John 12:1,2,12-25 April 09, 2017
The Coming Defeat of Satan
By John Steensma
As we think about this passion week and look to the eventual death of Christ to be remembered next Friday and His resurrection next Sunday, it is fitting that we get into the flow of these wonderful redemptive events by examining His entry into Jerusalem and its meaning for Christians relating to the defeat of Satan on Fri and Sunday. The VS day..victory over Satan day.
Traditionally, Palm Sunday is a day filled with meaning for Christians — a day of “hosannas,” a day of “hallelujahs,” a day of remembering Jesus as King, the One who entered the city to the praises of His people. And they did hail Him as King on that day. Hope was bright, hearts were filled with anticipation in the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. And finally, the people began to feel this was probably the Messiah – this was He. They thought that the raising Lazarus gave them hope for VR day. Victory over the Romans Day. They were in for a lesson on the true victory gained by the death of Christ.
Their “hosannas” were silenced, and their enthusiasm had turned to indifference and, by Friday, to hatred. And Jesus was crucified by a bloodthirsty mob, made up of the same people who had hailed Him as King. Now all these events had to be in the Father’s good time and now it was His hour – He was on the Father’s schedule and now the divine plan was unfolding; the timing as well as the event itself had been scheduled before the world began. Acts 2:23 “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross”.
He was to die at Passover as the Passover Lamb, and so it was now time to force the issue to bring that about. And so, Jesus Himself, in and by the will of the Father, deliberately planned a demonstration. He was forcing the Sanhedrin to set aside their timetable in favor of God’s timetable; to set aside their execution plan in favor of God’s execution plan.
You see, the Sanhedrin had planned to kill Jesus – they had been planning it a long time – but now they didn’t want it at this time. And why not? Too much Passover activity; the time was too busy. And then they didn’t want all these people there, all this excitement. But Jesus hastened the crisis, brought the event to pass in God’s good time, and accomplished what from eternity past had been planned in the tri-council.
Now with that as a background, I want you to begin looking at the event in verse 12 of John 12. And we’ll just take some simple steps through John’s, there are 4 accounts, record of that day. We begin with the fateful presentation – and give you a little outline so you can kind of follow along.
The fateful presentation begins in verse 12, as Jesus makes his move to begin the demonstration. “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,” Jesus really makes the move; Jesus takes the initiative. Here is a little background….He had been in Bethany the day before, the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, where he, of course, had spent a lot of time. This was probably on Monday and he had left Bethany, perhaps approaching the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, just above the little town of Bethany. He then dispatched two of His disciples to go into an adjacent hamlet – an adjacent village, or really a suburb, to get a donkey and a colt of a donkey for Him.
So the disciples, in response to the command of their Master, reached the little village and found the right home, and there, sure enough, two animals were tied to a post outside that home, just as Jesus said they would be. And they went to the owner and said that Jesus wanted the two animals. And when the owners were told the reason simply stated, was, “The Lord needs them”, and they immediately complied and they returned to Jesus. Verse 14 says “Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it…” Luke 19 says they put him on the colt. And on that colt, the foal of that donkey, Jesus began His ride for Jerusalem.
Now, He had collected quite a little entourage; not only believing people who were associated with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus – but other people who had been astounded and participated to one degree or another in the miracles of Jesus – and He had been accumulating people who he had taught all the way along because He’d been trekking from south Galilee. And as He came through Jericho, you remember He did some marvelous miracles, including giving sight to the blind; and that, no doubt, added to the entourage that was now with Him.
And as He approaches the slope of the Mount of Olives, He has collected quite a crowd. These people are now convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. So as this group is approaching the city now, something very interesting happens.
From out of the eastern gate comes this massive crowd of people who have heard that Jesus is coming. The resurrection of Lazarus has now gone like electricity through the city of Jerusalem, which, as calculated be some could have been populated by as many as 2.6 or 2.7 million.
And so coming out that rather small, eastern gate – sort of squeezing out like toothpaste out of a tube – was this multitude coming down the slope from Jerusalem as the other group was coming from Bethany up the slope. And the two great crowds converged together like two colliding rivers, enthusiasm mounting, and Jesus accepting it all as He is hailed as Messiah and King. And the fever pitch begins to escalate.
