Red Village Church

Entry of the Passover Lamb – John 12:12-19

My name is Wes, and if you haven’t met me before, I am on staff here at Red Village Church and I’m a pastoral assistant to Aaron.

So yeah, grateful to open up God’s Word for everybody on this Palm Sunday. So if you got a Bible with you, and if you don’t, you can find Bibles just on the chairs, go ahead and open up to John 12, verses 12 through 19. So we’re going to be working through Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem from the Gospel of John. So John 12, verses 12 through 19. I’m going to go ahead and read through the passage, and then I’ll pray and ask for the Lord’s help, and we’ll work through this passage verse by verse.

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So 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!” 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!”

16 His 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. 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. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

(John 12:12-19, ESV)

Let’s pray.

God, we believe that you speak through your word, and so we gather here this morning to hear from this passage, as we desire to hear you speak. And so I pray that you would help me to be a good communicator of your word, and God help everyone else to be good listeners for your glory, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

So before I jump into this text in the book of John, I first just want to set the tone for what is occurring on Palm Sunday. So last week, Aaron mentioned the dichotomy of living between the already and the not yet of Scripture, where many of the promises and realities of Scripture are already there, but there is also a longing for what is yet to come when our faith is turned to sight. In the same way, we find our passage today in the already but not yet.

In this passage, Christ had come in the flesh and had been making known the kingdom of God through his word and actions for the past three and a half years, but his work on earth was not yet finished. As Scriptures declare, the Messiah must be afflicted, stricken, oppressed. As Isaiah declares, his soul will be poured out to death to bear the sin of many and make intercession for the transgressors. The darkness of Good Friday is now on the horizon, and the hour has come for the Passover Lamb to enter the holy city that his life may be given as ransom for many.

It is like a calm before the storm. Something massive and intense is about to occur. There is weight to what is taking place in our text, so I don’t want you to miss that, because as we’ll see in our passage, many people missed the significance of what was occurring when Jesus entered the holy city of Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday. That being said, the Gospel of John is one of four eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Each of the four Gospel accounts have a recording of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and so I chose John’s account because we’ve been studying the book of Revelation together, the last few chapters of it, and John actually also wrote the book of Revelation, so I thought it would be fitting to study his Gospel account of Palm Sunday. John was one of the 12 disciples, and he was also one of Jesus’ closest disciples, along with James and Peter.

And the reason that John wrote his Gospel account is actually given at the end of John’s Gospel in chapter 20, verses 30 through 31, and it says this, Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you, the reader, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. John wrote this book so that those who read it may know who Jesus is and believe in him as the Christ, that is, the Chosen One, or the Messiah, the Son of God, so that whoever reads it may respond in faith and have eternal life. And it’s for that reason, when anybody asks me, personally, where they should start reading in the Bible, I always recommend that they start reading in John, because it emphasizes the deity and purpose of Jesus throughout his book, and it also emphasizes the love of Christ in John’s Gospel. The book of John is also the last of the Gospel accounts to be written, near the year 70 to 90 A.D., and presents a lot of details about Jesus that are actually not found in other Gospel accounts.

In chapter 11, so right before our passage we’re studying today, chapter 11 of John’s Gospel, it informs us that Jesus had recently performed one of his greatest miracles yet, by raising a man named Lazarus from the dead, who had been dead for the past four days and was buried in a tomb. In doing so, Jesus had proclaimed, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

John tells us that the crowd of Jews that had witnessed Jesus do this began to believe in him, on account of what happened to Lazarus. And the Pharisees had also heard what Jesus had done in response, and gathered together in a council meeting and made plans to kill Jesus because of the number of Jews that were following him and calling him the Messiah. And we learn in verses 9 and 10 of chapter 12 that the Pharisees also wanted to kill Lazarus because of the many people that were believing in Jesus on account of him.

So just think to yourselves of, like, Lazarus who had just been raised from the dead in this incredible miracle from Jesus, and as people are gathering to hear his testimony about Christ and what he had done, God’s people, the Pharisees, are now wanting to kill him for his testimony. So understand there’s tension between Jesus and the religious leaders that had been growing over the past three and a half years during Jesus’ ministry, and now the plans were set in motion to kill him. So our text says that right before chapter 12 that Jesus was no longer walking openly among the Jews, but was remaining hidden. John also tells us that the Passover festival of the Jews was drawing near, which is the first and largest festival that the Lord commanded the Jews to remember and to celebrate. Which for those that might not know, Passover festival was a time of remembering when the Jews were slaves in Egypt during the time of Moses. God had instructed Moses to have every Jewish home cover the door frames with the blood of young sheep and goats, and told Moses that he would pass over every Jewish home with blood on its doorpost.

