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We Would Like to See Jesus

We Would Like to See Jesus

Basketball season is coming to a close and we’re in the midst of something called “the Road to the Final Four”. It started this month by selecting 64 college basketball teams for the NCAA tournament. The first round winnows it down to 32. Then, they play again and reduce to 16. Then 8. Then 4 teams. And last of all, there will only be 2 basketball teams competing in the final championship game. I’ve never been to one of these events, but I’ve heard that when the teams come out on the floor… it’s a time of excitement.

The team doesn’t just casually walk out onto basketball court… this is a highly anticipated event! There is the crescendo of the announcer’s voice as he announces the team. The university band strikes up an exciting version of the team fight song. There are banners, balloons, and streamers. Cheerleaders are standing at attention. There’s a lightshow that flashes all across the auditorium. And when the fans are worked into a fever pitch, the team runs out onto the court and the crowd goes wild!!!

Something even more anticipated and exciting happened on Palm Sunday in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. Josephus, the notable Jewish historian, estimated that over two million people were involved in the festivities. People from all over the world were flooding into the city to observe the anticipated Passover. But as they prepared to celebrate one of the most important feasts all year, the people heard that Jesus was on his way to the city!

For 3 years, Jesus has been building His ministry toward this day. For 3 years, He has astounded them with one miracle after another. For 3 years, He has healed the sick, the lame, the blind, and the leprous. For 3 years, Jesus has attracted one crowd after another teaching them about the coming Kingdom of God. And then - not more than about week before this - Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha and raises their brother Lazarus from the dead. By the time Jesus gets to Jerusalem, the crowd is primed and ready to go wild!

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was not going to be a casual stroll into the city …He had come to deliberately declare that HE was the King of Israel, the anointed one, the promised Messiah, the One who had been predicted for centuries by the prophets of God. The crowd gathers, as Jesus rides into the city on a young donkey, and they begin to wave palm branches, spread their cloaks on the ground, and shout their welcome to Jesus.

John 12:12-19 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Who were the people in that crowd that day? Would they be like any of us today?

First, the Roman soldiers were there. As the crowd gathers to honor Jesus, I’m sure the excitement gets the attention of the Roman soldiers. There were probably a large number of soldiers who gathered to see what was going on, for they were charged with keeping the Jewish people under control.

What did this demonstration mean to the Romans? Nothing is recorded about the Roman viewpoint, but it is certain that they kept a close watch that day. During the annual Passover feast, it was not uncommon for some of the Jewish zealots to try to arouse the people to revolt against the Roman occupation of their city and their country. Like security guards at the championship basketball game, the soldiers were there to prevent a riot.

But then, here comes Jesus, riding on a young donkey.

I imagine that some of the Roman soldiers must have smiled and laughed a little at this “Triumphal Entry,” because it was nothing like their own triumphal celebrations back in Rome. Whenever a Roman general was victorious on foreign soil, he was given a celebration when he returned to the city. It was the Roman equivalent of the American “ticker-tape parade,” only with much more splendor.

The general would ride into the city in a gold-covered chariot with white stallions pulling it, a symbol of a warrior. The general would display the trophies he had won in a long train before him.

Yes, I can imagine some of these soldiers probably laughed at the antics of the Jerusalem crowd that day, and at the sight of this so-called King. What real king would ride on a humble donkey? Compared to a “Roman triumph,” our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem was ridiculous to them.

Isn’t that how some people think of Jesus today? They are amused by the stories about Him. They laugh at Him and at people who worship Him. How could sophisticated people be so ignorant, they say?

After all, what educated person would believe some of the things that people say He did? Make the blind to see. The lame to walk. The deaf to hear. Walk on water. Calm storms with a word. Feed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish! Who in their right mind would believe such things? So they just laugh at Christians who have faith in this Jesus of Nazareth. There were probably some of those people in the crowd that day.

And then there was another group of people there that day. We just read, “Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.” These people were the miracle-seekers. They are also mentioned in the preceding verses.

John 12:1-2; 9 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

These people were there to see a miracle, not to see the Master. They weren’t really interested in why Jesus was there. They came to see the spectacular, that is, to see Lazarus, the man raised from the dead. They were anxious to see one who had experienced such a phenomenal event and to see if a resurrected man was any different. They wanted to be there in case Jesus performed another miracle.

Isn’t that why some people come to church today? They don’t come to worship Jesus, but they come to see who is singing. They come to hear a testimony. They come to socialize. They come, to see if they, like Lazarus, can get a miracle. They’re there to get what they can, not to worship the King of Kings.

Sadly, that’s why some churches are becoming mega-churches (not all of them). They’re drawing the crowds, yes. Lots of people are attending. But people are coming because of the great concerts that are available. They’re there because of the orchestra. They come to hear a celebrity. They come for the free entertainment. They come so they can say they go to that big church that always has its name in the paper and its services on television. They come for the exciting atmosphere. And if that’s missing, or if there’s something they don’t like, they don’t come. No one will notice they are not there, and besides, they like having no commitment or accountability. They come to church because it is the thing to do, the place to be, the place where everyone else is. They are not sincere worshippers of Jesus. They seek the spectacular signs and go wherever they might see one.

John 6:30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?

That’s the attitude of some today. What will you do for me, Jesus? What will you give me?

