************ Sermon on John 12:1-19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 5, 2020
"Loving and Hating the Lord"
I invite the girls and boys to join me on the steps. Grab your palm branches and sit right in front of the TV.
I am going to ask you girls and boys a bunch of questions. I want you to say the answers nice and loud to your parents.
What day are we celebrating today? What is today known as? I hope all you girls and boys said "Palm Sunday." Today is Palm Sunday so you waved your palm branches when we sang our opening song. Today is Palm Sunday so I waved my palm branch too.
In Israel, you waved palm branches when you were happy and excited. In Israel you waved palm branches to welcome someone into your city. Girls and boys, who were the people welcoming into Jerusalem? Who were the people happy and excited about? I hope you all said "Jesus." Wave your palm branch because you also are excited about Jesus.
The people shouted something as they waved their palm branches. One word. What word did they shout? They shouted the word "Hosanna!" Hosanna means "Save!" "Jesus, save us from the Romans. Jesus, save us from the Roman soldiers. Jesus, save!"
Girls and boys, say the word "Hosanna!" Why did I ask you to say "Hosanna"? Because we, too, need Jesus to save us. We need Jesus to save us from sin. Say "Hosanna" again. Now say it one more time and wave your palm branch ...
We all need Jesus, don't we? You, me, your parents, your grandparents. We all are sinners and need Jesus to save us. So everyone should be waving a palm branch; everyone should be saying "Hosanna! Jesus, save! Jesus, save me!"
PRAY WITH CHILDREN
According to our pew Bibles I read two different stories this morning: first, Jesus Anointed at Bethany; second, the Triumphal Entry. As I was preparing this message I noticed something for the first time. I noticed that both stories show us love and hate for the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Loving the Lord
A Our first point is love for Jesus.
A dinner was given in Jesus' honor in the village of Bethany -- because he raised Lazarus from the dead. One word is used to tell us about Martha's love for the Lord: the word "served." Martha "served." That's what Martha did. She served. You might remember another occasion when our Lord came to Bethany. Martha and Mary welcomed Him into their home. At that time Martha served the Lord with all her preparations and she was upset that Mary sat at the Lord's feet to listen to Him. Now we see Martha serving again. God-honoring service.
Do you know the Greek word for serving here? You should. Literally translated it is our word for "deacon." That's what deacons are -- men who serve. More specifically, the word deacon means to serve or wait on tables. That's what deacons did in the early church. They served food to the Greek and Hebrew widows so none were being overlooked or neglected in the daily distribution of food.
In today's passage Martha is serving. She is waiting on the table. She is serving food to Jesus and the disciples. Martha will always be remembered by the church for her service. She is a woman of action. She is a woman of deeds. She is not one to sit back while others do the work. Not at all.
Why does Martha serve the Lord? Because she loves the Lord. She loves Him and serves Him with her heart, soul, mind, and strength.
B Do you know who else loves Jesus? Mary. She takes a jar of perfume, pours it on Jesus, and then wipes His feet with her hair. About a pint of perfume. That's a lot of perfume. The perfume is identified as nard. It is very valuable and very expensive. It is Judas who tells us how expensive: three hundred denarii, which is the average working man's wages for a year. It comes from the root of a very rare plant grown in the high pasture lands of the Himalayas in China, Nepal, Tibet, and India. How did perfume from this plant get all the way to a home in Bethany? After the intensive labor of harvest and then extraction it was carried by a pack animal -- a yak, a camel, a horse -- and maybe by ship part of the way.
Nard has a very strong fragrance. Strong enough that the house was filled with its smell. Not just part of one room. Not just one room. But the whole house. A very strong smell.
Why would people have this? What did they use it for? It was used at a funeral. Bodies back then were not embalmed so fragrant oil was used to cover the smell of a decaying body. If you remember, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus' body, with spices, in strips of linen -- to cover up the smell. And, the women of Easter morning were going to further anoint Jesus' body -- again, to cover up the smell.
