Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade on October 30, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 13:1-20. With the beginning of Chapter 13, we are given a window into a very intimate and intense time that Jesus had with his 12 Disciples just hours before his arrest. For the next five chapters John goes into significant detail about the last teachings of Jesus.
With that said, I do want to draw your attention to one thing. John is one of four authors of the Gospels. John, more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, goes into far greater detail about the events of the Upper Room. Likewise, John writes this gospel long after the other three Gospels have been written, approximately around 90 A.D., nearly 60 years after the death of Christ.
With this in mind, it is interesting that John spends zero time talking about the Lord’s Supper. He speaks of feet washing, as we see today, but speaks nothing of the bread and the wine. Why? Why does John give the most thorough account of that night over five chapters, but leave out what some people, Catholics for example, claim to be of the highest importance?
I believe the answer may lies in John’s purpose of this book. In John 20:30-31 he speaks as to why he wrote what he wrote and why he left some things out, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John has repeatedly expressed that salvation is dependent upon believing in Christ. It is through faith that we are saved. Faith alone. I believe there is a strong argument to be made that John leaves out the Eucharist because of the abuse Eucharist. If the Eucharist is, as some people argue, to be central in the faith, it makes no sense that John, inspired by the Holy Spirit would conveniently skip over it in his detailed overview of the Upper Room. I believe it was because the Eucharist had started to undermine faith alone, and therefore John leaves it out. People, like so many do today, wrongly viewed the Eucharist as some magic pill that would save them, and Jon seeing this, intentionally focused on other teachings. Having said that, the Lord’s Supper is good, but it is only good if it is not twisted and undermines the truth of faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone.
With that out of the way, let us now read out text, pray, and see what John does cover in our verses today.
John 13:1-20 – “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And youb are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 ruly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
He Loves them to the End
John begins this section by reminding us that the Passover is at hand. As we have stated, it is no coincidence that the hour of Jesus’ departure corresponds to this event. As John said in John 1:29, ““Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! .” God desires us to make the connection that Jesus is our Passover Lamb. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 likewise makes the connection, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
How was Jesus the Passover lamb? He was the Passover Lamb in that his death was the means by which those who put their faith in him would be freed from sin and death and brought out of this world and into the presence of God. The death of Christ was the doorway into God’s throne room.
And this is true, not only for those who put their faith in Christ, but it is also true for Christ himself. We can see this in verse 1, “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” The way in which Christ was to leave this world and return to His Father was a bloody cross. Jesus had spent 33 years on this earth away from the Father, he was now ready to return. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus loved the Father and wanted to be with the Father,
Now having said that, this doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his disciples. As it says in in verse 1, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” The word, “the end” is “telos” which can be taken in a temporal way, such as the end of this life, or it can be taken to mean “to the uttermost.” Both applications are true, for Christ loved them unto death, and his death displayed his uttermost love for them. As Jesus will eventually say in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Christ was about to love his disciples in the greatest way possible.
Which leads to the question, why? Why does Jesus love these men to the end? It appears that John wants to make a distinction that these men were different then the world as a whole. Was it because they were better than others? Was it because they had great personalities? Was it because they were more religious or more righteous? No. If anything is clear in the Gospels it is that the disciples were ordinary men who had very little faith and were constantly putting their foot in their mouth. The answer is found in verse 18, “I know whom I have chosen.” The simple answer to the love of Christ is not found by looking at us, it is found by looking at him. The love of Christ towards these men was not dependent upon them, it was dependent on Him. He chooses.
This is not the first time Jesus spoke this way. If you recall, after the feeding of the 5,000. If you recall, everyone abandoned Jesus after one intense sermon and he turns to the disciples and asks them if they are going to leave him also, and they said no because Jesus had the words of eternal life. Jesus responded in John 6:70, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
Jesus will say it again later this night. In John 15:16 it says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit .” Jesus seems to want his disciples to know that their relationship is not built upon a quid pro quo relationship. Their relationship is built upon Christ's sovereign, unconditional love towards them.
In fact, the word love used in verse 1 is agape. IN the Greek language, which is the language the New Testament is written in, has four words for love. Agape, Phileo, Eros, and storge. Phileo means brotherly love, or friendship. Eros means sexual love. Storge means natural, or instinctive love. Agape, is different than all those other types of love for it means, self-sacrificing, unconditinal love. It is a love that puts others before themselves. And this is the love that Jesus has for those whom he has chosen, agape, self sacrificing love.
He Laid Aside His Garments
As I said earlier, these events took place just hours before Jesus' arrest. Therefore, Jesus had a very short time with his disciples before he was to die upon the cross. Despite the weight of this moment for Jesus, his focus was on teaching his disciples. Verse 3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
First let us talk about foot washing. Foot washing was a common cultural practice during the times of Jesus. It is not to be confused with the Jewish ceremonial washings. Foot washing was merely practical not religious. The reason they did this was because their feet were a disaster. They wore sandals, the bathed infrequently, the roads were dusty, muddy, and manure laden. When people came into a residence, it was very common for their feet to be washed.
Now the question is who? Who would wash these stinky feet? The answer is, a servant. Foot washing was reserved for the lowliest of the love. We see this in 1 Samuel 25:41 when Abigail tells King David's servant, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” It is said that some Jews even took the position that the washing of someone's feet was beneath even a Jewish slave, and only reserved for Gentiles slaves, because it was so demeaning of a task.
So with this in mind, picture the scene of Jesus getting up from supper and taking on the lowly task of a servant to wash the filthy feet of his disciples. This was perhaps the most awkward moment these disciples ever experienced with Jesus. Jesus was not some gentile slave, he was the King of the Jews.
