Read John 12:12-19
It’s crazy to think that Jesus goes from Bethany, out of the reach of the religious leaders that were trying to kill him, to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday…the next day. In these chapters, John slows down time to focus in on significant events and actions that grab our attention.
Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. John 11:54
Jesus’ fame was at an all-time high at this point. Feeding thousands, healing many, teaching with undeniable authority, Jesus is the one to see as the Passover festival begins to take shape. I imagine the religious leaders are busier than ever trying to make sure everything in the temple is ready. They have to make sure their currency exchange operations are in full swing, preparing for the thousands that will swamp the temple courts. Then there are the sacrifice providers, the butchers, the bakers, and the candlestick makers. All systems need to be running at peak efficiency to make this festival the most profitable ever. Tis the season. Tis the misdirected motivation of many.
But for some unknown number of people, this was the opportunity to see Jesus. They made time in their busy schedules to grab palm branches, coats, whatever, to pay respect to King Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. No army. No weapons. Just riding on the back of a borrowed colt. Amazing.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:12-13
John doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but this event must have just driven the leaders crazy! They have so much to do and Jesus comes waltzing into the approval and fanfare of crowds of people. They were no doubt confused, but John is quick to remind us that even the disciples had a hard time understanding what was going on. John was there with them, so it’s fitting that he provided this observation:
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. John 12:16
Even John didn’t get it at the time. But later on, reflecting on what happened next, the pieces all come together to make sense. So much of my life only makes sense in hindsight. Oh how I wish it all made sense in the midst of trials, but rarely do I get that privilege. It’s probably only me.
Have no doubt, the religious leadership was paying attention. I’m guessing they were just too busy to come up with a plan at that moment.
Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” John 12:18-19
It’s just my imagination, but I’m thinking they dispatched a messenger to Judas Iscariot to remind him of previous secret discussions they had about delivering Jesus to them.
While they smiled at the sojourners coming to pay their temple tax, offer sacrifices, and demonstrate their love of God as they had been told. They took the long journey to honor God and expected the leadership would do their part, but secretly the Pharisees continued to lay the plans for killing Jesus.
The audacity of religious leaders in ancient times is appalling. Sadly, the same is true all too often in our modern age. Anger quickly arises when those in authority take advantage of the masses who rely on their integrity and come open-handed to fulfill their half of the agreement. It’s easy to understand why people get upset.
But this doesn’t happen all that often, not really. What happens more frequently, far too frequently, is the dumbing down of the pain we should feel for our brothers and sisters in need right in front of us and on the other side of town. More often than not our houses of worship are careful to present an image that is politically correct. We avoid stepping on toes or taking a position on atrocities committed in our day and time and we simply ignore the fact that people are homeless and hungry in neighborhoods we avoid at all costs. We play it safe to avoid making headlines and thus disturbing the careful balance of people coming to Sunday gatherings and providing a weekly offering.
Notice I said, “we.” The finger I point is attached to the hand which is raised. There are numerous excuses as to why we ignore those in need around us. I admit it’s complicated and there is definitely no simple answer, but I am convinced that doing nothing is inappropriate. Actually, doing nothing, in my opinion, is sinful. We read the story of the good Samaritan and cheer on the hero as we are sure to avoid those parts of town that make up our modern day Samaria. We know where they are, no doubt, and we know how to avoid “those” people. Right?
Lord, don’t let me be a Pharisee, especially this time of year. Break my heart for that which breaks yours. Show me how I can make a difference for one person, one grain of sand, one thing that seems so insignificant. Let me be one who is bold and crazy enough to shout, “Hosanna” to the true King! Let us be a people who care and change the course of history. One at a time.