The Unlikely Route to Life

We’re going to be reading John 12:12-26 this Sunday.  The main theme that ties this section together is that Jesus seems to do and say the opposite of what we think he should. The section begins with v12-22, as Jesus comes into Jerusalem in what has been called his “triumphal entry”.

It’s a familiar scene to us, if we’ve been around the Bible at all, or at very least have seen movies about Jesus…but do we ever think about the particulars of this event? For instance, why are the people waving palm branches? There is some interesting information about palm branches found in this article – I encourage you to read it, and keep this passage in mind as you do.  If you read the article you realize what waving the palm branch would have meant, at least to the Romans guarding the city. What do you think their reaction would have been? Does that tell you why the religious leaders were concerned?

There is actually a great deal of historic background that goes along with this event – in the Maccabean Revolt which happened nearly 150 years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people routed the Greek (Seleucid) occupiers – and upon re-entering the city and temple, the people all waved palm branches in celebration of this victory over gentile oppression.

With that in mind…what do you think the people of Jerusalem were anticipating with Jesus coming to town?

How surprising then, when Jesus starts talking about dying in v24. That’s not normally how kings rise to power, is it? We certainly wouldn’t call Saddam Hussein a victor, would we? But Jesus is pointing us in a direction that is opposite to the flow of the patterns of this world. What appears to be the devastating power of Roman authority exercised in crucifying Jesus is actually it’s defeat – and the route to life for all who believe.

This would be true not only for him, but he broadens the application in v25-26, sweeping us into it’s scope. We will follow this route, and according to Jesus, find life; real, eternal life. But what will this look like when lived out? How do we disentangle ourselves from the tyranny of ego? It has to be more than just putting a landscape picture on our FB profile.

I propose it comes down to motive. What motivated Jesus to lay down his life in order to bring fruit into our lives? How can we emulate that same motive, and how will that differ from the patterns of this world’s system?

This will be a challenging study – so….take this advice from Samuel L. Jackson.

The Triumphant Decline

Have you ever worked really hard on some idea only to have someone else come along and take credit for it, even indirectly? What emotions did you feel?

The human need to be significant and important, at very least for recognition is universal. Ego is a tough wrestling opponent. Yet, as we’ll read in this week’s text, John the Baptist was able to find joy and peace by putting his own ego last and Jesus first.

This Sunday we’ll be reading John 3:22-36 as we continue our exploration of the fourth gospel.

John’s gospel is the only account that indicates that Jesus and John had a time when their ministries overlapped. Jesus began with John the Baptist’s endorsement, and now, we find that he is present when the first hint of controversy arises. His disciples are jealous at the rising popularity of Jesus and his message. John was very popular, probably more popular than Jesus at this beginning stage…he had all the trappings of what passes for successful ministry. Yet it was his joy to step aside for the elevation of Christ.

What reason does he give for that in v27?

Does that help you in any struggles you may have in embracing an intentional humility?

v30 is a powerful statement. It sets the tone for the entire church movement. We haven’t always been very successful in remembering who it is that everything orbits around. How do you think it can bring you joy, like it did for John the Baptist, to allow the reality of Jesus to increase in your life? What would be decreasing in your life as this takes place?

In yet another way, the kingdom of God moves counter to the world’s assumptions, we we find ourselves flourishing through this triumphant decline.

Hope to see you on Sunday!