In fact, look at what John says in verse 3, “the Father had given all things into his hands.” Jesus had absolute power. He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, dominions, principalities, all creation, time, space, it was all placed into the hands of Jesus. Jesus is the highest being in existence, he is God, all things were in his hands, yet there he was, hours before his death putting into his hands the filthy feet of the ones whom he loves.
This washing would have taken some time and my guess is that you could hear a pin drop in the room. The disciples appear to be speechless, that is until Jesus gets to Peter. Peter wasn't know for his self-control. Verse 6, “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”
Peter's response is understandable. He recognized the value and worth of Christ, and it was unfathomable that Jesus would take on the role of the servant. However, Jesus response, is fundamental to Peter's and our salvation. Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
What does this mean? In Mark 10:45 Jesus says these words, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is why Christ came, to wash away the sins of those whom he loved. He took upon himself the towel of humanity and wrapped it around his glory and knelt down from Heaven to earth and used that same towel of his flesh to cleanse us from the dirt of our sin. In order to receive a such magnificent washing, we must allow God himself to serve us. For so many people the cross is foolish. Like Peter, they cannot understand God washing the feet of man by dieing upon a cross. However, Jesus says it very clearly, unless you accept the atonement by the blood of Jesus, you have no part with Christ. And if you have no part with Christ, than you have sealed your fate to bear the wrath of God.
Peter, upon hearing these words was just like a pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. He now wanted Jesus not only to wash his feet, but give him an entire bath. Jesus responds by saying, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And youb are clean, but not every one of you.” ”
What does Jesus mean by this? One moment he says to Peter, if you don't let me do this, you are condemned. But the next moment he says, your are completely clean already. So which is it. Clean or not. The answer is both. What Jesus is talking about is justification and sanctification. These two terms are crucial for all Christians.
To be justified is to be completely clean. Sin has defiled us and made us unclean before God. We cannot be in God's presence with any spot or blemish upon us. Christ, as the Lamb of God takes away, completely, the sin of those who put their faith in Jesus. The disciples in that moment are clean; however, not just in that moment but forever. The work of Christ is completely sufficient to cleanse us from all of our sins. Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” It is only by the blood of Jesus that we find forgiveness (i.e. cleansed) of our trespasses. There is nothing left for us to do in cleansing ourselves. That is the work of Christ alone. It is Christ who justifies.
Having said that, just because Christ does all the work cleansing you, this does not mean that the work is done. This is what is called sanctification. Sanctification begins after justification and it is the process of becoming more and more like Christ in this world. It is the process of becoming Holy, like God is Holy. Once you are chosen by God, you are chosen by God. He will not change his mind, for God is not someone who changes his Mind. However, once you are his, he starts to transform you to look like one of his children. With each month, year, decade that passes you resemble more a child of God, then a child of Satan.
Perhaps the verse that best summarizes this reality of justification and sanctification is Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In this verse we see perfection. How long? Forever. Who is this applied to? Those who are being sanctified. In our text today, this is Peter, he is completely clean, and he needs his feet washed. If you are in Christ, you are perfect, and you are being sanctified. If you are not being sanctified, then you have not been made clean by the blood of Jesus. This two things, being perfect and being sanctified are simultaneously true and are inseparable.
How are We Sanctified?
This now leads us to the question, how does this happen. After we put our faith in Jesus Christ and are perfected, cleansed completely, how are we sanctified? How are our feet washed? Verse 12, “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Our feet are washed in Christian community. This is the reason we do Church, this is the reason we come together multiple times a week. It is to wash each other's feet. And the way that we wash each other is by the Word. Once again later this night, Jesus says in John 15:3, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” This word that Jesus is referring to is the Gospel. Likewise you can see it in John 17:17 when Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth, Your Word is truth.” Likewise, Paul picks this up in Ephesians 5:26 when he is talking about Jesus love for the Church, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”
Jesus as he is about ready to leave these disciples, and hand over the keys of the Kingdom to them, he wants them to have one picture in their mind, servant-hood. This should be the goal of Cornerstone, to be a people who are not self-centered, but who are self-sacraficing for the Holiness of our brothers and sisters. Who get the water and towel of God's Word into our hands and kneel at the feet of our brothers and sisters and wash their feet. This is the essence of Church. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 23, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 12:36-50. Today we are covering something that I believe to be very intriguing on multiple levels, and it has to do with Israel’s unbelief, not only during the times of Jesus, but also today. Before we read out text, I want you to think for a moment about the nation of Israel, and not just the Biblical Israel, but Israel throughout human history. From Abraham until now. There is no other nation like Israel. I recall reading about one Christian's conversion and the spoke about how the existence of Israel through the mellenia was a significant piece of evidence that drew her to Christ. Why? Because Israel has endured persecution like no other nation, yet they continue to exist. The Philistines, the Syrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Germans, have all gone against Israel, and currently they are surrounded by nations that hate them, yet they endure. Have you ever wondered why such a little piece of land in the middle East causes so much geo-political strife? There is no doubt that Israel is unique. So with that in mind, let us read our text, pray, and see what God has to say about this nation He created.
John 12:36b-50 - “When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. 44And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
The Light of Christ Upon Israel
One of the major themes in the Gospel of John is that Jesus is the light. If I am not mistaken, John uses it 16 times in his Gospel. We are first introduced to Jesus as the light right out of the gates in John’s prelude at the beginning of the Gospel, John 1:9, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
In Chapter 12 we see it mentioned several times. John 12:35, “So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” And then we see it again our text this morning, verse 46, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
As Jesus says, he came into this world as light. And there is no doubt that he is the light of the World, Jews and Gentiles. However, where did His three year earthly ministry occur? It occurred within the nation of Israel for the most part. Sure he stepped out past the boarders on occasion, but as Jesus said to the Canaanite woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
As I have mentioned several times before, regarding the amazing things Jesus did, John writes in John 21:25, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Not only that, but he preached the Word of God with a level of authority that is unparalleled in this world. If that wasn’t enough, John the Baptist, the greatest Prophet to have ever existed testified that he was the Messiah, but all of this wasn’t enough. Verse 37 of our text this morning says, “though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.”