The very fact that He is riding on the foal of a donkey, rather than on a white horse, was a way for Jesus to demonstrate that He was a king, but not like the kind they had expected (before Solomon they did ride a donkey). They were looking for a military conqueror. They were looking for a rider on a white horse who would come in and overthrow Rome. They were looking for someone to lead a coup. They wanted a full-scale rebellion. They wanted war against the Romans; only they wanted war against Rome on a supernatural level – the kind of level they had seen demonstrated by the miracles of Jesus. This expectation was not new to Jesus, remember in John 6:15after the feeding of the 5K…“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” They didn’t get it, not then or now.
But Jesus, even in the way He rode, came to make it very evident that He was not bringing a military coup, but peace and this is not a political or war won peace. It was another kind of peace…..Matt 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”. A sword to be used to destroy Satan. He came to reconcile his own people (eternal peace) before the father. Matt1:23 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”
He was not going to come as a killer, but He was going to come to be killed. In verse 13-15, fulfilling the prophecy in Psa 118, we read, “They began to cry out, and they say, ‘Hosanna! (Son of David) Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.’ And 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.'” Hosanna means save me, save now!!!
First of all, they are throwing the branches of the palm trees at His feet. They were, in ancient Jewish times, symbols of strength and beauty and joy and salvation. These were ways for the people to hail Jesus as the conquering hero, the political redeemer, the deliverer from Roman domination. And when they say the word, “hosanna,” and if we want to translate that into what they really meant, what they really meant was, “Bring the revolution now; deliver us from Roman bondage.”
It wasn’t a spiritual thing they were calling for; it was a political and economic and social thing they were asking for. “Save us now! This is the moment! This is the time!” The euphoria is at its pinnacle; the public support is at its greatest. You’ve got the power to overpower the Roman garrison. “Let it happen, and let it happen now!” In verse 13, also we must note that they said, “‘Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord. ‘” Mark states it this way – “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.” These are again from Psalm 118 verse 26, “The Conqueror’s Psalm”.
The Pharisees, meanwhile – while this euphoria and this enthusiasm is going on – are in a state of panic. They are desperately concerned about all this because they don’t want Jesus as their Messiah; they want Jesus dead, and they have been plotting His death all along. In fact, back in Luke chapter 19, you get a little bit of a glimpse into their attitude in verse 39. At the height of all of this, when the multitude, as Jesus is coming down the descent of the Mount of Olives, the multitude is crying, “Peace in heaven!” and “Glory in the highest!” I mean, this is a big, big deal.
But some of the Pharisees, in Luke 19 verse 39, in the multitude – were mingling throughout – and said to Him, “‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!'” You gotta call a halt to this. I mean, they were utterly unwilling to acknowledge Him as their Messiah because He had attacked their religious system Judaism; He had literally dismantled their whole system, showed the falsity of it from the very first sermon He ever preached, in the Sermon on the Mount….And so they say to Him, “‘Rebuke Your disciples.’ And He answered and said, ‘I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!'” God, who is able out of stones to raise up children to Abraham, would make the stones speak, or turn stones into men, who would rise up and praise the Lord, and confess the Messiah. Folks….the gentiles.
In verse 14, after having indicated the fulfillment of Psalm 118, Jesus is said to have found that young donkey and He’s sitting on it as He comes. That fulfills verse 15 where Zechariah 9:9 states how the Messiah will come. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” An exact and specific prophecy given about 600 years before. When a king rides a horse, particularly a white horse, it’s conquering, it’s triumph, it’s war. When a king rides a donkey, it’s peace. No Roman soldier – certainly no Roman soldier in the garrison at Jerusalem who saw the Lord riding on the colt, the foal of a donkey- would report that He looked like a threat.
That leads us to the faithful’s perplexity in verse 16. “At first his disciples did not understand all this.” That could be said about just about anything that He told them. They just didn’t get it. They had so many preconceptions about what should happen and what should be going on, that they didn’t hear and see with clear thinking. They couldn’t figure the whole thing out. First, he’s talking about death, and now he’s coming in as a king. What is up with that?
Then in verse 17 we find out why….“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.” He had just told them he’s gonna die; they didn’t want to believe that. Now, He comes riding in and everybody’s hailing Him as the King, and that doesn’t seem to square with what they would have expected because, you remember earlier on, the disciples had frankly said, “Let’s go to Jerusalem and die with Him.” I mean, that’s what Thomas said. They just couldn’t put it all together.