Mary's heart is overflowing with love and gratitude. So she takes the perfume, the expensive perfume, from wherever she keeps it safe, and pours the entire bottle on Jesus. Then she loosened her hair, which was a radical thing for a woman to do in the presence of men, and used her hair to wipe His feet.
What an amazing and lavish act of love. This is love without limits. This is love without restraint. This is extravagant love. This is generous love. She gave up something of great value for the Lord she loved.
C One last act of love -- or, at least, this is what it looked like at the time -- is the love of the Palm Sunday crowds.
John actually mentions three different crowds. Verse 17 mentions the first crowd. The crowd that was with Jesus when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead. This crowd continued to spread the word of what Jesus did.
We find the second crowd in Bethany. According to verse 9, a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus. This crowd came with Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Verse 12 mentions the third crowd. It is described as a great crowd that had come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. When they heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, they went out to meet Him. Why? Verse 18 tells us they went out to meet Jesus because they heard about the miraculous sign -- the resurrection of Lazarus -- from the first crowd.
So you have the crowd in Bethany that is already with Jesus. And, you have the crowd in Jerusalem coming to meet Him. Do you see it in your mind? There are two crowds coming together on Palm Sunday. How great is this crowd? We are talking hundreds of thousands of people. One ancient record from around that time indicates 256,500 lambs were killed for the Passover -- a quarter million lambs. The general rule of thumb was ten people for every lamb. Multiply 256,500 lambs by ten people and you have over 2.5 million people. This is only a guess; albeit, an educated one. The point is that the crowd was massive, almost beyond number.
They all came to see Jesus because He cast out demons, healed the sick, multiplied loaves and fish, turned water into wine. They all came to see Jesus because He was the most important man at the Passover. They all came to see Jesus because He was the most important man in the country. Never had they ever seen someone like Jesus. Never had there ever been someone like Jesus. Especially, though, they all came to see Jesus because they heard about Lazarus. That was the great miracle, the defining miracle, the ultimate miracle, the miracle of all miracles. John does not mention Lazarus without also stating, "whom he had raised from the dead." That's how Lazarus is known throughout the history of the church: whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
As I told the girls and boys, the crowd did two things. First, they waved palm branches. Palm branches mean celebration. Palm branches are used in expression of joy. Palm branches in Israel are like the bald eagle in America or the maple leaf in Canada -- they are a national symbol, a symbol of national pride, a symbol of nationhood. A hundred years earlier another crowd did the same thing to welcome Judas Maccabeus into Jerusalem after a victory. The Palm Sunday crowd expresses joy the same way. They think, they hope, Jesus will lead them to victory. Over the Romans. So they wave their palm branches of victory.
Second, they shout a quote from Psalm 118: "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." This is a Messianic Psalm. So they add, "Blessed is the King of Israel." This makes it clear they were welcoming their King, their Messiah.
The crowd is excited. The crowd is enthusiastic. The crowd is ecstatic. Because Jesus is their King, their Savior, their Deliverer, their Messiah. How do they know this? Because He raised Lazarus from the grave!
D So we see Jesus being loved. We see Jesus being honored and adored. By Martha. By Mary. By the crowds.
And, get this, Jesus wanted this. Jesus encouraged this. Jesus did not stop Martha's service. Jesus did not forbid Mary's anointing. Jesus did not refuse the crowd's hosannas. In fact, as Matthew's gospel puts it, Jesus says, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Lk 19:40).
Jesus wanted this. Jesus arranged for all this praise and love and adoration and honor. But it wasn't always this way. When Jesus fed the five thousand, He withdrew to a mountain so the crowd could not make Him king by force (Jn 6:15). When Jesus taught in the Temple "no one seized him, because his time had not yet come" (Jn 8:20). They picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the Temple grounds (Jn 8:59). Sometimes Jesus withdrew. Sometimes they were restrained. Sometimes Jesus hid Himself. But now, on Palm Sunday, "the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (Jn 12:23).