How strange is this? This is Israel. As Paul says about his fellow kinsman in Romans 9:4, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.” This is not some random group of people who were casually familiar with God, the Bible, and the promised Messiah. This was a group of people who had been given ample evidence for over 2000 years, yet they did not believe. John 1:11 says it best, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” How can this be? Did Jesus fail? Is this a mistake? Had Satan coup actually worked?
The Word of God Fulfilled
Lets look at verses 37-41 “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
So in this text, we see again the immense importance of conjunctions. Verse 38, “so that” verse 39, “therefore” , “For again.” These conjunctions point us to the foundation, the reason, for Israel’s unbelief. And what reason does it give? “so that the Word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.” The reason why Israel, who had a front row seat the the Son of God, as a whole, rejected Jesus as their king, as their Messiah, as the Son of God was to fulfill the Word of God spoken 700 years earlier by God, through the prophet Isaiah So let us look at the text that is quoted.
Verse 38 “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” This is a quote from Isaiah 53:1. All of us in this Church, young and old, should be familiar with Isaiah 53. Let us all turn to Isaiah 53 together as a Church, and let us read the entire chapter together.
“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
This is a prophecy of the crucifixion written 700 years before Jesus came. This is the clearest and most comprehensive Old Testament passage pointing forward to the Messiah being crucified. Now, remember, a crucified Messiah makes no sense to the Jews. Their picture of a Messiah was a stronger Herod. Someone who would use the strength of man, the war horse, the chariot to deliver them from Romans oppression, not some man of sorrow.
But as John points out in John 12:38 with the quoting of Isaiah 53:1, “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” The strong arm of the Lord in Jesus Christ had been revealed. The signs and wonders that Jesus displayed is the strong arm of God manifested through this Galilean Carpenter, but who has believed? Very few people in Israel.
Now let’s look at the next old testament reference that John speaks of in verse 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” This verse comes from Isaiah 6. Why don't we all turn to this passage, so that we can see it for our own eyes. In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah is given a vision of God upon the throne. And in verse 8, it says, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? “ God is looking for a person to send to the people of Israel. Isaiah responds, here I am, send me. Isaiah wants to be the vessel of God's message to God's people.
God's response is found in verse 9, “And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing,d but do not perceive.’ 10Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
The message that God gives Israel is not a message of belief, but a message of unbelief. Isaiah role is to harden Israel's heart. And these are the two text that John uses to close out Jesus' public ministry. The suffering servant and the hardening of Israel's heart. Why?
If you recall, Israel was primed to receive the Christ. John the baptist had been stoking the fire before Jesus' arrival. Jesus comes and performs signs that have never been done before on the planet. The entire nation is falling head over heals for him, but what do they want? They want a stronger Herod, a mighty earthly warrior. They want a Political Leader, an Earthly King. They are ready to cast off the chains of Roman oppression with the war horse, but Jesus does not do this.
What does Jesus tell them in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The message of a crucified Messiah made no sense to Israel. The message of Isaiah 53 made no sense to the people of Israel. And it was this message of the cross that was the exact thing that hardened their hearts to reject him as their King. It was the cross that was their stumbling block.
And Christ knew this all along. The message of the cross was the message that would set their hearts against him. Hence why I believe Jesus was so vague and so mysterious about the cross for so long. He knew that the preaching of his crucifixion publicly would be the nails in the coffin, or better yet, the nails in his hands.
And this is still true today. Israel, generally speaking, still does not believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, despite everything lining up perfectly. Why? Because they cannot see past the cross, it makes no sense to them. Why? Because God sovereignly is using the message of the cross to harden their hearts.
So, despite Jesus spending almost all his time with the Jews, and displaying amazing wonders, and preaching with unprecedented authority, and matching the Old Testament prophecies perfectly, the Jews still rejected Him. Why? Because this was God's sovereign plan, that His own people would reject His own son.
And this, for us, is yet again evidence that the Bible is true. For it makes no sense that gentiles throughout the world would repent and place their faith in a jewish messiah, yet the Jews will not. But now we know why? It is God's sovereign plan.
Why Fault and Is Their Hope?
This raises a couple questions? First, if God is hardening their hearts, why are they held accountable for their sins? This is a great question and it is addressed in Romans 9, perhaps one of the hardest chapters in all the Bible, for Paul is covering this exact issue. In Romans 9, Paul starts out saying that he would give up his salvation if it meant that it would help the Jews believe in Jesus. But he knows that the bottom line for you believing in Jesus is not up to the individual, it is up to God's Sovereign grace. Romans 9:16 Paul says, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Paul knows full well that the foundation of faith is not yourself, it is a gift from God. But then he answers our question about accountability.
Romans 9:19-24 - “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
The bottom line is God is sovereign, and we are accountable. That is it. If you don't think this is fair, the answer is harshly stated, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” God is God, and you are not. We are sinners, and God is sovereign. Let us never to forget this.
