Sermon Script: John 12:12-16
What were they coming to see? Were they coming to see Jesus? Were they coming to see a miracle? What were the crowds coming to see? What do we come to see each Sunday morning?
Jesus had been staying with Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus in the town of Bethany. This morning’s Scripture picks up with Jesus walking from Bethany to Jerusalem, and on this day especially there was a crowd of people following Jesus. It was just a few days before the Passover and Jesus is making the short 1.5 to 2 mile journey from Bethany to Jerusalem. A large crowd is going with Jesus. The crowd is shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13)! The crowd waved palm branches and laid the branches on the ground at Jesus’ feet. Jesus found a young donkey tied up along the way, and sat on it to fulfill what is written,
“Fear not daughter of Zion;
Behold, your king is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:15)!
However, the question remains. Why had the crowds come? Did they come to see Jesus high and lifted up in glory as the King of the Jews? Or did the crowds come to see Jesus high and lifted up on a cross?
I imagine right from the start the scene was not what the crowd expected. Usually, a king would ride into the city, on either a chariot, or some form of war horse. Jesus rode into the city riding on a lowly donkey. By rights Jesus should have entered Jerusalem on a mighty charger or war horse; strong, quick and virile. Instead, Jesus enters Jerusalem on an animal which is often thought of as small, stubborn and sterile. Not what you would expect from a King – especially not a king of Israel. There are these images in Scripture of Jewish conquerors; Abraham, Saul, & David. David in particular would ride into Jerusalem after winning yet another victory. However, Jesus was not that kind of king. Instead, Jesus came in humility, riding on a donkey. In Jesus’ earthly ministry Jesus was not the king of a mighty military nation. Jesus was the king of a group of stubborn, stiff necked people who often didn’t do what God told them to do… huh. Are we any different?
Scripture tells us the crowd went to see Jesus because they heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44, 12:18). It appears the people were hoping to see another miracle. Evidently, the people honored Jesus because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the grave. The crowd waved palm branches in the air. The crowd laid palm branches at Jesus’ feet and the hooves of the donkey. There is a feeling to this passage as if the crowd came to see another sign or miracle instead of coming to see and follow Jesus. There is something to a crowd mentality. A crowd doesn’t have to know very much to be moved to act. Have you ever been at a basketball game and acted in a way you would never do at home? When was the last time you jumped off your couch at home when a player from your favorite team makes a three pointer at a critical moment in the game? I’ll bet money if you were at the stadium you’d be on your feet. When I attended football games in college we hardly sat down in the stadium bleachers. Today I hardly stand up when I watch a football game at home. It does not take very much information for a crowd to move together. However, for individuals it is often a different story.
The disciples did not understand all of the honoring and praising Jesus received for riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (John 12:16). The Pharisees were jealous of Jesus. When the Pharisees see Jesus riding into Jerusalem they commented, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (John 12:19). As they witnessed what was happening neither the disciples nor the Pharisees could make sense of it. Maybe it’s the same with us, and with our country. Maybe the reason churches are shrinking and dying is because we have become too accustomed to being swept up in the mob mentality of every Sunday morning you get up and go to church. We don’t question it. Going to church is just something we have been programmed to do. This is the Bible belt. Of course you go to church on Sunday morning? But do we understand it? Maybe the reason so many people are leaving churches is because individuals have set down and not been able to understand it on their own. And like the Ethiopian Eunuch they could not figure it out. They came and did not see Jesus performing a miracle so they left. Church, what miracle do you think the people who left were supposed to see?
I think what the people who have quit coming to church were supposed to see is Jesus Christ glorified. The miracle they were supposed to see is Jesus Christ glorified in us. The miracle is for sinners like you and me with all of our faults and all of our flaws and all of our mistakes to lay aside our judgment of others. I think we are to treat people as Christ treated people. Jesus loves everybody right where they are. Jesus is actively teaching and engaging in hard conversations with His disciples. Jesus is working to help those who love Jesus become more than who they are right now. Jesus is always reaching out to people who have for so long been separated from the love of God. Church, we will never be God’s people until we recognize and grab hold of the risen Christ alive and well in us. Because that’s what it takes to become the miracle people are seeking. I do not believe people are looking for holier than thou Christians. I believe the people outside the church are looking for real and genuine people who are actively looking for ways to work with God to overcome their sins. With the Church’s reputation for being filled with judgment and condemnation, to find a church filled with God’s love and grace really would be miracle. (pause) Perhaps, that’s what people think.
Let me ask y’all church. What would it look like for people outside our church to see Christ triumphantly riding into our hearts? What would it look like for Christ to be triumphant in our hearts? Perhaps, better yet, what would it look like for Christ to be riding out to our neighborhoods, our grocery stores and our place of business in us? Oh Church, what would it look like to open the eyes of our hearts and see Christ living in us – living in the lives of the folks sitting next to us? Perhaps, instead of thinking, and praying about ways to bring people in to sit on our pews, we should be thinking about ways to live as Christ. Perhaps, we should humble ourselves to allow Christ to use us to take the good news to people who need to hear it most. If the miracle of Jesus Christ being glorified in the lives of those around us is the miracle people need to see, then perhaps we should humble ourselves to do the work God has called us to do. Oh Lord Jesus, Open the eyes of our hearts that we would see you, and that you would be better seen by others.
In the Name of Jesus Christ – Amen.