There are people you know, right now, who are downcast and discouraged. And if you could look into their hearts, there are certain commonalities I think you would see. You would find unmet expectations, disappointment with current circumstances, unfulfilled dreams, and in all likelihood, some misplaced hope. Their hearts are longing for something they feel is missing, and it's possible that they're searching for those longings to be fulfilled through people, means, goals, and opportunities that don't have the capacity to do so.
This has been a struggle for humanity ever since our earliest days. We are quick to forget what can actually satisfy the longing of our hearts, so we veer off in all kinds of directions instead of acknowledging the truth that has always been right there in front of us. And until we acknowledge this truth, we'll continue to walk through life with a hefty amount of discouragement and displeasure. In John 12:12-26, we're shown how the deepest longings of our hearts can truly be satisfied.
I. Through the leadership of a benevolent King
Good leadership is something we all value and crave. We crave it in all spheres of life. Good leadership matters in our homes, our churches, our workplaces, and our nation. We tend to rejoice when we're being led well, and we grumble when we aren't. There are many people who aspire to become leaders in their respective fields, believing that leadership is glorious and enjoyable. But those who last in leadership for longer periods of time understand that good leadership is synonymous with service. A real leader isn't a selfish boss, but a humble servant who is willing to experience pain, inconveniences, criticism, and many sacrifices for the greater good of those he serves. The best leaders love the people they serve, and no leader has ever demonstrated love for those he led quite like Jesus.
This portion of Scripture takes place on a day we typically call "Palm Sunday." At that time, Jesus who had earned quite the reputation as a teacher, healer, and leader, was coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Word was also getting around that Jesus had miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. Hearing that Jesus was coming, we're told that large crowds lined up to greet Him on His way into the city.
As Jesus came into the city, He sat on a young donkey. He did this in fulfillment of the prophesy given by Zechariah, "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." (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus was indeed the King they were waiting for. He came with humility. He came to offer them salvation, but sadly, they valued political leadership more than they valued eternal life.
The crowds waved palm branches at Him which had a symbolic significance during that era. Those who waved these branches were demonstrating that they believed a victory had been secured over an enemy. Many were convinced that Jesus was the promised King who would come through the line of David, and they expected Him to overthrow Roman rule, and restore the nation of Israel to a place of prominence and power that it had once enjoyed under King David. Jesus certainly is that long-promised King, but He does so much more than offer temporary, political leadership.
Jesus has come to satisfy the deepest longing of our souls. Our souls are vacant and empty without Him. Our lives will be spent seeking to obtain objects, relationships, titles, and trophies in the hope that these things will fill that void until we recognize that what we really need is His benevolent leadership. Only He can bring our hearts the peace we long for. Until we become convinced of this, we will wear ourselves out chasing vanities.
II. By the fulfillment of the Word of God
I'm so grateful to have two things that many people who lived in generations prior to us didn't have. I'm grateful to have the ability to read, and I'm grateful to have unlimited and immediate access to the Word of God. I still remember when the light went on in my head that that was a big deal. When I was in high school, the Lord developed a strong desire within me to know the details of His word. I asked my mother for a good "Study Bible" so I would have the help of study notes and historical background information on the Scriptures. My pastor helped her pick one out, and I would read it voraciously. And one of the primary things that the Lord used to convince my heart that His word was true, was fulfilled prophecy.
The fact that Jesus, the Messiah, was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, had been prophesied by Zechariah more than 500 years earlier, and there are many other prophesies of Christ throughout the Old Testament. Some predicted His kingship. Others accurately predicted His lineage, place of birth, region of ministry activity, words He would say, miraculous ways He would heal, the manner in which He would be executed, and His resurrection from the grave. These prophesies were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit to give added confirmation to our hearts that Jesus is who He says He is.
In Scriptures like this, it's interesting to observe the disciples who had spent more than three years traveling with, learning from, and being trained by Jesus. They didn't always catch on right away to what Jesus was doing. In fact, there are multiple instances when Jesus explicitly stated to them that they could expect Him to be rejected, killed, and raised back to life, but when these things happened, the disciples seemed surprised. This portion of Scripture mentions why that was. We're told here that they understood Christ's teaching and mission much better after His crucifixion and resurrection than they did before.
This passage tells us that there were others at the time who also didn't understand. The Pharisees who could see the great crowds flocking to Jesus, were upset about what they were observing. They had been trying to persuade people not to follow Jesus, but at the time, they were starting to feel like the whole world was enamored with Him and their efforts had been fruitless.
What stands out to you when you read a passage like this? Does your heart rejoice to see prophesy fulfilled? Does the fulfillment of God's promises strengthen your confidence in Him? Are you content in the knowledge that nothing escapes His sight, and no situation, no matter how bleak it appears, is beyond His control? Our hearts can rest in the Lord who delights to fulfill the promises of His word.
III. In our new, indestructible life
Because of the Passover, many had come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. Among those who came to worship were Gentiles. This passage refers to them as "Greeks", but that term didn't always mean they were Greek by heritage. It was often a general term that was used by Jews to describe Gentiles. These "Greeks" obviously then weren't Jewish, but they still revered the Lord and had come to Jerusalem to worship.
It's clear that some of these Gentiles were genuinely seeking to know and understand God's will for their life. They also wanted to meet Jesus, so they asked Philip if he would arrange for that to take place. Philip mentioned that to Andrew, and together then went to tell Jesus. Jesus responded to them with a deeper-level answer that may have initially puzzled Philip and Andrew. He gave them an answer that showed that He very much had in mind all that He was about to experience by giving His life for the sake of mankind.
Jesus told them that the hour had come for Him to be glorified, but that good things would come from His death, just like good fruit eventually comes from a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. And just as Jesus willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for us, so too should we be willing to follow Him, even to that degree of severity.
The comments Jesus makes in this passage force us to ask where we prize our earthly life more than we prize our new life in Christ? Christ gives us new, indestructible life, the moment we come to faith in Him. He calls us to love Him and value the new life He has granted us so much that our brief earthly life pales in value to what we have in Him. Is there any sacrifice we wouldn't make for the Lord? Is there anything we still prize more than Him?
I'm grateful for the promise Christ also shares in this passage. Admittedly, it's easy for us to value earthly honors, but the Lord has greater things in store for those who follow Him. Jesus said, "If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." What does that mean? It means that those who love and trust Him will give evidence of that through serving Him. And just as we're justified and sanctified through faith in Christ, one day the Father will also glorify those who trust Jesus. Imagine that. The day is coming when this humble body will be transformed into a new, glorified body that will resemble Jesus in more ways than we can imagine.
The deepest longings of our hearts will not be satisfied by anything that can ultimately be taken away from us. There is nothing that this world can offer us that has the capacity to bring us eternal good. Many people, including those in the crowd that first Palm Sunday, think they'll find satisfaction and rest through creature comforts, political leaders, or by simply getting their own way. But in the end, the longings of our hearts can only be satisfied by Christ. When we're convinced that He is enough, we will finally experience the contentment we seek, and every trial, loss, or disappointment, will seem trivial compared to the incomprehensible blessings we've received from Jesus.
© John Stange, 2019