Sunday Morning Bible Study
April 28, 1996
A few weeks ago, we started a story about Jesus and His three friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Lazarus got sick and died.
But Jesus raised him after having been dead for four days.
The Jewish leaders, rather than admitting that Jesus was the Messiah with this great miracle, instead became more paranoid that Jesus was going to cause problems for them with the Romans.
We saw Jesus leave for a few weeks to let the tensions die down a bit.
Then, with the Passover just a few days away, Jesus came back to Bethany, and at a special feast for Him, we saw Mary's beautiful outpouring of love as she poured the costly perfume upon her Lord.
:9-11 Lazarus is targeted
:9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there
They knew that Jesus was there, because word of the miracle of Lazarus being raised had gotten around.
:9 and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also ...
Here's one of the issues we need to be concerned about when it comes to seeing miracles in the church.
Keep miracles in their proper place.
Some of the people were not coming to see Jesus, but because they had heard of this really snazzy thing that had happened.
I don't think that this is a reason to not be seeking God's word through miracles.
But it's clearly something we ought to be concerned with, in keeping miracles in the proper perspective.
When a church starts putting their main emphasis on miracles or "signs and wonders", there are going to be people who aren't coming to see Jesus, they're coming for the circus act.
»Mark 16:15-18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
There's an order here to observe:
Preach the gospel
Those that believe are saved
Signs follow believing
The idea is that people are to believe because of the message, the message of who Jesus Christ is and what He's done.
Signs and miracles are things that God will do from time to time to confirm the truth of what's spoken, but they're not supposed to be the thing that people are drawn to.
People are to be led to Jesus, not to miracles.
You see this correct pattern followed by the apostles:
»Acts 14:1-3 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
When Paul and Barnabas came into town, the first thing they did was declare the message.
They told people about Jesus, and many believed because of the message.
They didn't come into town declaring that they were going to have a "miracle rally".
As people were coming to believe in the Lord, the Lord then allowed there to be signs and wonders to give confirmation of the truth and power of their message.
Talk about Jesus, let the miracles follow.
:10-11 the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death ... because ... many ... believed on Jesus
Isn't it amazing how blind people can be?
First Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and because it starts making Him a more popular, they want to put Jesus to death. (John 11:53)
Now they decide that Lazarus is going to have to die as well, since he's one of the reasons that Jesus is becoming so popular.
And these are supposed to be the religious leaders of the nation!
All along they should have opened their eyes to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah that the Scriptures had promised them.
:12-19 The Triumphal Entry
:12 much people that were come to the feast ...
The "feast" being the Feast of Passover.
The Passover was one of the three times a year that all the men were to come to Jerusalem to worship (Ex.23:14; Lev.23; Deut.16:16).
And their families came too!
By differing estimates, the city swelled with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from throughout the nation for this feast.
During the reign of King Agrippa (about 30 years in the future), one estimate was that there were 12,000,000 people at the Passover. (see Gill on John 12:12)
There are people from all over Israel here in Jerusalem at the Passover.
:13 branches of palm trees
Palm-trees grew on the Mount of Olives (Mr 11:8) on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem.
Palm branches were a symbol of victory.
The Jews had a saying: ``if a man takes palm tree branches in his hands, we know that he is victorious.''
They are treating Jesus as a king coming fresh from battle, fresh from a great victory.
It's a Hebrew word that means "save now"
We often hear it in our worship choruses, and we can think that it is an expression of praise, which it kind of is.
But the main meaning is a cry out to God for deliverance.
The Jews have been under the Roman oppression for some time now.
At one time, they wanted to take Jesus by force to make Him their king, but He got away from them, because it wasn't time yet (John 6:15).
And now, after having displayed such great power in raising Lazarus from the dead, the people are hoping that He's going to be their political deliverer.
And this time, Jesus doesn't stop them.
It's time to save the people, but it's going to be by a different way.
Instead of wiping out the Romans, Jesus is going to wipe out a greater threat, the penalty of their sins.
What kind of deliverance are you looking for?
Are you looking for someone to deliver you financially?
Are you looking for someone to deliver your marriage from all it's problems?
Are you looking for some great big handsome guy or gal to sweep you off your feet and deliver you from being single?
Have you thought about the greatest kind of deliverance there could be?
Have you stopped to think about eternity, and what it's going to be like facing the consequences of your sins before God?
The deliverance Jesus offers you will affect many aspects of your life, but it starts with your sins.
When Jesus came into town, it was indeed to save the people.
But it would be to save them from their sins.
It would be done by dying on a cross, paying the penalty for their sins in their place.
:13 Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord
This is actually a quote from one of the Psalms.
The people aren't just making up these words, they're quoting the Scriptures.
It's fascinating to peek at where the people are referring to:
The verses they quote won't be until verses 25,26, but you have to look at what comes right before them!
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:
20 This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Is this Jesus, or what?
The builders rejected Him, that is, the chief priests have already determined that He must die.
And yet He is the very foundation of God's work of salvation.
23 This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is another Scripture we often miss in it's full implication.
You hear it sung at weddings a lot.
But it means specifically what it says - that the day when this prophecy is being fulfilled, would be a great day, a day that the Lord had prepared, and a day of rejoicing.
What's so special about the day of "Palm Sunday"?
It was the exact day that Daniel the prophet had predicted that Messiah the Prince would come.
You can read it in Daniel 9:25, or maybe check out our Sunday night study of that passage.
In fact, Jesus Himself mentioned that it was a very important day as He rode into town:
»Luke 19:39-42 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. 41 ¶ And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
25 Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
How amazing that these people are quoting these Scriptures, and they most likely don't realize what they're doing!
