Belief, Signs, and Palm Sunday

While preparing to teach/preach a sermon on Palm Sunday a couple of years ago I had an “aha” moment in the Gospel of John. I was asked by a minister friend of mine to fill in for him on last minute’s notice. I was racking my brain in trying to figure out a message. I did not want to do the same old “Palm Sunday” sermon that I heard a million times (not that it is not interesting but just wanted a change of pace this time). So as I was studying the Triumphal entry of Jesus in the Gospel of John and I came across an interesting theme in the chapters that precede and follow the entry. I would like to share this with you in this article.

There are 4 signs in John chapters 11 and 12 that I would like to examine. I pray that these signs will search our hearts and reveal if we are truly people of faith or not. Let the Scriptures search your heart and be honest with yourself, letting the Word of God work on your character.

Sign 1: Lazarus‘ resurrection

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.” (John 12:12, 17-19)

This sign that Jesus performed takes place in John 11 and we see the results of it in John 12. After the resurrection had taken place, on the next day, as the text explains, large crowds were in Jerusalem because of the Passover. The hot “gossip” spreading from person to person throughout the city was the fact that a dead man had been resurrected and that Jesus was the One who performed this miracle. The people were always seeking signs during this time (as people are the same way today) so they were given a mighty one to prove that Jesus is God. They did not want to take Jesus at His Word. Instead. they were hungry for signs and wonders, saying that they would believe if they saw them. Do you really think people who seek signs will believe after they have seen the signs, if they will not believe the Word of God without seeing a sign? Let’s see how it played out then.

Sign 2: Fulfilled Prophecies

{the people/crowds}took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (John 12:13-15)

If you will notice the words in all caps, they are directly from the Old Testament. These events that were unfolding before their very eyes were signs in the form of fulfilled prophecies. These prophecies were spoken/written in the Old Testament years (centuries) before the first coming of Jesus. Here are the passages where the quotes came from and the time-frame when they were written.

Psalm 118:22-23,26 (1,000 B.C.)
Jeremiah 23:5 (600 B.C.)
Zechariah 9:9 (520 B.C.)

The chief cornerstone that God sent and was rejected by the people (Jesus) even though they cheered Him on saying “blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” The reference to the King of Zion is from Jeremiah and the fact that He rode in on a donkey is from Zechariah. These 3 prophecies were fulfilled all at the same moment, witnessed by the same people who were seeking signs and had witnesses/heard about the previous sign (the resurrection of Lazarus).

Let’s see the results of these 2 signs:

These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:16)

There were 2 groups of people who witnessed these events; the crowds and the disciples. After Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection we see which group of people believed because of the signs and which group did not. The ones who did not take Jesus at His Word did not believe the signs either (the crowds) yet the ones who had already accepted the Words of Christ were the same ones who believed because of the signs. Up until this point we see a clear truth; if you do not believe the Word of God then you will not believe miraculous signs either. Those who say they do not believe because the Word is not enough and claim that they will believe if God would only show them a sign, they still will not believe even if they witness signs right before their very eyes.

Sign 3: The hour for glorification had come; The Greeks come to Jesus

Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (John 12:20-23)

Up until this point in the Gospel of John Jesus kept saying that His “hour had not come“. Now, as the Greeks came to seek Jesus and the crucifixion drew near, the language changes and Jesus admits freely that His hour has come. This should have been a clear sign to both the disciples and the crowds who had been listening to Jesus’ teachings. Jesus takes this opportunity (the Greeks coming to Him) to teach the crowds an important Truth about what it means to follow Him.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)

He starts off by giving them an example of something that they all understood well; wheat and its process of reproduction. It seems to be a paradox. Wheat on the stalk looks beautiful but in order to reproduce it must “die”, fall to the ground, and then reproduce. One grain of wheat by itself will not accomplish much but if it “dies” and then reproduces, great things can be accomplished with that one small grain of wheat. If you want to be selfish and self-centered then you can live your life and not do much with it but if you invest your life into serving others (sacrificing yourself like that grain of wheat) then you will bear much fruit. You will produce disciples who will also produce disciples. After giving the easily understandable example, Jesus moves to clear, important teaching when He says:

