Hosanna! and Crucify Him! in the same breath

John 12:12-27; 19:16b-22

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

19:16b So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

I got into a David Bowie kind of mood this last week and even asked my spin instructor to play (You Will) Set the World on Fire during a class. The chorus rattles your bones as Bowie announces the advent of a game-changer:  You will set the world on fire– I can work the scene and I can see the magazines. I can hear the nation, I can hear the nation cry – you will set the world on fire.

It’s a powerful image, isn’t it? But it doesn’t take but a breath to get to how dangerous it is. Setting the world on fire. Everything is going to change. Nothing will be the same. Because when there’s fire, there’s destruction and death before that new thing, this new person, can work out this new world order.

The spots we’re at in John today has the world on fire. The parade into Jerusalem and the crucifixion of Jesus.

This parade is blocking traffic and making people late for work and he’s not even throwing candy! Jesus and his followers are mocking a political parade like the Romans would put on to demonstrate their power. The people are waving palm branches which is the equivalent to waving American flags. Those palm branches signify victory. We’ve been saved! We’ve won! Here’s our conquering hero. Jesus is not mocking that he will be victorious – he’s mocking how the world sees victory. His followers believe Jesus has come to save them, but they don’t understand what his victory will look like or even mean. This kind of parade would seem quite fitting. Yet what ends up happening doesn’t seem to fit at all.

When the world gets its way, well, it looks and feels as if everything is on fire. Out of control.

When Jesus goes to the cross, well, it looks and feels as if everything is on fire. Out of control.

The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Yes, the world has gone after him. To be fed, to be healed to be raised from the dead! Yet its these same throngs of people who are now shouting “Crucify him!” The king has come and we are going to kill him. The prince of peace will suffer a bloody and violent death. The prince of peace is about to be killed under false pretenses. Barrabas, a bandit, is going to be saved instead. That’s the message of the cross, isn’t it?

The crowds were only growing after the news of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. And then, right after “the world has gone after him” come these:

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip… and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

We wish to see Jesus. In the gospel of John, seeing is directly connected to faith. Seeing is believing, so to speak. Yet, the question at the heart of John is will you believe what you see? Even when you see him, will you recognize who he is?

I’m willing to bet that those who were at Laundry Love this past week could tell you at least one encounter of seeing Jesus, recognizing Jesus.

I’m willing to bet that those who drove into Minneapolis with Operation Hope could tell you at least one example of seeing Jesus, recognizing Jesus.

I’m willing to bet that those who participated in the March for Our Lives, all those marches on Jerusalem all across the nation yesterday could tell you at least one example of seeing Jesus.

And do you remember how Jesus answers this request to seeing him?

…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it…,

This is where our faith gets traction. Does our faith ever leave worship? Do we live out this faith that today has us looking directly at the cross, knowing this is the week, this Holy Week, when the rubber meets the road?

You want to see Jesus? Are you prepared to recognize what the glory of God looks like? Because it’ll have you walking straight into the fire. And this invitation to see Jesus is a world-wide invitation. To see Jesus on the cross. The narrative slows down and zooms in on the inscription above Jesus’ thorny-crowned head:

19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Pilate refuses to change the sign. He’s had this king beaten and allowed this king to be killed. The sign will declare him the King of the Jews and will not promote a false accusation that Jesus declared himself the king. At least Pilate didn’t allow a lie to hang above the king of truth.

And this truth: it’s an invitation to the world. Written in those three languages so that everyone could read it.  And those 3 languages signified the extent of their known world at that time. Everyone could read that sign. This message for Jesus was and remains for everyone.

You want to see Jesus? Well, prepare to be bummed out. We know where this is headed. The cross is one heck of a victory march that leaves us in its shadow until the promise of Easter has us running to the tomb.  Right now? We’re in the fire. Right now? The world has had its say. “Crucify him,” and we join in on the chorus. We are part of the nations that roar.

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