Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Jn. 12:12-26)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 13 November 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 12:12-26

God established David’s throne and promised that his kingdom would once more become glorious. Israel expected Messiah to come to recover the historical glory of Davidic kingdom. After the return from Babylon, Jewish scholars studied the Messiah and recognised the Messiah’s coming as a glorious one which would surely revive Israel. But this is a one-sided concept that is why the Jews could not recognise the true Messiah when He came. They looked down on Him because of His human background. They concluded nothing would come from Nazareth, from the son of a carpenter. It was a tragedy to measure value in this way.

Why did Jesus ride on a donkey and not a horse? Jesus was willing to ride on a donkey which nobody has ever ridden. He entered Jerusalem as the Prince of peace, not the King of war. People on the road welcomed Him and shouted hosanna (Jn. 12:12-13). From human perspective this was the greatest glory Jesus received on earth.

But unlike man’s concept of glory, Christ’s concept of glory Jesus is in suffering. The first step of His glorification on earth was His incarnation, God become flesh. The angels sang glory to God in the highest when He was born in the lowest place, the smelly manger.

The second step was the glory in His death. When people came by the masses to welcome Jesus, the Pharisees were displeased. Their words revealed their arrogance. They could not be happy when others are praised. They believe their religion is right and only they should get praises. Jerusalem was in a mess then. Some people wanted to kill Jesus, some wanted to praise God and some people were there for the passover. But Jesus knew He was the Lamb of the passover and the time was coming for Him to die.

This principle has never changed. Without the cross there is no resurrection. No life without death. No glory of God without suffering.

Many people from all over the world came to gather at Jerusalem for the passover, including the Greeks (Jn. 12:20). Why would the non-Jews obey the law of the Jews to come to Jerusalem for passover? These were non-Jews who were pious and God-fearing. Cornellius was such a person. He feared God. Peter said, “God accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:35) This does not mean their good deeds save them. They still need the salvation of Jesus. The Bible said the entire world is under sin.

The Greeks discovered that their religion was not good so they looked for something different in the Jewish religion. 400 years before our Lord, the Greeks had 3 great philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. These three great philosophers were different, but they were common in one way. They recognise that truth must be consistent and true good must bring true happiness. True happiness consists in having wisdom which includes life ethics. In the past, they were seeking wisdom. Unfortunately our education system is more about academics, it is not about seeking wisdom.

Socrates had sparked the thought to seek the purpose of life in many Greeks who continued to learn for 400 years till Jesus came. 400 years before and 400 years after Christ are considered the golden age of philosophy. People seek to understand the purpose of existence. In western philosophy, the golden aim of existence is to be happy. One group says happiness comes from hedonistic lifestyle (Epicurian). Another group believes true happiness comes from true good (Stoics) which sets high standard for morality. And a third group doubts everything (Skeptics). This influences western though greatly, to seek the good, to seek joy and happiness and to doubt all things.

These highly learned and intelligent Greeks were looking for Jesus. They found that their false gods did not give any answer. They were looking for purpose of life. They found Phillip. Phillip found Andrew and both went to Jesus. When they met Jesus, Jesus said “the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” (v.23) This refers to His death. He was not filled with anxiety. He was not interested in philosophy discourse. He knew He was called for the lost sheep of Israel.

So He said to the Greeks, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (Jn. 12:24) Here Jesus gave them the philosophy of life. There are two principles, anyone who loves their life will lose it, he who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn. 12:25). No religion or philosophy ever said this. Eventually every religion and philosophy of man is still man-centered. However, Jesus points away from man-centredness. He said lose your life and you will receive it.

When your time is up your money means nothing, your power means nothing. A person who live a life of decadence will one day has everything he has strived for taken away, like the rich man who hoarded wealth would lose his life the very night God wanted it.

Our Lord Jesus was born gloriously and died gloriously in God’s eyes. He went from glory to glory, the first glory in incarnation and the second glory in His death. This is very different from political leaders and sinners of the world.

Jesus was not interested in philosophical discourses. He came to die in order to give eternal life.


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