But when Jesus ascended to the right hand of God his glorified, state, then they remembered.” How did that happen? Well, after Jesus was glorified and went to heaven, what did He do? When He went to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit, right? Remember, the Scripture says that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come because Jesus wasn’t yet glorified? So when Jesus was glorified, He sent the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit came in a more powerful way to his followers, his elect, according to John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you..” They had to wait for the ‘special anointing.’ as John called it in I John 2:27.
So they just couldn’t quite, at this time, make sense out of this whole thing. Then further confusion seen in Luke chapter 19 verse 41…. when Jesus rode into the city, you know the first thing He did? Let’s read starting at verse 41… “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city….he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. And then he gives them a little preview of the future ”The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” He was describing what was to also happen to Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Back to John in verses 17 and 18, we read, ” Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, are notwent out to meet him.” And here came this crowd that was collected as He came through Bethany and raised Lazarus. And of course – and they’re now coming, descending down the Mount of Olives, into the Kidron valley, and then up the slope to Jerusalem by the eastern gate – and they’re being collided by this other multitude.
But as they’re coming along, they’re witnessing, they’re giving testimony about Jesus. “This is the Messiah, this is Son of David, this is the King.” And the testimony is what draws the crowd, and they come out to meet Him because they had heard that He had performed this sign – a sign being something that points to something, and it pointed to His Messiah-ship, His divine power.
Now, here are the thrill-seekers, and the little statement, “Many people, because they had heard that He had performed this sign,” that really triggers our understanding of them. It wasn’t that they were particularly interested in Jesus; what they were particularly interested in was the resurrection miracle. Do you remember how often they came to Him and said, “We want a sign, we want a sign”? And He said, “I wouldn’t give a sign to this evil and adulterous generation” Now this is the same crowd that a little later are gonna be screaming for Jesus’ blood; it’s the same crowd that are gonna be pleading with the Romans to release a criminal by the name of Barabbas. They were the false followers; they were the people who walked no more with Him, who scattered when He talked about dying or drinking His blood and eating His flesh. They were the ones who said they believed, but didn’t follow or believe in him as the Son of God. Jesus would note that they went out from us because they never really were of us. They were apostates looking to destroy the church.
And then the next scene we see here is the frustrated Pharisees. They probably suggested that it was blasphemous for anybody such as Jesus to be accepting the accolades that belonged only to the Messiah. But these frustrated Pharisees surface again in verse 19. “‘So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” Probably responding to the fact that some of them had gone and said, “You gotta stop this.” And they’re saying, “This isn’t helping, guys. We’ve lost this deal. This is out of control. This is beyond us – we can’t handle this.”
Back in chapter 11: 47-48, ” Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Verse 53 “so from that day they planned together to kill him.”
Now it’s all going bad on them, because they certainly can’t kill Him when the crowd is so supportive. They are thinking they will lose their status. So you see their frustration – they want Him dead; and the crowd wants Him King, and they are frustrated at His popularity and intimidated by His acceptance. They really can’t do anything about it.
And then, This is wonderful. And this is a day later maybe in a temple court (probably the gentile court) this marvelous little vignette, in verses 20-22, that you might read through and just sort of throw away. But listen to what it says. “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. ” They were probably proselytes to Judaism, so they’d come for Passover.
And these Gentiles “came to Philip, a fellow Greek, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee,” which was an area inhabited by Gentiles – kind of a Gentile area in Galilee. And so, they saw a guy that was kind of from their area, and would understand the Gentile mentality.
And in verse 21 And they began to ask him, saying, “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.'” Now, I like this. There was more to their thinking than just a sign; they wanted to see Jesus. They wanted to ask some specific questions. They were truly interested in HIM. That wasn’t like the crowd of Pharisees. The Pharisees wanted a sign, and the rest of the crowd wanted a revolution. These Gentile guys wanted to see Jesus and they could see past the euphoria of this whole thing; they wanted to see Jesus.
This is a most interesting incident, for a number of reasons. First of all, because it’s this little jewel set in the middle of this really ugly, Jewish scenario. And I say that because the Jews are about to kill Jesus because he doesn’t pull off the coup. And In the middle of all this Jewish hatred that’s gonna end in the killing of Jesus, are some Gentiles who really want to know the truth.
The Jews never said, “We want to see Jesus.” The Jews never came and wanted an answer to their questions. But these folks wanted to understand who He was. And I really believe what you’re getting here is a little glimpse of the N.T Church, the ‘seed of Abraham’ spreading. Because when Israel rejects the Messiah, He turns to the world, doesn’t He? And we are getting a little preview. They honestly sought the truth. And we are reminded of Haggai’s words in Haggai 2:7: “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
And here He is; and here are the nations. He came unto His own – and His own what….received Him not. But the nations, the world, the Gentiles want to know HIM. God is at work here!!! The New Covenant People.
