“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:32-33)
Does the real Jesus matter to you? Or do you prefer a Jesus of your own making?
Nothing is more important than how we answer that question. We can’t afford to assume we know the answer and move on to the next thing. No, we need to examine our hearts carefully (2 Co. 13:5).
As we come to the starting point of Holy Week, we encounter a crowd of people who, like many of us, assumed they had the right answer to that question, but ended up rejecting the real Jesus once everything was on the table.
John 12:12-19 recounts Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People flooded the streets, waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
On the surface, this seems like the welcoming committee the Messiah truly deserves. After all, He is the King who has come in the name of the Lord. But when we begin to peel back the layers, we see that this scene is more complex than it initially appears. A closer look reveals Jesus doing something expected only to follow it up with something very unexpected.
Zechariah 9:9 prophecies that the King of Israel would come riding on a donkey’s foal. Therefore Jesus arriving in Jerusalem was laden with prophetic symbolism. By riding on a foal, He was communicating His lordship in no uncertain terms. And, in a sense, the crowds correctly interpreted His actions by welcoming Him exuberantly. After all, it was expected. And yet in another sense, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
The true significance of the triumphal entry differed greatly from the crowds’ assumptions. You see, Israel was under Roman occupation at the time. Therefore, the excitement of the crowds was most likely more politically motivated than spiritually motivated, as scholar and theologian Craig Blomberg aptly explains: “The crowds do not understand that Jesus has come to the nation’s capital to die and that reigning as king will have to wait until a future day. No Romans will be conquered this week.” Jesus hadn’t come to run Caesar out of town. No, He had come to be nailed to a cross for the sins of humanity.
Once in Jerusalem, Jesus let the crowds in on the true nature of His mission. He spoke of the “kind of death he was going to die” (v. 33).
This was totally unexpected.
A bloody coronation? They couldn’t stomach that.
A dead Messiah? That can’t be right.
And so as quickly as they welcomed Him, they deserted Him in unbelief (v. 37). Why? Because the real Jesus didn’t serve their agenda.
John Piper once remarked that “many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered.” What about you? Are you happy with Jesus as long as He’s giving you what you want, as long as He serves your agenda? Or would you rather have the real Jesus—the lowly, crucified Messiah who loves you enough to tell you the truth about yourself? You need an all-sufficient Savior. You need a selfless Redeemer. You need a loving King. And the real Jesus is all those things. That’s what He was telling the crowds, but they wouldn’t believe Him. Do you?