But every firstborn child and animal in Egypt would die because Pharaoh would not listen to the Lord, and would not let God’s people go to worship him. Moses also instructed the Jews to cook each lamb that was sacrificed at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and that all the animals should be eaten or burned by the next day. So God did this to look forward to the day when a mediator would come and spill his blood and break his body for his people that would cause God to pass over their sins.

This was the festival that many were preparing to celebrate in Jerusalem during this time in our text. And John tells us in verse 55 that people from all over the country, Jews and Gentiles, were coming to Jerusalem in order to purify themselves according to the law before Passover so that they could take part in this celebration. And scholars estimate that it was likely over a million people were gathered at Jerusalem to prepare themselves to celebrate Passover.

So understand, this was a huge community event with many people thinking about what God had done and instructed at the time of Moses in order to free Israel from captivity and to make for himself a people to worship him. And in the midst of everything that is going on with all these people gathering to Jerusalem, you have many people looking for Jesus after hearing about all the miracles that he had been performing, wondering if he would show his face at the risk of being arrested by the religious leaders. The last key detail John mentions before our passage is that Jesus had also just been anointed by Martha using expensive ointment that Jesus referenced was for the day of his burial. So now, five days before the celebration of Passover, the hour had come for Jesus to approach the storm that had awaited him since his birth in Bethlehem. But looking at verses 12-15, the next day after Jesus had been anointed by Martha, despite the tension and risk of being arrested and killed, Jesus begins his journey into Jerusalem. So as God incarnate, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, how would Jesus enter Jerusalem to observe this final Passover?

John tells us in verse 14 that Jesus was found sitting on a young donkey, otherwise known as a colt, as he made his way into Jerusalem. The other gospel accounts have more to say on how Jesus ended up riding a donkey in Jerusalem. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that Jesus was in a small town called Bethphage near the Mount of Olives, which is about two and a half mile journey from Jerusalem. And while they were there, Jesus told two of his disciples, go into the village ahead of you. And as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it.

And if anyone asks you, why are you untying it? Say the Lord needs it. So Jesus’ disciples went ahead and they found a donkey and her colt outside of the street tied by a door. Just as Jesus predicted, some of the people standing nearby asked, what are you doing in tying the colt? And the disciples answered as Jesus instructed them, say, the Lord needs it. And the people simply let the disciples walk away with the donkey and colt that they had brought to Jesus.

The disciples then laid their clothes on the colt as a makeshift saddle and helped Jesus get on and then started this two and a half mile journey to Jerusalem. Now why is this important? I want to give you three main reasons why Jesus riding in on a colt into Jerusalem is significant. So number one, as we see in verse 15 of our text, it was prophesied that the Messiah would come riding into Jerusalem on a colt. John quotes Zechariah 9, 9, that was prophesied over 500 years before this day came. And what John quotes from the passage is, fear not daughter of Zion, behold, your king is coming sitting on a donkey’s colt.

God had declared to the prophet Zechariah that this day would come and that the Messiah, the king of Israel, would come sitting on a colt. Now, even though this was prophesied by Zechariah, many people, including the disciples, did not understand what Jesus was doing and how this was fulfilling scripture. We see that in verse 16 of our text, that the disciples did not understand these things at first. But after Jesus’ death and resurrection, which was his glorification along with his ascension back to heaven, the disciples remembered prophecies like Zechariah 9, 9, that were written about Jesus and were fulfilled by Jesus during his life on earth.

Every single prophecy made about Christ’s incarnation on earth, which is well over 300 different Old Testament prophecies, were all fulfilled. The second reason Jesus riding in on a colt is important, and this reason is tied to the first, is that God is sovereign over every detail of every day. Now, if over 300 prophecies fulfilled by Jesus’ life and ministry on earth isn’t enough to convince you of this truth, then I want to point out to you a detail I read for you earlier out of Luke’s gospel regarding how Jesus got on this colt to ride on.

