After spending the night at Bethany, the very next day Jesus headed for Jerusalem which was already full of pilgrims from out of town. When the crowds heard that Jesus was about to enter the gates of Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went to greet Him with shouts of praise, almost like they would do to a king who had returned to his capital after winning a war.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
A Grand Entrance
Even though Jesus was humbly entering Jerusalem riding on a colt of a donkey, He was given a King’s welcome. Instead of the other kings of the world that came home in a warhorse to display their magnificent and dominating stature, Jesus chose to come on a donkey’s colt and showed us that the way of the eternal king is one of humility. The other Gospel writers even recorded the crowds making a carpet out of the clothes they were wearing to welcome Jesus. Such was the admiration the people had for Jesus as they would have heard about all His wondrous works. However, a day later the same crowds were shouting ‘Crucify’.
Jesus did not have a large following in Jerusalem but His followers were those who had seen him in their own hometowns and had travelled to the city just for the festivities. It is very easy to get swept by the atmosphere of our surroundings and people started joining in the chants even though many of them would have only known hearsay about Christ and not realized His true purpose. Not all the people who were cheering him on that day understood the gravity of Jesus’s victory over sin when he arrived in Jerusalem to die for our sins. To them, the healer about whom they had only heard was coming to Jerusalem as they had no idea of what was to come.
Even in our churches, people are swept by the worship sessions or the motivational sermons and start praising the name of Jesus with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. The fear of being left out or singled out in a crowd makes people join in praising Christ but Jesus knows what is in each man’s heart and is looking for true worshipers who have a connection with Him (John 4:20-23). The people who come to Jesus for only the signs and wonders or the goosebumps they feel during Sunday worship, have no real connection with Him and are only temporary followers, who at the first sign of trouble will abandon Him. Jesus is calling us to be part of His kingdom, a new Israel, where we all have an intimate relationship with our King.
Curiosity About Jesus
The festival had brought people from all over the world to Jerusalem. Some of the Greeks who had made the trip heard, perhaps seeing the commotion surrounding Jesus approached His disciples with the request of wanting to meet Him. Philip who had a Greek name even though he hailed from Bethsaida was perhaps easier for them to approach. We always look for an in when trying to approach a person in power. Be it our bosses in office or a high ranking government official that we need on our side to get our work done, we try to look for shortcuts to approach them through the people they have surrounding them. Sometimes this is reflected in our approaches to Christ also, where we are constantly looking for intermediaries and agents to help us connect with Him rather than daring to approach our King directly. However, instead of meeting the Greeks as His disciples had asked Him to, Jesus began preaching about His death.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.John 12:23-24
Jesus is talking about Himself when quoting the example of the kernel of wheat. But He has also asked us to be ready to do anything for Him and even lose our lives. As his life was fading away, Stephen saw Jesus, and his death was the reason for the spread of the Gospel to the gentile regions as people started fleeing to other nations. In a micro sense, the death of our fast life can only sprout the new life in us. The former things must pass away for God to fill us with something new and wonderful. Jesus submitted His life in the hands of His father and wants us to do the same, be the kernel in the hands of our sower or the clay in the hands of our potter.
At that moment a voice came from heaven affirming Jesus’ request. This was a clear indication to everyone that Jesus was sent from God. But the ones who had made up their minds about Him could never be convinced. In the parable of Lazarus as well, the rich man was told that the people who did not listen to prophets will be least bothered even if a dead man came back to life and warned them. Jesus told the crowd that the voice was for their benefit, so that they may recognise the one standing before them as their creator. But even though they heard the voice and saw Jesus perform countless signs, they did not want to believe in Him.
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says…John 12:39-40
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
The words that John quotes from the book of Isaiah were God asking the prophet, to not reveal all of God’s plans of destruction and subsequent redemption to the folks who had betrayed Him, as God had decided to give Israel into the hands of oppressive kings. Israel’s betrayal came first that made God abandon His people and not the other way round. The only thing that separates us from God is our selfish desires and not God. We are quick to blame God for our problems saying that He chooses the paths that we have to travel.
The same reasoning is used by people to give a free pass to Judas by saying that he had no other option but to betray Jesus as that was his ‘destiny’. What they do not realise is that in all the prophecies about the ‘betrayer’, Judas was never mentioned by name. Judas could have changed his ways like Peter did and enjoyed fellowship with the Lord but his selfish desires kept him separated from God as his anger led to the arrest and killing of his Rabbi. There were several pharisess who believed in Jesus being the true Messiah but their love of human praise more than the love of God kept them from openly acknowledging Jesus as the King of Israel.
- V19: If Jesus indeed had so many followers, how were the pharisees able to crucify him just a day later?
- V24: Is Jesus asking His followers to be the kernel of wheat?
- V40: Will God prevent us from receiving our healing, both physical and spritual?