“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” (John 12:12-16 ESV)
The Time Is Now
As we’ve worked our way through the Gospel of John, I’ve tried to point out several times where Jesus pushed away the attempts people made to proclaim Him as King. I’ll remind you of just one… in John 6, Jesus has fed the multitude and they are enamored with His power, especially His power to feed them. They begin to clamor that Jesus ought to be proclaimed King because of the food they had just eaten. Jesus then challenges them to “eat my body and drink my blood” and they begin to back away and disperse. Why did Jesus push away this attention? It wasn’t time, yet.
But, NOW the time has come and He fully embraces the actions of the crowd. They begin to gather and pull palm branches from the trees, quoting Psalm 118:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalms 118:26a ESV)
In Luke’s account of this story, some Pharisees standing nearby were outraged and called on Jesus to rebuke his followers and to silence their cries of praise. Jesus replied, “if they were silent, the rocks would cry out in response.” The TIME had come for Jesus to be proclaimed King, and nothing will stop it. Nothing CAN stop it!
The Pharisees, as blind as they were to God’s work, could see where this was going.
The people were ready to proclaim Jesus King. The Pharisees were intent on doing everything they could to prevent Jesus from winning the hearts of the people, even if it meant murder. They had tried to ignore him, discredit him and demean him but nothing worked.
Today, many still think that if they ignore Him they can live life on their own terms. No accountability, no responsibility. Others think they can define their identity by their sexual desires or preferences. I am what and who I desire to be. We think we are defining ourselves when we are really just slaves to our desires and are being defined by them. Jesus has come so that we are no longer defined by our sin, but by the image of God within each of us. Do you want to be defined by your fears and failures? Or, would you rather be defined by what God made you to be? Many think Jesus’ time has passed, but His time is NOW. We need Him more than ever.
Dumb as a Rock?
Next, notice how John specifically mentions “Hosanna” in the crowd’s proclamation… “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” We generally associate this word as a shout of praise or honor, similar to hallelujah. But, the word literally means, “save us, now” or “save us, we pray.” The crowd ties it to the proclamation of Jesus as God’s appointed King over Israel, but I suspect they didn’t realize the truth of their words. Their cry is for salvation, but they don’t realize the implications of their very words. “Oh King who comes in the name of our God, save us, we pray!” If the crowd fails to proclaim their need, the rocks will proclaim it.
Wait… I thought the rocks would proclaim the praises of God? If we consider the proclamation “Hosanna” to simply be a shout of praise, then we have rocks crying out in praise of the King when we remain silent. But, Hosanna is more than a cry of praise… it is a cry for salvation. “Oh King, save us, we pray!” Consider these words from Paul:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)
Paul says that even creation groans under the influence of man’s sin and eagerly anticipates the salvation God brings. So, back to John… if the crowd fails to understand and cry out for God’s salvation through Jesus, the rocks themselves will cry out for it, “Son of God, King of all creation, save us, we pray! Sin is destroying all of the good things you made, please redeem us from this mess!”
I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying, “dumb as a rock.” In this instance, John is saying that if man is too dumb or blind to recognize God’s saving work in Jesus, the very rocks will cry out for It. I hope and pray you’re smarter than a rock…
Don’t Miss the Signs:
But, if you’re struggling with understanding and seeing what God is doing, you’re not alone. The disciples saw the miracles firsthand, marveled at His teachings and even witnessed His glory during the transfiguration but still missed the signs. John tells us that Jesus anticipated this day, and planned for it. He had already arranged for a young donkey and colt to be ready for His use. When the time arrived, He fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9…
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth… On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!” (Zechariah 9:9-10, 16-17a ESV)
But John also tells us, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but after…” it wasn’t until after the resurrection, after he was glorified that they remembered and began to understand. This statement by John is significant for two reasons: 1) it actually affirms the validity of John’s testimony; 2) it is an encouragement to those who also struggle with faith.
How does a statement like this affirm John’s testimony? Just consider it for a moment. If you were writing this story about yourself, one of the eyewitness disciples, would you have included that statement? I think most of us would have either moved right on past that issue without mentioning it, or we might have noted that “some” of the disciples didn’t understand but I certainly did. I’m not likely to highlight my own failures when I’m retelling a story, unless the the whole point of the story is how we struggle to have faith in what we can’t quite see or understand. John tells us that they all failed to see the truth of Jesus’ claims until they were slapped in the face with the resurrection.
We all struggle with faith, at times. Sin still has a grip on our thoughts, emotions and desires. It causes us to question the goodness of God when we face a physical trial, like cancer or Alzheimer’s. it makes us doubt the love of God when our prayers seem to go unanswered. It causes us to wonder about the sovereignty of God when evil seems to dominate the headlines of the nightly newscast. It deceives us into thinking we are defined by our desires instead of being defined by God’s image in us. But John calls us to lay down our fears and our failures and to pick up palm branches and join the crowd in proclaiming Jesus as King of our lives!