Luke 19.30 says, go into the village ahead of you. As you enter it, you will find a colt tied there on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. So my question is, how did Jesus know this?

How did Jesus know that at this exact moment the disciples went into this village, they would find a donkey and her colt tied up in the street, ready to go? And even more so, how did Jesus know that this colt had never been sat on? We know that in Jesus’ incarnation, he was both fully man and fully God. Not half of one and not half of the other. Not a demigod being part God, and not a mere prophet with the likeness of God. Jesus was fully God and fully man.

He humbled himself to the limitations of man, yet he never stopped being God. Why I share that is, how does that all work? Well, this isn’t systematic theology class, so I’m not going to dive into that at this time. But what you need to understand is scripture clearly tells us this is who Christ is, especially in John’s gospel. John is very adamant in explaining how Jesus is both fully God and fully man. So if you want to process this more for Easter weekend, which I encourage you to do, you can read chapter 1 of John’s gospel, verses 1 through 18, where John gives an incredible description of Jesus in the incarnation being fully man, fully God.

So by Jesus’ divinity, it was likely that Jesus had supernatural knowledge of this donkey and colts that were tied up waiting for him on this particular day. And not only were these donkeys prepared on that day, but the colt which Christ would ride had never been ridden, meaning this colt had specifically been reserved for Christ in order to fulfill the scriptures. This colt’s very purpose was for Christ to come and ride it into Jerusalem as God had purposed since before the beginning of time.

And Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a colt should remind us that God is sovereign in every detail of not just Palm Sunday, but every detail of our lives every single day. The third reason why Jesus riding a colt is significant is because it displays the unfathomable humility of Christ as the King of Israel. When a king entered into his own city, he often rode in on an impressive white horse with his army following behind him. Crowds of people would gather with joyful celebration and shouts of acclamation. The king is royalty, and therefore he should display his royalty wherever he goes, and especially when he enters his own city. Yet, how does Jesus enter his city?

On a lowly colt of a donkey with a makeshift saddle of ragged clothes that the disciples laid upon its back. This presentation symbolized Jesus coming in peace rather than strength. Understand Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem this way to show he was not coming as a conquering king, but rather as a gentle and lowly King, the Prince of Peace. John quoted only a portion of Zechariah 9.9 here in our text, but the whole entire passage of 9.9 says, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you! Peace and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Jesus, the prophesied ruler and God of his people Israel, rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as a King who came to die. And as we’ll see, his people received him as such. Verse 12 of our passage, if you look there, tells us that a large crowd of Jews that were gathered in Jerusalem for Passover heard Jesus was coming and left to meet him.

Verses 17 and 18 tells us why this crowd of people came, and the reason is because they heard the witness of Lazarus of being raised from the dead. So as crowds of people gathered into Jerusalem, the city was buzzing with talk about Jesus and who he was, what he had done, and most notably, his resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. And all of this brought an immense focus upon Jesus and what he was doing. So when Jesus saddled a colt and began to travel to Jerusalem, news spread like wildfire of his coming, and waves of people left Jerusalem to meet Jesus on this open road. And as these crowds of people surrounded Jesus and seen him coming, verse 13 tells us that the people took palm tree branches that are commonly found all over Israel and met Jesus with them. And understand, only John’s Gospel makes the distinction that these branches were palm tree branches, which is very important to understand, and I’m actually going to come back to this at the very end.

So palm trees at this time were a national symbol of Israel, and they also represented royal triumph. So the other Gospel accounts tells us that the crowds laid these palm tree branches and their clothes upon the road in front of Jesus as he rode by. In the excitement and the buzz of the crowd and who this Jesus was, people recognized Jesus as royalty and even as the Messiah and the King of Israel. Before in John 6, when Jesus had fed the multitudes, the crowds desired to make Jesus king, but Jesus did not accept it. Instead, he withdrew from them into the mountains. But now, here in our text, Jesus received this recognition as king.

John also tells us in verse 13 that the crowds cried out, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. And the word Hosanna means save now or save us now. So essentially the crowds were crying out, save us now, oh great Messiah, save us now.

The crowds cry of he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel. This was an echo of Psalm 118 verse 26 that was the last of the Hallel Psalms sung by the temple choir during each festival, including Passover. So the things that they’re saying, they were certainly recognizing that these are kingly, Messiah found prophecies that they were declaring about Jesus on this road. So how incredible of a moment this must have been as God’s people, it seems, are receiving their king.