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25-26)

Those who want to be true followers of Jesus must invest their lives in serving Him (seen by serving the people around you, like the example of the grain of wheat). In order to be able to serve a true disciple must totally dedicate himself to following Jesus Christ on a moment by moment basis. This is what Jesus means by saying we must “hate” our lives i.e. not living for our own selfish desires but instead, living to serve. If we will do this then we will bear fruit (back to the grain of wheat). Did you notice the results of following Jesus and serving others? There are several including; eternal life, honor from the Lord, and life with Jesus on a daily basis (moment by moment). What about you, have you chosen to follow Christ on a daily basis? Have you chosen to dedicate your life to serving others? Are you a true disciple/follower of Christ?

Sign 4: Audible voice from heaven

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour ‘? But for this purpose I came to this hour. “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)

Here is the sign of signs that most people ask for; if God would just speak with an audible voice then I would believe that He exists and I would follow Him. Have you ever heard this statement? Have you ever made this statement? As I have already said, if the Word is not enough for you then neither will any sign, even if it is an audible voice from God. Let’s look to the results of hearing this major sign:

So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. (John 12:29-30)

Did you notice that everyone there heard the voice? Immediately following the loud voice from heaven the explanations begin to come from the people. Some say it was thunder i.e. they did not believe, even though there was a voice from heaven. Others said that an angel had spoken to Jesus. They still would not admit to the relationship that Jesus had with God the Father. What about you, what is your excuse when God clearly manifests Himself to you? Do you believe the Word that we have from the Lord? If not, then what makes you think that you will believe His signs?

Now that Jesus has their attention once again, He moves to teaching the crowd.

“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:31-33)

Those who do not believe and follow Jesus Christ are in the middle of experiencing the judgment of God. God allows people to delve deep into the pit of sin if that is what they want to do. He removes His guard and will let you destroy yourself if that is what you want. This is judgment; God allowing you to become a total slave to your lusts and passions. The good news of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus was to be crucified for the sins of the people and pay the price of God’s complete wrath on sin. Here Jesus gives a challenge and calling to the people. You are in sins and under judgment, would you like to come out from under that judgment? Let’s look at the response of those who do not believe:

The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:34)

They answered His calling with a question, a question that reveals what kind of people they are. We have heard from the teachers of the Old Testament . . . They had knowledge of the Word of God but that knowledge was useless to them because they had no faith, no trust and therefore did not recognize Jesus or follow Him. Secondly, since Jesus just said that He was about to be crucified, they cherry picked the parts of Scripture that best suited them at the moment (like Satan did with Jesus in the wilderness). The Christ is to remain forever, after His second coming but the Law clearly teaches that His first coming is to pay the price for the sins of the world. They picked and chose only the parts that suited them from the Law. Are you a person who does this with the Word of God? Do you see the Bible as a buffet, allowing you to pick and choose what you like and dislike? What does this say about your faith?

Jesus goes to the heart of their problem, their sin.

So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” (John 12:35-36)

Jesus reveals that He is the Light and if they want to come out of their sins and know where they are going then they must follow Him. Also He teaches them that they are not sons Light (God) but through belief they can become sons of Light. All people who are born on planet earth must become children of God through faith in Jesus. You cannot be born a Christian, it is impossible. You can be born to a Christian family or in a Christian nation but you will not be a Christian until you become one through faith in Christ. Have you ever become a child of God through faith in Christ? How was your life transformed? Do you follow Him by serving the people around you on a daily basis? If not then there is hope for you. The ruler of this world has been judged because Jesus was crucified. You can come into the Light because of Jesus’ resurrection and glorification. God has given all the proof that you need in His Word. The question is, will you believe the Word or will you continue in unbelief claiming that you need signs? Make the right choice.

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4 comments on “Belief, Signs, and Palm Sunday

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