The second question is, is their hope for Israel? Are God's chosen people destined for God's eternal wrath. The answer is unpacked in Romans 11. Due to time, we can't look at it all, but let read to you Romans 11:25, “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:d a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved.“ There will come a day, when the age of the Gentiles will be over. At that time, God will soften the hearts of Jews throughout this world and they will repent and put their faith in the suffering savior, Jesus Christ. When that starts to happen, you will know that Christ's return is near. God's plan began with the world, moves to the Jews, back to the World, and will end with the Jews.
So where does this leave us? First, hopefully we have overwhelming gratitude for the Amazing Grace of God that has been poured out on us, Gentiles. God cut the branches off the vine and he has grafted us in, not by our merits, but according to his will. He deserves praise and glory and we should respond in worship.
Second, our faith should shoot through the roof regarding God's sovereign plan. God is in total control of everything on this planet. As the world continues to shake and fracture, we can rest assured that we are a part of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and God is accomplish all his purposes.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 16, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 12:27-36. Before we examine our text for this morning let us review briefly. Last week we unpacked the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry. This event came at the end of Jesus three year ministry, and right on the heels of the resurrection of Lazarus.
At this moment in time, Jesus popularity was through the roof. As Jesus rode into town on a donkey, his group would have numbered the hundreds or thousands, but we are told the Jerusalem came out to meet him. As I said last week, no one knows the exact number, but it is estimated that Jerusalem would have had about 3 million people in it during the Passover celebration. So just picture Time Square on New Year’s Eve, and this will give you an understanding of why the Pharisees say John 12:19 said, “Look the world has gone after him.”
As we saw last week, however, the masses were not looking for a Savior, they were looking for a stronger Herod. They were looking to “Make Israel Great Again.” This throng of people, waiving their nationalistic palm branches wanted a revolution, not salvation. They wanted this Prophet from Nazareth who displayed Moses like signs to stand up to Caesar and say “Let my people go.” And if Caesar wouldn't listen, to bring judgment upon Rome similar to the plagues of Egypt. Obviously, Jesus had something else in mind, and he rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, not a war horse. All of that took place on Sunday. Hence why we have what is called Palm Sunday.
In the other Gospel’s they focus more on what happens between the Triumphal Entry and the upper room. John does not. So let me fill in some gaps. In Matthew we are told that right after the Triumphal Entry Jesus goes straight to the Temple and cleanses it by flipping tables and driving out the money-changers. Not exactly what they anticipated the Messiah to do. He then curses a fig tree, which is symbolic for the nation of Israel. He gets into an argument with the Pharisees and declares that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to others. He tells the people to pay their taxes to Caesar. He proclaims seven woes against the Scribes and Pharisees, not the Romans. And He predicts the utter destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. To use a political phrase, this is the Biblical version of the “October surprise” that caused the masses to turn their cries from “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, to “crucify him. Crucify Him”
So with all of this in mind, let us now turn our attention to what John desires us to focus on. Let us read our text, pray, and see what God has to tell us this morning.
John 12:27-36 - “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name. ”Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Let us begin by talking about the phrase “this hour”. Verse 27 says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?”
This is not the first time that Jesus has used the idea of “this hour.” Some of you who have joined us on Wednesday night at our Acts 242 study are already familiar with this. Jesus used “this hour” back in John 2:4 while speaking to his mother. He uses something like it in John 4:21,23 while speaking with the women at the well, saying “the hour is coming.” Then again in John 5:25 when Jesus says “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” Then again in John 7:30 it says, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” Then again in John 8:20, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” Then we saw last week Jesus say it himself in John 12:23, “And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
John has been priming us all along for “this hour.” So what is “this hour.” The answer is found in verse 32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” “This hour “is a reference to his crucifixion.
Once you know that “this hour” is a reference to his crucifixion you start to recognize that it is not just the Gospel of John that has been priming us for this moment, but it the entire Bible. Genesis 3:15, “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The bruising of the seed of Eve's heel is a reference to the crucifixion. Next we see the shedding of blood in the Garden to cover the sins of Adam and Eve. The sacrificial offering of a lamb by Abel. The sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham that was circumvented by a ram caught in the thicket, a substitute. The Passover lamb at the Egyptian exodus. The sacrifices at the temple. All of these events are a foreshadow of “this hour.”
Then of course all of the prophecies such as Psalm 22:16, “they have pierced my hands and feet--17I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; 18they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Then there is Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” And Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” All of redemptive history has been leading up to “this hour”. These prophecies point to “this hour.” But we can go even farther than that.
Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. ..7In him we have redemption through his blood,” Then we see in Revelation 13:8 we are told about how the world will worship a world leader at the end times except, “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
This hour of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was set in place long before the first stone of the foundation of the World. This hour is the greatest hour ever to exist on this planet.
So why is “this hour” such a great hour? What is the purpose of this hour? In our text Jesus gives us three reasons: 1) Judgment of the world, 2) Casting out the ruler of the world, and 3) drawing people to Christ.
1) Judgment of the World
Verse 31 Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world.” How is the death of Christ on the cross, a judgment of the world? Let us answer that question by asking another question? How many people wanted to kill Jesus during his life? Herod. His hometown. The high priest. The Sanhedrin. The pharisees. Eventually there are nearly 3 million Jews crying out “crucify him, crucify him.”
Why? Why when God comes to earth and lives among us, people want to kill him? The answer is in John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
The death of Christ is Exhibit A of how wretched this world is. The worlds collective action of killing Christ is not judgment on Jesus as much as it is judgment on the world. And we should be clear, every culture throughout time would have done the same. If you don't believe me, just look at human history. The followers of Christ have always been persecuted, and will always be persecuted. Why? Because we are the Body of Christ on display for future generations. So the death of Christ is the ultimate verdict against the depravity of man.