Remember when the Lord said to Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. Well here is the beginning of the continued fulfillment of that Abrahamic covenant promise…Gal 3:16 “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.” Gal 3:29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Now Gentiles!
Well, they went to Philip because he kind of belonged from their area. And they said, “We want to see Jesus.” Well, Philip didn’t know what to do about that, so in verse 22 he “came and told Andrew.” He wanted some counam not sure why, but on the other hand, Philip knew that Jesus had said in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.” And he probably interpreted that as Gentiles.
So, in his dilemma, he just went to Andrew and, “What do we do about this?” Well, there’s a wonderful implication here. Philip came and told Andrew; then scripture says “Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus”.
Now they didnt get the answer they expected….and then it says in verse 23…..Jesus answers them, and He says, “The hour is come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” And they probably said to Him, “What’s this all about? What are you going to do? What did you come to do?” They don’t have the same Jewish agenda, you know. It’s not like overthrowing the Romans is a big thing to them. “What’s going on here?” Well, He says, “It’s time for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
And I think He’s talking to the disciples and to this small group of Gentiles. And He tells them, “It’s time to be glorified.” And, you know, their moment of immediate reaction might have been, “Wow, we are gonna have a coup!” Jesus has the power…..I mean, “glorified” means, “exalted, honored, lifted up.” “To them this is gonna be it!”
But instead, He says the most incredible statement in verse 24. “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.” What was that answer all about!! WOW!!!
I don’t know that there’s any passage in the New Testament more shocking than that, given the scene. I mean, they’re all assuming some triumph is about to happen. He’s got the whole populous on His side. This, to them, is a perfect moment to act.
But instead of coming in and knocking off Rome, He came in and wiped out their temple.
He was saying to them in essence ‘You don’t need Roman bondage broken, you need sin bondage broken.’ ‘You don’t need to solve your problem with Rome, you need to solve your problem with God.’ And that’s why He came. He needed to break the chains of Satan.
But instead of talking about conquering, he says to this little group of Gentiles along with the disciples who brought them, I’m gonna die. By dying he was going to defeat Satan!! Because a grain of wheat has to fall into the ground and die before it can bring forth fruit.” And He taps into those agrarian illustrations that He used so often.
And Jesus says, “There won’t be any life until there’s death.” And He’s talking about Himself. “And you’ve gotta know this, that I am not come to bring salvation by My perfect life alone; I can’t bring salvation by a military coup; I can’t bring salvation by an economic change; I can’t bring salvation by social revolution; I cant bring salvation by conquering armies…. have to bring salvation by death. And He likens Himself to a grain of wheat, which is a beautiful and graphic way to express it. And He says, “If I’m gonna bring life, I have to die. If I don’t die, then there’s no life.” There’s no spiritual harvest apart from death. In us there must be death of the old nature. His life-giving power is made possible by His death.
The writer of Hebrews says that He went to the cross ” fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ” because He could see past the death to the life that was coming. He did not die a victim, he died victorious. And he was elevated to the Father. That is our guarantee at death that we will too.
So the solemn truth of verse 24 applies to Christ, and Christ alone. He is the substitute who will die and bring forth much fruit. But there’s also an analogous principle that applies to the rest of men, and that’s in verse 25. And He says to this group, “‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”
I have to die to bring eternal life. Are we willing to go the path that Christ went? But it’s a path, not through triumph; it’s a path, not through exaltation; it’s a path through suffering; and it might even be a path through death. “If you want to serve Christ, if you want to follow Christ, take the path of sacrifice, take the path of death; and God will honor you.”
Then the final pronouncement – and this is powerful stuff is found a few verses later, verse 31, “‘Now,'” and that signifies the event of His death. “‘Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all people (believing Jews and Gentiles) to myself.’ But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” You see, at the cross Satan is mortally wounded, he still can have his influence, for now, but his fate is set!!! This is the glory of the cross and where Christ is glorified. Satan is doomed.
And for all who believe…they become part of the “many seeds” of verse 24 that are the result of the death of the ‘seed’. Christ…Romans 4:25 “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”. That is the result of grace…The King came to Jerusalem, but He came to die, that the spiritual seed, that is, the children of Abraham might live.