Jesus said, Matt 15:8 These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Many want the exhilaration, the signs, and the miracles, but they miss the Master. There were probably some of those people in the crowd that day.

And then there was another group of people there that day. The religious leaders were there. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Wherever the power is, that is where you find these people. Wherever the prestige is, you can be sure they will be there. They want the praise. They want the glory. They want to be looked up to, and they want to be the ones who have all the influence. They are fine as long as they are the center of attention, but look out if someone else receives the praise.

God isn’t pleased with that kind of leadership.

Ezekiel 34:2-3 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.”

There are some in the church today who want the visible positions. They want the power. They want to be the movers and shakers. And to gain a following, they’ll say anything that is popular and that makes them popular. They preach self-esteem and the “prosperity gospel”, which is not the Gospel at all, “Come to Jesus and all your cares and troubles will be over. Come to Jesus and He’ll give you all that you want.”

They’ll say anything to gain a following. They’ll preach what the crowd wants to hear, not what the Bible says. Rather than pointing men and women to Jesus, they point to themselves. They want people to follow them, and not God. They want people to contribute lots of money to them. The bigger the church building, the bigger the crowds, the more money they have, the greater power and prestige they can exhibit. However, it is their name that is emphasized, not the Name of Jesus.

Isaiah 56:11 They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.

Yes, there were some of these bad shepherds in the crowd that day. They didn’t want Jesus to overthrow the Romans. They didn’t want Him to be King of the Jews. They were envious of His popularity. To protect their power and prestige, they plotted to kill Jesus, the Messiah they preached about!

So who were the people in the crowd that day?
•There were the ones who were amused and laughed at Jesus.
•There were the ones who wanted an earthly king, who could perform miracles.
•And there were the ones who wanted the power, prestige, and the popularity.

There was one more group there that day.

John 12:20-21 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

“We would like to see Jesus.” Oh, that we would all desire that! If we would all come into His presence to see Jesus, what a difference it would make in our lives.

For when we see Jesus, we recognize that Jesus represents the love that God has for us, a love that would send Him to the cross to die for us, so we can be saved, forgiven, and changed.

When we see Jesus and are baptized, then we really begin to worship Him. We begin to bow down and surrender our whole beings to God. We begin to follow and obey His will, to honor and praise Him for all He has done and is doing for us.

Yes, when we really desire to see Jesus and seek Him with all our heart, that’s when Jesus is glorified. That’s when we really worship Him, in spirit and in truth, every day of the week with everything we do and say.

Those people in the crowd that day were shouting something that was far more significant than they realized. “Hosanna,” they shouted, “Hosanna!” This Hebrew word means “he who saves.” They were welcoming their King. But this was not a king that would replace the Romans. No, this King was far more important, far more powerful than any king on earth.

For although they didn’t realize it, they were honoring the Creator of Heaven and Earth. They were honoring the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. They were honoring the King that would triumph over death. They were shouting praises to the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world.

Unfortunately, many of those who shouted "Hosanna!" were accepting Jesus for what they thought He would give them, not for who He is and what He came to do. They wanted an earthly Messiah who would provide for their material welfare, not a suffering Messiah whose death on the cross would expose their sin, provide forgiveness, and call for a life commitment.

Jesus doesn’t promise release from all the suffering in the world. But He does offer forgiveness, peace, eternal life ... and a cross. Anything less than taking up that cross in serving Him is a shallow allegiance and prevents one from being His disciple. Unfortunately, the cross is where many people quit following Jesus. The cross does not fulfill their expectations of a Messiah.

Some people must have been disappointed, even resentful, that Jesus didn't overthrow the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom. One wonders how many of those who enthusiastically cried, "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday were shouting, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" on Friday.

What Jesus' contemporaries failed to recognize was that before He could assert His outward sovereignty, He had to rule man's heart. The greatest need of every person was not freedom from Caesar's legions but release from the chains of his own sin.

Jesus will rule in power and glory one day, but first He had to pay sin's penalty on the cross. The key to His kingdom is not revolution but repentance, a turning from following the world, yourself, or the devil, to following Jesus.

Down through the centuries the issue has not changed. If we follow Christ solely because we think He'll shield us from life's hardships, heal all our sicknesses, and guarantee prosperity, we're headed for disillusionment. But if we renounce sin, take up our cross, and live for Him, because He is our Lord, our Creator, and Redeemer, we will never be disappointed in Him and we will have His peace and joy!

We need to realize that Jesus Christ came to die for our sin and pay the price for our iniquity. If He never does anything else in this present life, His forgiveness is more than enough to merit our loyalty, our affection, and our eternal devotion.

Jesus is my provider, He is my healer, He is my deliverer, and I will continue to ask Him to meet my needs, but if He never does another thing for me, if He never gives another blessing to me, I owe Him my life because of what He did on Calvary!

Do you want to see Jesus? Are you anticipating His return? When He comes, will you be primed for his appearing? Does your spirit cry out, “I want to see Jesus! Come, Lord Jesus!”?

On that day of His appearing, Jesus will not come on a donkey, but will make a “triumphal entry” on a spiritual white horse with a train of saints.

Psalm 24:9-10 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty--he is the King of glory.

So the question of that day is still the question of our day. “Who is he, this King of glory?” That is a question all of us need to answer individually.