2) Casting out the ruler of the World
The second purpose Jesus describes is is also found in verse 31, “now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” First who is Jesus referring to? Who is the ruler of this world? This is a common description of Satan. In fact, Jesus will use it two more times in the next couple of days. John 14:30 and then again in John 16:11. You also see allusions to this title in Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:6, Ephesians 2:2, and Ephesians 6:12.
So in what way is Satan the ruler of this world. Isn't God the ruler of this world? Yes, but Satan is also a ruler of this world in different sense. And I think it can best be understood in verse that we have looked at before, 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Satan, after his rebellion and fall from Heaven was given authority to deceive man. His first prey was Adam and Eve. As we all know he was successful in this attempt and he plunged humanity into spiritual darkness and has been deceiving the nations ever sense. This spiritual darkness has led to every person being born a sinner and therefore sinning. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:26 unbelievers have been caught in “the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
This is the spiritual condition of every person on the planet who do not believe in CChrist a prisoner of Satan and a slave to sin. Even our righteous deeds are polluted rags wreaking of the sulfur of Hell. So what can save us from this body of death? The death of Christ.
I mourn for the people in this world who believe that they can deliver themselves from the demons in their life, such as adultery, drugs, alcoholism, greed, you name it. They believe they have the ability to break free from Satan's grasp. This is ludicrous. Satan is perhaps the strongest being ever to be created. He had the audacity to take on Jesus, one-on-one in the wilderness, and you think you have the power to break free of his trap? Not a chance. There is only one way to free yourself, and it is the blood of Jesus Christ.
Turn with me to Revelation 12:7 and lets see what it says about overcoming the power of Satan. “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.12Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!”
The dragon, Satan, the great accuser. How was he defeated? One way. “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” The only way to defeat Satan and break free of his chains is by the blood of the Lamb.
Why is this? Just quickly, two reasons. First, it is only the blood of Jesus that can pay the penalty for your sin. Notice, Satan is the accuser. What are his accusations? That we are sinners deserving of Hell. And he is right, but the blood of Jesus pays the penalty that we owe. Nothing else can pay it. When the bill of our sin has been paid by the blood of Christ, the mouth of Satan is shut. Because the scales of God's justice have been balanced.
Second, the blood of Jesus is a ransom payment. Jesus effectively comes and purchases his Bride from the clutches of Satan by laying down his life. When this payment is applied to us through faith, we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. We are no longer in the domain of darkness we are in the Kingdom of the Beloved Son. This is the power of the cross, it defeats the power of Satan and any claim that he has on us. We are now in possession of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
3) Drawing people to Christ
The third purpose of the cross is found in verse 32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The cross is not only the means by which we are saved, but it is also the mechanism that brings us to salvation What do I mean by that?
As I stated earlier, the death of Christ is like no other moment in history. It is the climax of history. Why? Because at the cross we see the brilliance of the glory of God. At the cross we see the justice of God and the love of God in the death of the Son of God. This event is the collision of two infinitely bright stars. The brilliance of this collision is breathtaking.
And for million upon millions upon millions of people throughout time and across the world this light draws them like a moth to a flame. This is the power of the Gospel. This is why Paul says this 1 Corinthians 2:1 - “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
The way to bring people to the cross so as to believe in him who hung on the cross is to proclaim the cross. This is the only way in which people will be saved. Too often we think that if we are a good person, people will believe in Jesus. Or that if they clean up their act they will believe in Jesus. Or if our music at Church is edgy and relevant that they will believe in Jesus. Or if our radio stations are positive and uplifting, people will believe in Jesus. Or if we smile real big and tell them that their best life is now, they will believe in Jesus. These are the lies of Satan.
The only way to draw people to Christ is to talk about the blood stained cross of Christ. For in the brutality of the crucifixion, we see the brilliance of God's grace. And for those have been given eyes to see it is irresistible.
So let us feel the weight and the power of this hour of the death of Christ and let us rejoice in it and proclaim it!
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 9, 2016
Open your bibles to John 12:12-26. Today we turn our attention to a very familiar set of events, Palm Sunday. Today however, we will potentially see another angel to this story that we have failed to see in times past. In fact, the relevance of this passage to the Church today is quite strong. So with that, let us read our text, pray, and devote ourselves to the teaching of our Lord.
John 12:12-26 “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So 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!” 14And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him. 20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, 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. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
The Feast of the Passover
The scene of our story this morning opens with the words, “the next day.” This day was Sunday, just five days away from the crucifixion of Christ, and still within the wake of the resurrection of Lazarus.
The feast that is mentioned is the Passover Feast. This is the largest celebration of the year for the nation of Israel. The purpose of the Passover feast was to remember the liberation of Israel that took place around 1500 B.C. If you recall, around 1900 B.C. Jacob’s family, which numbered about 70 people moved into Egypt due to the great famine that had struck the land.
Initially the relationship between the Hebrews and Egypt was a good one, but over the span of 400 years it became extremely oppressive towards the Jews. This oppression caused them to cry out for the Lord to deliver them. We are told in Exodus 2 that God remembered His covenant with Abraham and acted based on that covenant. God says to Moses in Exodus 3:7, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…10Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Moses, upon the hearing this commission from the Lord, was instantly consumed by anxiety and doubted that Pharaoh would listen to him. God’s reply was that he would provide Moses with signs to display that he truly comes in the name of the Lord. Moses displayed these signs, but Pharaoh did not listen for his heart was hardened. Following this rejection, God poured out ten plagues upon the nation of Egypt. They included water turning into blood, frogs, gnats, flies, the livestock dying, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and then the final plague was the death of every first born male in Egypt. This last plague was the event the set the captives free, if you will.