But in the midst of this, how does Jesus respond to it? Luke reveals to us what is going on in the mind of Christ in Luke 19 verses 39-44. And so if you’d like to, you can go ahead and turn there in your Bibles, I’m going to talk a little bit more about what goes on in Luke 19 verses 39-44. It says, and some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, teacher, rebuke your disciples. And he answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. Now in saying this, that the very stones would cry out, Jesus is further stating that these things must take place and that God would bring praise to Jesus one way or another.

Looking back at verse 41, it says, and when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it saying, would that you, even you, emphasizing the fact that this is God’s chosen people, even you had known on this day, the things that would make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground. You and all your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you because, this is important, you did not know the time of your visitation. Understand, Jesus knew the hearts of his people that are gathering on this road. He knew that they were blinded to who Jesus really was and what he really came to do. So in response to knowing this, Jesus weeps.

Not just sheds a tear, he weeps in sorrow because of Israel’s rejection of their own God and King in the flesh. The majority of those in the crowd crying out, blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, would be the same ones to cry out, crucify him, only a few days later. The cries of, Hosanna, save us now, were not coming from hearts that desired to be saved from their sin.

Rather, their desire was for this Messiah to save their nation from the tyranny of Rome. They wanted a conqueror, not a humble servant concerned for their souls. The people knew about Jesus and his relation to the Messiah, but would not believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life. And because they would not believe, they ceased to know. Jesus in his incarnation had not come to rule, his kingdom is not of this world, and because his people didn’t desire this kingdom or its king, the very same lips that were praising Jesus for the miracles they had seen would soon curse him to his death. That is why Jesus says in Luke that they did not know the time of God’s visitation.

And as a result, this would result in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This is what John MacArthur has to say about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Jesus did not come to conquer Rome, but to conquer sin through death, to make peace with God for men.

Although the crowd was fulfilling prophecy, they had no idea what they were doing, much less what Jesus would soon do upon the cross on their behalf. They neither understood the Lord nor themselves, and therefore all of them would soon turn against him. We can see the depravity of man in sin on Palm Sunday.

The Passover lamb is entering into the city he gave his very own chosen people. The people praise him with their lips, but reject him with their hearts. And for that, God weeps as he enters the city in peace and humility, knowing it will be their undoing. Our passage ends with verse 19 that gives us a glimpse of what was going on in the hearts of the Pharisees as they watched Jesus enter the city.

The Pharisees said to one another, you see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him. The Pharisees, those most acquainted with the scriptures, were the most blind of all, talking among themselves how Jesus’ following had gained them nothing. For the Pharisees, Passover was seen as a time of gain. Gain of recognition, gain of authority, gain of money from those that desired to purchase a sacrifice from within God’s temple. Their main focus was upon themselves, and Jesus was an impediment to their gain, an obstacle in their way that was gathering the attention of not only the Jews, but as John records, the whole world.

And their solution was to snuff it out, to kill this radical prophet so that their gain would not be hindered. Mark’s gospel tells us after Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he entered the temple, and after looking around at everything, he left back to Bethany with the twelve disciples, because as the text says, it was already too late in the day. Now we don’t know what Jesus was pondering as he just entered the temple and then left. We don’t know why he did it, but we can only imagine what Christ must have been thinking as he stood on the edge of this black storm on the horizon that was coming to take his life. And that concludes Palm Sunday. So, as I said before, the gospels provide a lot of weight to what is occurring on Palm Sunday, and so I want you guys to feel that.

But for those of us here who know how the story ends, what can we take away from this text? And I want to give you four main applications. So taking notes, here’s my first one. First large application is see Christ for who he is this Palm Sunday.

The crowds on Palm Sunday came to Christ because of the signs that they had either seen or heard or the desire for a conquering military king. His people did not perceive their own God and king visited them in the flesh, and that judgment came to both Jerusalem and to all who do not repent and place their faith in Christ. That being said, why did you come here this morning? Did you come here to experience something from God or to get something back in return? Did you come here because it’s routine and that’s just what you do every Sunday? Or maybe you’re here just because it’s a special Sunday before Easter, or maybe you’re here because somebody invited you or convinced you to come.

