ridiculing and undermining the honor and values of Christianity.
Then Billy Graham got up to preach. You see it?! While millions of God rejecters watched, while the liberal media was forced to focus in, while ungodly politicians sat, he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ; he called everybody sinners who needed the Savior!
I was sitting there alternating between "Amen and sick 'em."
I think of TransWorld radio who now uses the headquarters for Hitler's propaganda as a station for broadcasting the gospel.
I think of Atheistic Romania, once ruled by a god hater. Now a few years after his death, 7 graduates walked across a simple stage in a seminary in Arad. One was a pastor from Zalow who had been persecuted severely by the communists. He had been poisoned with rat poison; every room in his home had been bugged; now he, along with former dentists, engineer, a news paper editor graduated to go out with the gospel.
So here, the Jesus haters are forced to stand by and listen as the nation sings praises to their Messiah. And the leaders can only cry in their soup, "Look, the whole world is going after Him."
Ladies and Gentlemen, mark it down, to oppose Christ is a hopeless task. You cannot stop the sovereign plan of God. God isn't wringing his hands over the latest decision to come out of Washington. God isn't nervous about the latest new age advance.
God isn't calling an emergency meeting of the trinity.
There will be people in every generation who will spend their lifetime opposing Christ, rejecting him and doing their best to ridicule him. They're found on college campuses, behind news anchor desks, publishing books and in liberal pulpits.
The only thing they will destroy, ultimately, is themselves.
I think of atheist Frenchman Voltaire who said, "You seen what one Jew did to create Christianity, I will show you what one Frenchman will do to destroy it. . .and with his pen in hand he attacked the citadel of heaven. After his death, his home was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and Bibles were stacked wharehoused there in his former home, preparing for delivery.
The Pharisees at this moment should have waved the white flag and bowed before their Messiah. In our next discussion we'll take a look at why they didn't.
Now it's no coincidence that John puts the next paragraph where he does. You noticed how in verse 19 the pharisees had said, "Look, the world has gone after Him."
And here in the very next verse, representatives from the Gentile world come for an interview.
Now notice verse 20. Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
Why come to Philip? Because Philip was a disciple with a Greek name; in fact the popular namesake of King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, the Greek conqueror.
So they cornered Philip and ask him to arrange a meeting with Jesus.
In fact, the verb in verse 21 - they began to ask him could be rendered and they kept on asking Him.
Why the hesitancy on Phillips part - why did he have to go and get Andrew's advice in verse 22?
For one thing - he wasn't to sure a Gentile had a right to the Jewish Messiah.
For another - with all the people clamoring for Jesus, surely he wouldn't want to see them - He's famous now.
To the eyes of humanity, when you're great and famous you become hard to reach. You become isolated in your private world, on your private yacht, in your private jet, your private secretary, and your private parties - take a number - that's how a King would live. . .hard to reach!
Jesus reverses all of that and becomes available. Why? Because For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Jesus never turned anyone away who said, "I must see Jesus."
Besides that, this is a subtle message that the gospel will be for the Jew and the Gentile!
Well, if we could put the camera on fast forward:
This arrival into Jerusalem leads to his rejection
But at His next arrival, in Revelation ends in his coronation
This arrival left him alone, for even his friends deserted him;
The final arrival will signal a moment when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord
The crowd in John's gospel crown Jesus with thorns;
In John's revelation we'll see him ascend the throne of David in regal splendor.
This should teach us that the events of time, the movements of peoples, the rejection and acceptance of Christ are all directed by the Hand of a sovereign God. He planned this incredible day before the worlds were created.
The question is - have you taken your place among the redeemed?
His last arrival in the new Jerusalem is going to come true just as this arrival did. . .where will you stand.
I can only pray that you've already waved the flag of surrender to the and that you will be among those who in that Heavenly Kingdom one day sing. . .
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. And every creature (John wrote) that was in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and all that were in them heard I saying; Unto Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and power forever and forever, Amen.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count from every nation
and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne of the before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands, and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
And when evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council...and asked for the body of Jesus."
"Now after the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave, and behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it."
When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit. The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came, and broke the legs of the first man, and of the other man who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
Exodus 12:3, 5-6
Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, On the tenth day of this month they are to each one take a lamb for themselves, according to their father's households, a lamb for each household...your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old...and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.
Passover lambs are brought to Jerusalem - Jesus arrives
The lambs are killed - Jesus is crucified
The nation rests in its redemption - penalty for sin is paid