For the Jews, they would not lose any of their first born, but instead they were to take a male lamb without blemish and kill it, and take the blood of the lamb and spread it on the door of each of their homes. And God says in Exodus 12:13, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
And this was what the feast was all about that is mentioned in John 12. It is about God breaking the chains of Egypt and freeing the Israelites to be a free nation, as I have said before, this was, in a way, there Independence Day.
And to say that this feast was popular would be an understatement. In our text this morning it merely says “large” crowd. How many are we talking? No one knows for sure, but as I mentioned back in February of this year, there are some that estimate that Jerusalem swelled to nearly 3 million people. Therefore, picture the entire state of Iowa making a pilgrimage to Des Moines at the same time.
The Pinnacle of Popularity
The events of John 12 come at the end of Jesus' three year ministry and his popularity had reached an all time high. He had spent three years in the rural areas of Israel healing the sick, the lame, and the blind; casting out demons; providing bread for thousands; and preaching with an authority that was unparalleled in the World. However his popularity went through the roof at the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This miracle was the tipping point. All of Israel was a buzz over this 30 year old carpenter from Nazareth, including the Sandedrin.
Once again, if you recall from previously, the Sanhedrin had made the decision to put Jesus to death. The reason for this is because they believed that if people continued to follow Jesus, Rome would hear of it and come and destroy Israel and take away the Sanhedrin's precious power. Therefore to say that their was electricity in the air at this particular Passover, would be an understatement. I have chosen the word tinderbox for the sake of alliteration, but explosive is perhaps a better description.
The Impromptu Parade
Jesus, as he came from Bethany to Jerusalem for the Passover feast did not come alone. He of course had with him his disciples, but he also had with him the people who were with him at the resurrection of Lazarus. These people had been busy over the last several days. We are told in verse 17, “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.” As I mentioned several weeks ago, we do not know how large this crowd was, for the text in John 11:19 only says “many of the Jews from Jerusalem.” But I believe it is possible that perhaps thousands witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, and instead of Jesus telling them to keep this quiet, which was his custom with other healings, he allowed them to spread the word. Why? Because as Jesus says in verse 23, “ The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Bethany was about two miles away from Jerusalem, and as he walked they would have met others who were likewise walking towards Jerusalem for the Passover. Over this two mile stretch it is likely that Jesus started to amass a great deal of people who had either experienced the miracles of Christ, seen the miracles of Christ, or heard of the miracles of Christ. So picture a swarm of thousands of people surrounding Jesus making their way to Jerusalem with energetic anticipation.
Somehow, the word got out that Jesus was on his way into town. How this happened, I am not sure. In John 11:56 we are told that the Sanhedrin was “looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Perhaps it was one of the Sanhedrin spies that proclaimed that Jesus was coming. However it occurred, the result was exactly what the Sanhedrin was afraid of. The 2-3 million people who were already in Jerusalem streamed out of the gates that surrounded the city to welcome Jesus. The temple, the marketplace, homes emptied so that they could watch as Jesus made his way into the City of David. This was an impromptu parade that began a Passover like no other.
Now what is interesting is what they grabbed on their way. Verse 13 says, “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him.” What is that all about? I think we take this action for granted. I don't know about you, but when I go to a parade I do not think to myself to rip off a limb on my maple tree to wave it around. Yet this is what all of Jerusalem was doing. So what is going on with the Palm branches?
In the day of Jesus, palm branches were more than just something to wave. They were a known national symbol, and they had their beginning as this national symbol during the time of Maccabean revolt around 160 B.C. And they were explicitly used to celebrate the security that Simon the Maccabee brought to the nation of Israel. After this, the palm branch found itself on coins and were a very familiar symbol celebrating the nation of Israel. The palm branch became, in a way, the flag of Israel. So as you picture the people streaming out of Jerusalem with palm branches in their hand, think nationalistic pride. Perhaps similar to what you may have seen during the Republican convention, flags galore, energetic anticipation, American pride.
This leads to the question, why? Why did the Jews, upon hearing of the coming of Jesus feel compelled to grab a flag and waive it? To steal a phrase from Donald Trump, it was because they wanted to “make Israel Great again.”
The people of Israel were in a like situation to their forefathers in the time of Moses. They were under the control of the greatest empire in the World, Rome. And just like their forefathers, they wanted their independence. They wanted their freedom. And Jesus shows up on the scene and misplays miraculous signs, just like Moses. Proving that he comes in the name of the Lord. So they wave their Israeli flags and proclaim, ““Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” What the Jews wanted in this moment was not the Lamb who came to take away the sins of the world, instead what they wanted was a stronger Herod, who could stand up to the Pharaoh of their day, Caesar. What their hearts longed for was a revolution.
Jesus could have easily done what so many populists had done in the past and tapped into this Jewish anger towards the institution. He could have leveraged it for his worldly advantage. He could have rode into Jerusalem on a white stallion, with trumpets blaring, feeding into the cry for revolution. However, he didn't because he had a different liberation in mind. And because of that he didn't find himself a war horse, he found himself a donkey. Verse 14, “And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
This action by Christ is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. The prophet predicted and wrote these words approximately 500 years earlier. This morning, I want to read more than what John provides. This is Zechariah 9:9-10, “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. 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
As the crowds of Jerusalem erupts with Jesus' coming, he strikes a posture of humility. As verse 10 says, the war horse is cut off. Instead of a war horse, this King rides a lowly donkey. Not a symbol of revolution, but a symbol of peace. Which leads to the question, what peace does Jesus bring with him? Peace with Rome? No peace with God. And they way that Jesus would achieve this peace was not by way of revolution, but instead by the way of crucifixion.
