Sermon: Welcoming Jesus (4.10.22)
Think about this day 1989 years ago. The people of Jerusalem were excited about Jesus’ arrival in town. But who were they expecting? The arrival of the next Jewish king? A rebel leader who could take on Rome’s control over the Holy Land? Or possibly a Messiah? It is very likely that fewer people thought Jesus was the Messiah then thought he was a king or a rebel leader. When you study all of the Old Testament prophecies, that’s exactly who they should have expected…but they either didn’t understand the prophecies, didn’t believe the prophecies, were afraid of a Messiah who might up-end the Jewish law, or were hoping for someone else.
This would be like choosing between eternal life and short-term peace and prosperity. When you don’t close the Messiah, you lose big time. As we understand the dynamics around Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, think about how you might have interpreted his arrival. What expectations would you have had? Would you have been ready to receive him?
John 12: 12-26
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
John’s recounting and notes of all the events relating to Jesus’ arrival, trial, death, and resurrection are very complete. By reading a series of chapters in John’s book, we can follow the events and sometimes even feel the emotion, excitement and tension which existed.
In the gospel of John, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem after celebrating his resurrection of his friend Lazarus from the dead. This celebration occurred six days before he came to Jerusalem. He stopped in Bethany to celebrate this event with Lazarus’ family. That was a big story which must have travelled quickly from place to place. Who might have guessed that the next person to be brought back from the dead would be Jesus himself?
As much as Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for what was to come, and after as much time as they spent with him, it is very clear that they still didn’t understand all of his references to his coming death and resurrection. And more than not understanding, they probably were hoping this wasn’t true as they did not feel ready to operate on their own. Their concern was personal.
If you were a Pharisee, you had different expectations and concerns. You might have been threatened by Jesus’ arrival. Jesus spoke openly about the hypocrisy of the Pharisee’s, and most of them (John says there were a few who believed privately), were concerned about loss of power, prestige, and income. Some of them actually wanted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus—that’s how afraid they were of Jesus!
Now, what about the rebel Jews---the Jewish zealots. They were opposed to the Roman occupation and thought Jesus would make an excellent leader. Especially since they weren’t fans of the Pharisees and saw how Jesus interacted with them. They were looking for a General to lead them, and what could be better than a General with superpowers?
And the rest of the people in Jerusalem? Just as happens with big events, they may have not expectations or concerns but were just looking for some exciting entertainment. They may have heard something about Jesus and the miracles he did, and many were hoping to see some new miracles in person.
So, everyone who was in attendance for Jesus’ arrival thought something different was going to happen, had a different set of expectations, a different attitude, and probably more importantly, thought there was going to be a different set of outcomes from Jesus’ visit.
None of us were there the first time Jesus came. We don’t know when he will return again. But like the first time, it is likely that we could miss him if we are not prepared. In our study of both Daniel and Revelation we get some idea from John about what it will look like when Jesus comes again.
Back in the 1970’s I shared a house with two other students. There was a small shopping center across the street, and the best part of that was a bakery with double chocolate raised donuts. I thought these donuts were made by angels, and so many years later, the bakery is gone, and it seems the recipe is, too. On one trip to the bakery, I was stopped in front of the door by an elderly man with old clothes and a long beard. He looked like a homeless gent, and he wondered if he could ask me a question. I said “yes.” His question was: “Do you believe in Jesus the Son of God?” I said I did, then went into the store. Once inside I quickly turned around to get another look at him, but he wasn’t there. I’m talking about a few elapsed seconds, friends.
I’m glad I answered the old man’s questions (if he really was an old man and not a messenger from Jesus). And I’m glad I was truthful, too. My life and my attitude changed after that encounter. But we know Jesus’ next arrival IS COMING, and you should be thinking and preparing your personal welcome for him.
Jesus, we hope to do a better job of welcoming you the next time you choose to visit us!
We thank you, Lord, for your gift of salvation and for the opportunity to be with you eternally. We love you, Lord!