Jesus causes all of this praise and love and adoration and honor. That's why He raised Lazarus from the dead. That's why He went back to Bethany. That's why He took a couple of days to go to Jerusalem. That's why He entered Jerusalem on Passover week. He wants this.
And, He wants your praise and love and adoration and honor too. Does He get it? Is your cry, "Hosanna!"? "Jesus, save"? "Jesus, deliver"?
II Hating the Lord
A This brings us to our second point: those who hate the Lord. The first one identified as hating the Lord is Judas. Notice how Judas is identified: "who was later to betray him." That's how Judas is identified again and again by all four gospels: he who betrayed Jesus. That's how Judas is known throughout the history of the church: he who betrayed Jesus.
What is going on? He is the one "doomed to destruction" (Jn 17:12); another translation calls him the "son of perdition." Judas made his own choices, and they were the source of his own damnation. Yet the choices fit perfectly into the sovereign plan of God. God controls not only the good, but also the evil of man to accomplish His own ends. Jesus condemned Judas, but considering that Judas traveled with Jesus for nearly three years, we know Jesus also gave Judas ample opportunity for salvation and repentance. Even after his dreadful deed, Judas could have fallen on his knees to beg God’s forgiveness. But he did not.
Judas is identified by the Bible as a thief, as a lover of money. Judas followed Jesus because he saw this as an opportunity to get rich and have power. But the longer he was with Jesus the more he saw the opposite happening. There was resistance to Jesus. There was rejection of Jesus. There was bare survival rather than wealth for Jesus, Judas, and the disciples. Everything was going wrong as far as Judas was concerned.
With this mindset, Judas criticized Mary for pouring the expensive perfume on Jesus. He criticized Mary for her extravagant display of love. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Peter, James, John, and many others were loving Jesus more and more but not Judas; Judas was growing to hate Jesus. He wanted money. He wanted wealth. That's why he was so upset with Mary's action -- she was wasting money on Jesus. Judas hated the Lord and everything about the Lord.
Take a look at what Jesus actually did on Palm Sunday. He sat on a donkey. In Revelation, John pictures a triumphant Jesus on a white horse (Rev 6:2; 19:11). But in the Gospel a triumphant Jesus is on a donkey. A mark of humility. A mark of service. The opposite of everything and anything that Judas wanted. So Judas hated the Lord.
B We also need to look at the chief priest, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, the hostile leaders of Israel. They planned. They planned to destroy the evidence. What evidence? The evidence of Jesus' power. They planned to kill off Lazarus (Jn 12:10). Because a dead Lazarus will not attract people to follow Jesus.
You get an idea here of their extreme hatred for Jesus. They couldn't care less about Lazarus one way or the other. It was all about Jesus. They never denied the resurrection of Lazarus. They never denied Jesus was a miracle worker. Their hatred was focused on Jesus. Their plan was to get rid of anything and anyone that points people to Jesus.
Love and hate. For Jesus. That's what we see in Bethany. That's what we see on the way to Jerusalem.
Love and hate. For Jesus. That's also what we see today. Some today, like Martha, make it their mission to serve the Lord out of love; that includes many in Trinity URC. Some today, like Mary, give the Lord extravagant gifts out of love; this also includes many in Trinity URC. But others today, like Judas and the leaders of Israel, hate the Lord: they hate His worship, they hate His name, they hate His Word, they hate His sacrifice, they hate His true church.
Love and hate. For Jesus. In which group are you? Think about your answer. I say that because of the crowd. Their week started with adoration and honor for Jesus. Their week ended with them howling for His blood, His death, His crucifixion.
Love and hate. For Jesus. In which group are you? Eternity, your eternity, depends on your answer. If you don't love the Lord, you -- like Judas -- are a son of perdition. If you do love the Lord, you get to be part of His everlasting kingdom. So, is it love or is it hate for the Lord? Do you wave palm branches for Jesus and say "Hosanna!"?
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