And we see Jesus speak of this to the Greeks in verse 24, “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.” This is the truth that the masses did not understand. The Kingdom of Christ is not of this world. The overthrowing of Rome was peanuts compared to what Christ would achieve on the cross. This week I was reminded of this quote from Napolean that I may have shared with you before:
“I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.” - Napolean
The millions of Jews were blind to the eternal realities of Christ. Instead of setting their minds on the things of God they had set their minds on the things of man. They had become drunk on the fleeting power of this world.
A People for His Possession
So how is this relevant? Yesterday, in our men's study we examined Mark 8, and in Mark 8:15 Jesus tells his disciples to beware of the leaven of Herod. What is the leaven of Herod? I believe it is seeing Christ through the lens of nationalism. I believe it is the religious right waiving their Bibles and their American flags and taking out of context passages like 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem to make Israel great again. In fact, 40 years later, God utterly destroyed Jerusalem, obliterating their precious temple, and the fleeting comforts of this world. And likewise, Christ did not die on the cross to make America Great Again. The United States of America is not our home. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await the return of our Savior.
I believe too many of us, think wrongly about our existence. Instead of seeing the world through the lens of Christ, we see it through the lens of our flesh. We are more concerned about the presidential election than we are about our neighbor's salvation. WE care more about taxes then we do about tithing. We will spend hours listening to foxnews, Rush Limbaugh, or watching the debates, but won't give up 3 hours a month to participate in a men's study. The leaven of Herod has infected the Church, and we have placed our hope in man not in God. Christ did not die so that you can live your America Dream.
As Christians, Christ calls us not to cling to our nationalistic palm branches, he calls us to cling to the cross. Jesus says it himself in verse 25 “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” Christ did not die for us so that we can serve our nation. He died for us that we may serve him.
Just last night I read this quote from John Piper on the Gospel Coalition facebook page, ““One day America and all its presidents will be a footnote in history, but the kingdom of Jesus will never end.” Let us live today as if we truly believe this.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 2, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 12:1-11. Today we are going to see an example of why it is beneficial to preach sequentially through a book of the Bible. For today we are going to see the response, the outflow, the fruit that is produced from the events that unfolded in John 11, and then ask ourselves the question, do we have the same response.
John 12:1-11 – “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 9When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.”
As we begin, let us get oriented. Let us set the stage. In John 11 we saw the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This was the greatest and most public of all of Jesus miracles and it was had a substantial impact on the people who witnessed it and also the Jewish Leadership, the Sanhedrin. We saw last week that the Sanhedrin saw Jesus as a threat to their power and ultimately a threat to their nation. Therefore they made the decision that Jesus must die.
We are told in John 11:55 that these events took place when the Passover was at hand and the Jews were purifying themselves. It is said that this rite of purification would take place from 1-6 days before the Passover. In my opinion this is where it gets a little tricky in dating some of these events. Several weeks ago I mentioned that the resurrection of Lazarus took place one week before Christ’s crucifixion, and I may have even said seven days, which is possible, but upon further examination I do not think we should be so quick to put a definite number on it.
And the reason I say that is that after the resurrection of Lazarus, we are told that Jesus left the area and stayed in a placed named Ephraim. How long he stayed there, we don’t know. Some people believe he stayed one night, hence seven days, some people believe he stayed several nights, others even believe he was away from Bethany for a number of weeks. No one knows for sure, and to be honest it is not terribly important. However, what is important is that, John wants to connect these two events. John wants to connect the resurrection of Lazarus to the the dinner in John 12. We see this both in John 11 and John 12. IN John 11:2 we see John say, “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.” John tells us this fact before he tells the story. Why, because he has a plan of where he is going. Likewise we see it in our text today, verse 1, “Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there.” John wants to reinforce that this dinner was a result of the resurrection of Lazarus. Therefore, to understand out text today, we must remind ourselves about the purpose and the object of Lazarus’ resurrection.
The purpose is found in John 11:4, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The resurrection was a vessel to display the Glory of God through the person of Jesus Christ. It was a means to an end. And the way that this was achieved was for Jesus to first proclaim that He is the resurrection and the life, and then to show that Jesus was the resurrection and the life. This is the point of this event, this is its purpose, so display the Glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
The object of that purpose, the people who are to see this display of Glory, is found in John 11:5-6 where it says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” As we saw, it was the love of Christ that caused him to delay. Why? Because he wanted to show those whom he loved (Martha, Mary, and Lazarus), His glory. These three were the primary object, or recipient, of the glory of Christ.
As is obvious from our text, the glory of Christ shining upon Martha, Lazarus, and Mary had an effect upon them. As I said this dinner was a result of the love of Christ. They desired to show their love of Christ, subsequently to Christ showing his love for them. The cause was Christ, the effect was a dinner honoring him.
This concept is one that John is very found of. He speaks about this exact thing in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” Our love of God is a reaction of his initiating love of us. Without God first loving us, we will not, and cannot love him. It is impossible to love God without Him first loving us. And we see this in our story today in three different levels. Each person, Martha, Lazarus, and Mary responded to the love of Christ differently.
First let us look at Lazarus. Verse 2, “So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.” Lazarus was the one who was dead and now is alive. The course of that life was Christ. Where do we find Lazarus after life was given to him? Right by the side of Jesus. Sitting at the table with him. Speaking to him. Listening to him.
The effect of the love of Jesus upon Lazarus was a desire to be with Jesus. This is an extremly common result of receiving new life in Christ. Just think about the disciples. They left everything they had to be with Jesus. If you recall in John 6:66, where it says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” Basking in the light of Christ was the only thing they wanted. They did not want to leave him, they wanted to be with him. This Lazarus response was perhaps the one that John could best relate. Listen to John 13:23, “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side.” Who is the disciple whom Jesus loved? It was John. Where is John located during the last supper? Right by the side of Jesus, leaning against his breast.