Whatever the reason that you ended up here, if it’s not to meet with Christ and to worship him with the body of Christ, his church, then you may not be seeing Jesus rightly this morning. This passage shows us that Christ is a humble king who willingly and peacefully came to his people in love and mercy, knowing that they would not see him as such and would condemn him to death. Christ endured the shame and rejection of his people so that not only the Jews who placed their faith in Jesus would be forgiven, but all who by faith turned to Jesus will be forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God. For those here that have placed their faith in Christ, Palm Sunday is a day of celebration. Christ endured the storm of suffering and shame for our sake as a humble and glorious king riding on a donkey.

Therefore, for God’s people who see Christ rightly, we come to worship Jesus with full hearts with our brothers and sisters in Christ as the hour has come and Christ has finished what he rode into Jerusalem to accomplish. We know that. And for those who may be here and perhaps did not come here seeing Christ as your humble king, understand Jesus didn’t just endure the rejection of mankind that he made, he also endured the cross. Jesus came to die. His blood was shed. His body was broken for your sin because all of our sin deserves death.

Yet Christ died in our place and during the wrath of a holy God so that we don’t have to. And now to all who see Christ rightly and respond by repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, you will be forgiven. John 1.12 says this, to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave them the right to become children of God. And that’s my prayer for you today is that you would rightly see Christ for the first time as your glorious and humble king and repent and place your faith in him.

The second application that I have for you is the spiritual state of the lost should be on our minds as we go about our day-to-day lives. Jesus wasn’t fixed on the physical and what he could change, rather, his focus was on the spiritual. As Jesus entered the last week before his death, he had the state of people’s eternity on his mind. He had the disciples on his mind. He had the Jews on his mind. He had the Gentiles on his mind.

He had you on his mind. He had me on his mind. It was the spiritual lostness of Jerusalem and mankind that caused Jesus to weep as he entered the holy city of Jerusalem. Therefore, the spiritual state of the lost should be on our minds as we go about our lives.

Second Corinthians 5.16 says this, from now on then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. We no longer see Christ or anyone for that matter from a worldly perspective, but we see those around us from a spiritual perspective. Seeing people in this way should move us to bring them to Jesus who answers all who call upon his name with forgiveness and new life. The third application that I have for you is bring glory to Christ, not yourself. As I mentioned earlier in verse 19 of our text, it shows us that the Pharisees were focused on what they could gain.

Their focus was on their own glory and what they could gain, not the glory of Christ. John says this at verse 14 of chapter 12, for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. Because the Pharisees loved their life more than their King Jesus and the glory he gives to all who believe in him, they lost their lives in the end.

This life is not about what can be gained. It’s about what can be given for the glory of God as Christ so beautifully showed us with his life here on earth, especially on Palm Sunday. To Christ belongs the glory, not us. The fourth and final application for you, this Palm Sunday passage, is to understand this, a better coronation for our King Jesus is yet to come. As we’ve been processing in the book of Revelation in the last few chapters, there is a glorious kingdom that comes ahead for his people. And John says this in Revelation 7 verses 9 through 10.

After this, I looked, this is John, I looked and behold a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. This is an incredible passage. And earlier I told you that only John makes this distinction of his people taking palm branches in their hands to celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem. This is to point us to the greater coronation of Christ to come when his people from all tribes, all languages, fully see their King for who he is and worship him with incredible shouts of praise and joy with palm branches that symbolize Christ’s triumph and kingly rule. It is fully established and his people fully see it clearly. Let this Palm Sunday give you anticipation for the glorious coronation that is to come in heaven when we will all, who by faith believe in Jesus, will see Christ for who he is and what he has done for his people.

Where we, along with people from every nation, every tribe, every tongue, and all ethnicities will worship our humble King Jesus together for eternity.

Let us pray.

I’m grateful for your word. I’m grateful for this passage in John and for all the gospel accounts of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem this Palm Sunday. God thank you that you open the eyes of the blind, including everyone here in this room, that we could rightly see you for who you are. Thank you for the incredible mercy and love poured out through Christ and for what Christ took upon to go into this city knowing what lies ahead.

God we praise you this morning, looking forward to the day when we will praise you in your kingdom and I pray that you would use this passage to ready everyone’s heart, including my own, for Good Friday, for Easter Sunday, and really God for every day that we would see you rightly and worship you as our humble and peaceful King. And send these things, pray all these things, in Christ’s name, amen.

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