Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sermon: John 12: 12-19 The Coming King

A few weeks back, Chris Avalos was full of talk. He was making great boasts about how he would be victorious. He was sure he would win, and insulted his opponent, the fans, the media, and just about everyone who wasn’t on his team. But that was at the weigh in. By the Saturday night, his talk was meaningless, his claims were just empty boasts. His boxing wasn’t good enough to beat Carl Frampton. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: ‘actions speak louder than words.’

What you do can sometimes speak louder than the words you say. Your actions can tell someone a lot about who you are, louder and clearer than your words ever would. And we’re used to this all the time.

If you’re driving along and someone turns on a blue flashy light, points to tell you to pull over, and produces the pad to issue a fixed penalty notice, then their actions shout out that they’re a police officer. You don’t need them to tell you that. Or someone in the hospital wearing a uniform giving you injections or sticking the thermometer in your ear is obviously a nurse - their actions speak loudly, telling you who they are.

We find something similar in our reading this morning. Normally when we look at the gospels, we listen to what Jesus says or teaches or rebukes. But here, he doesn’t speak. He utters no words. But this isn’t a silent movie. Lots of other people are speaking. But Jesus lets his actions speak louder than words, proclaiming who he is.

In verse 12 we find ourselves in the middle of a time sequence. ‘The next day...’ so what happens here is connected to what has gone before. Now if you look back a page, you see that Jesus was in the home of Lazarus. Mary had anointed him with the costly perfume. And now, with the smell of the perfume still on him, Jesus is coming to Jerusalem. News of his coming comes before him, as we see in verses 17 and 18. Jesus doesn’t have to speak, because his actions speak for him, and the crowd testify to what he has done.

‘So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went out to meet him.’ (John 12:17-18).

The sign shows his power. By going up to a tomb and telling the man buried inside to come out, Jesus shows his power. By raising a man from the dead, Jesus shows his power. The crowd that had been there that day go into the city, and they share the news. The crowd that were in the city go out to meet him. Wouldn’t you want to know someone who can raise the dead?

Jesus has power over life and death. The sign shows his power, and the crowd want to welcome him. So they take palm branches and go out to meet him. There are palms and praises, as the crowds shout out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel!’

As they welcome Jesus, they open their scriptures. They shout out one of the verses from our Psalm this morning, Psalm 118. They rejoice that the king is coming - not with his own power, but on the authority of God. ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ His power and authority come from God. It is only because Jesus is God’s Son, sent by the Father, that he can raise the dead. His power and authority flow from heaven.

The crowds begin to recognise that Jesus is God’s king. And Jesus confirms it by acting out a verse of scripture. He doesn’t say anything, but his actions speak louder than words, as the scripture confirms his position. ‘Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.’

Have you ever had an experience where something happens and you just kind of go with it, and it’s only later that you realise the significance? One time I was getting work done on a car. I took it to the garage, and the man dealing with me introduced himself as Graeme. We chatted away, got the work done, and I noticed that all the staff seemed to be very respectful of Graeme. It was only on my next visit that I realised that ‘Graeme’ was actually Mr Phillips, the big boss who owned the dealership.

That’s like the disciples here. They’re with Jesus, but verse 16 lets you in on a secret. John, the writer, looks back, and maybe even writes these words with a smile, or a red face. ‘His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.’ (16)

The disciples were with Jesus. But they were puzzled about the donkey. Why did he bother getting onto the young donkey? Later, after Jesus is crucified and raised from the dead, then they remember and realise the significance.

Jesus deliberately found a young donkey because, ‘as it is written, Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’ (15) The crowds had welcomed Jesus with scripture, and Jesus answered with scripture, in a wordless witness through his actions.

That verse, about the king coming on a donkey, is from Zechariah 9:9. The people of Israel were still in exile. Daniel was still around in Babylon, when Zechariah brings God’s word about the future. God promises to send a king who will end war and bring peace. A humble king, riding on a donkey.

Jesus knows the promise of Zechariah 9:9. It’s written about him, so when the crowd shout that he is the coming king, Jesus, without even speaking, confirms their verdict. Jesus’ actions shout loud and clear - yes! I am the king! The sign shows his power, and the scriptures confirm his position.

Palm Sunday must have been a noisy day. The crowds are excited to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. They shout out praises to their king. The Pharisees watch in dismay. The whole world has gone after him, they cry. But right in the centre is a man on a donkey. His actions speak louder than words. The signs show his power, and the scriptures confirm his position. Jesus is the king. A few days later, he is still the king, but the crowds will change their tune.

What about us? Jesus demonstrates in word and in deed that he is the king, who has power over death and brings peace. Will we welcome him as our king? Will we stick with him when the world turns against him?

In our reading today, Jesus remains silent. Each night this week, though, we’ll be listening to his words - his cross words, words of forgiveness, comfort, assurance, cost and victory, spoken from the cross. Join with us as we rejoice in our king. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel!

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Palm Sunday 29th March 2015.

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