This is the love of Jesus. It is catalytic. The love from Jesus, causes a love for Jesus. When you love someone, you want to spend time with them. This is the fundamental question when it comes to whether someone is a Christian or not, do you love Jesus. If you can't answer yes to this, then you are not a Christian.
The second person we can look at is Martha. How did seeing the glory of Jesus effect her? In verse 2 we see it say simple, “Martha served.” For those of you who know a little bit about Martha, you are not surprised by this. In Luke 10 we are told of a story of Martha becoming upset because she was doing on the work, and Mary was just sitting and listening to Jesus. Jesus response in Luke 10:41 was “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Is Martha doing the same thing in this text, being anxious and troubled? No. Their is no indication that there is any trouble in Martha's heart. It appears that John wants to give credit to Martha for the dinner that was to be given for Christ. He could have easily left her out, but he didn't. He wanted to draw attention to her heart of service. Her service was a response to seeing his Glory.
And this makes sense, for upon receiving the grace of God we are new creations, created for good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
For Martha, this good work, was preparing a meal for God six days before his death. For you it may be cleaning the Church, selling coffee to raise funds for missions, or lending a hand on Church work days, or going on a mission trip, or singing on the praise team, or sending a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling. The list goes on and on. And as Paul says, this work is prepared for you. Waiting for you. All you have to do is obey and do it. And why wouldn't you. Do you think Martha was complaining that she had to feed Jesus food? Absolutely not. Why not? Because she had been loved by Jesus and had been shown his glory, and because of that, Christ was her greatest treasure.
Lastly, let us turn our attention to Mary. Mary's response is the main focus of our text. What was her response to seeing the Glory of Christ? Verse 3, “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
Mary did something that was extreme. Lazarus was one of many who sat with Jesus. Likewise, their were probably others who helped serve, but Mary did something that was not normal. Her response to being loved by Jesus and seeing His glory was radical.
We are told by none other than Judas in verse 5 that the value of this pure nard was, 300 denari. If you have the NIV it will says a year's wages, which is a good calculation. Therefore for us today in America, this bottle of ointment would be valued at $30,000-40,000. Lets just take a moment and think of things that you might own that would be comparable. The equity in your home, your 401k, new truck, a cabin, an inheritance, your business. For a number of us, we can't think of anything that we own that has that much value. And I think that is the point. The sacrifice of this ointment was of such extreme nature that God desired it to be memorialized in God's Word forever.
So why did she respond so dramatically? Because Jesus deserves . Look at verse 7. How does Jesus rebuke Judas' idea of giving it to the poor, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” There appears to be only two people in the room who fully understood the overwhelming worth of Christ, Mary and Jesus.
Jesus, God incarnate, had made it a regular practice to come and dine with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus, the resurrection and the life, had come and raised her brother from the dead. Jesus, the Messiah, had showered them with His love. Mary understood that this was not just a man, this was the Creator of the Universe, the light of the World, the Good Shepherd, the great I Am, her God and her Savior and her heart was overflowing with a desire to worship him.
Mary longed to grab the most expensive most valuable thing that she had, and lay it down at the feet of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was better than a years worth of wages. And if that wasn't enough, she used her own hair to wipe his feet. She gave her greatest world goods, and she gave of herself. Why? Because true worship is an outflow of seeing the glory of God.
Don't forget, however, she did not do this in isolation. When she spilled $30,000 over the feet of a Galilean's feet and undid her hair and wiped his feet, there was a room full of people watching. How many? No one knows, but at least 15. But this made no difference to Mary, for the only one in the room that matter was Jesus.
I can't help but think of another person who overflowed with praise in the presence of God, David, a man after God's own heart. In 2 Samuel 6 David has the Ark of the Covenant brought back into the City of David. And in verse 14 it says, “And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.” David, a theologian, a warrior, a King dancing with all his might before the entire nation of Israel. His wife, Michal, was embarrassed by him and confronted him about it and this was his response, “I will celebrate before the LORD. 22I will make myself yet more contemptible than this.” David didn't care about the onlookers, his heart was captivated by the Lord. He lived for an audience of one. And so did Mary.
Obviously, the question that looms over this entire sermon is do you? Has the glory of Christ so shown in yoru life that you are willing to lay down your idols at the foot of Christ and give yourself entirely to him? Has the gospel of Jesus Christ effected you so deeply that you are ready to give up your 401ks, your home, your goals, your dreams, your practicality and serve the living God?
Christ has given you everything. He has given you this world, he has given you your body, he has given you his blood, he has given you forgiveness, he has given your life eternal, and we cling to our perfumes. We stand in a room with a cross on the wall and songs on our lips, but is our heart far from him? Are we Marys or are we Judases?
Judas had followed Jesus for three years. Walked with him. Talked with him. Baptized, Perhaps even worked miracles and cast out demons, but he was a fake. He was an impostor. He was a child of Hell, not a child of God, but no one knew it, except Jesus. Is this you?
If you have been born again, if you have seen the beauty of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, then your life will reflect it. As Jesus said in John 7, you will have rivers of living water pouring out of you, from the inside out. And when this happens, the fragrance of your worship will be so counterculture that it will sting the eyes of the damned.
Paul's says this in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
Is your life the aroma of Christ or the aroma of this world? When people look upon your life, do they see a devotion to Christ that is shocking? It should. You are new creature in Christ Jesus created for good works, so that you should walk in them.