How will you respond on the day that Jesus comes to you?
The Bible says "today is the day of salvation" (2Cor.6:2)
Perhaps Jesus is riding up to the door of your heart today, looking to see how you'll respond to Him.
It's a lot more than just shouting "Hosanna".
After all, many in this same crowd would cry out in a few days, "Crucify Him".
»Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Are you willing to deny yourself to follow Jesus?
Are you willing to be a little uncomfortable to follow Jesus?
:15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt
This is a quote from Zechariah:
»Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he [is] just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they ...
When these things were taking place, the disciples were apparently oblivious to the implications of the events.
It wasn't until Jesus was glorified.
Not just risen, but glorified.
That means not only rising from the grave, but ascending into heaven and being seated at the right hand of God the Father.
This also implies the giving of the Holy Spirit.
»John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, they began to understand and put all the prophecies together:
»John 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
But I wonder if there's more in this verse.
Something else stuck out in this verse to me.
The disciples didn't understand at first.
But when Jesus was glorified ...
You may not always understand at first.
It's like this a lot in our lives.
We don't always understand what we're going through, nor do we realize all the implications.
But often, after the events, we look back and think, "If this certain thing hadn't happened, none of the rest of it would either!"
Joseph rose to be the second most important person in Egypt.
And because of him, many people were saved through a severe famine, because he was used to prepare the nation for famine.
His own family was saved through the famine.
But he didn't know that when his brothers threw him into a pit, or when they sold him as a slave into Egypt.
He didn't know it when Potiphar's wife lied, and he ended up in prison.
He didn't know it when he had been forgotten by the cupbearer, and left in prison.
But afterwards, he could look back and see how it all fit into place.
»Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive.
Don't worry that you don't understand your current circumstances!
Just let Jesus be glorified!
It was after Jesus was glorified that the disciples began to realize how things fit together.
Take your eyes off of your circumstance and put them on Jesus.
Let Him be glorified in your life, in all your circumstances!
Give Him glory by learning to praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness in all your circumstances.
Even the hard ones!
Somehow, the closer we get to the Lord, the lesser our problems worry us.
Perhaps it's because we learn more and more, little by little to trust Him with our lives.
»Colossians 3:1-4 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Some people will tell you that you're too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.
I personally think that's quite impossible.
The more heavenly minded you become, the better the results on earth.
Actually, the opposite is more often the real case, we're too earthly minded to be any heavenly good.
:17 The people therefore that was with him ... bare record
bare record - martureo - to be a witness, to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something.
The people that had been there that day when Jesus called out to Lazarus to come forth were simply telling others what they had seen happen.
Witnessing doesn't have to be a difficult thing.
I think we can often dissect the subject to death.
Have I said all the right things?
Have I quoted all the right scriptures?
What if I leave something out?
Just tell your friends what Jesus has done for you.
Were you around when Jesus called someone from the dead?
How about when you were born again?
I love what the Sanhedrin said about Peter and John.
They had been arrested for teaching the people about Jesus -
»Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Don't know what to say to your friends about Jesus?
Then maybe you just need to spend some more time with Him!
:18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle
Here's an interesting insight into what we call "Palm Sunday".
The people that had witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead had been out talking about it.
And that's part of the reason why so many people came out to meet Jesus as He entered Jerusalem.
:19 Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him
»NIV - "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
The Pharisees had been telling the people not to follow after Jesus.
They had threatened the people by telling them they would be thrown out of the synagogue for following Jesus (John 9:22)
And they had put up wanted posters, asking the people to inform them of Jesus' whereabouts so He could be arrested. (John 11:57)
But now they're afraid that all their efforts aren't working.
Jesus' following is only growing bigger.
:10 Additional comments:
Religiousness doesn't guarantee truth.
(forgive me for getting on a soap box a little)
Just because a person wears the robe of a priest or minister, or has "Rev." in front of their name, doesn't mean that you can always believe everything that they say.
Just because a person goes to their church five times a week doesn't mean that they're walking in the truth.
Truth is a concrete idea, and it's found in God's Word.
The farther religious people get away from God's Word as their standard, the stranger the ideas.
I am amazed that some of the major denominations would even consider debating over whether or not homosexuality is a sin.
This from the Religion News Service:
(RNS) -- An effort to soften the United Methodist Church's 24- year-old stance declaring that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching was soundly defeated Wednesday (April 24) by delegates attending the denomination's General Conference.
The proposal, brought by the 8.6 million-member church's Board of Church and Society, was defeated 577-378.
The vote culminated a week of debate between the two sides on the issue that has dominated the 10-day General Conference, the top decision-making body of the nation's second largest Protestant denomination.
Copyright 1996 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. 1-800-767-6781.
Those proposing the change were encouraged, because each time they raise the issue, the vote is getting closer and closer.
What's happening here?
Does God's truth change over time?
Is God's truth true as long as we vote for it?
Let's say that I've decided to tell you very convincingly that the law of gravity no longer works.
And so we decide to take a vote on it, and by golly, a majority agree that the law of gravity is no longer valid.
Then I take us over to the top floor ot the Humanities building at Cal State, and ask for volunteers to jump off with me ... after all, didn't we vote out the law of gravity?
Don't get me wrong - God's Word is very clear - God loves those who practice homosexuality, just like He loves all sinners, but God calls it a sin, just like adultery, drunkenness, or swindling.
»1Corinthians 6:9-11 (NAS) Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
Keep God's Word as your standard.
It never changes.
It's always the same.
»Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (NAS)
It's not as changeable as our thoughts or intentions.
Be as the Jews in Berea, when the apostle Paul came to town.
»Acts 17:11-12 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.