June 11, 2010 David Balzer

John 11:45-12:36: D.eath AND Glory

The Green Mile, starring Tom Hanks, is set in a prison in Louisiana in 1935. It’s focussed on the guards and prisoners on Row. And the Green Mile refers to the long corridor of green lino the prisoners must walk down to the electric chair before they die.

There’s some incredibly sweet and poignant scenes. Episodes of life and vitality, and deep friendship. About joy and triumphant goodness. But at the same time, there’s always the dark foreboding shadow of hanging over every scene. Colouring any enjoyment, and muting any pleasure we feel.

And it’s a bit like that here in the verses we’re looking at today.

Chapter 11 was all about LIFE. Lazarus raised miraculously from the grave. But THIS WEEK is all about . It casts its shadow over every scene.

I don’t know whether you’ve been involved in one of those situations. Where the shadow of s. It’s inevitable, but everyone tries to ignore it. The patient knows it, the doctor knows it, the family knows it. But no one wants to mention it. Conversations are forced, light-weight. Deliberately cheery. Smiles are forced. People trying TOO hard to tell a joke, bring up a happy memory. Everyone trying to avoid talking about it. As if NAMING it/ will give it more power, or speed its coming.

Well, here we get FOUR of those situations. Four scenes where ’s darkness blocks out the light. Where scenes that should be JOYFUL are subdued and forced. Grey and cloudy / instead of bright and sunny.

But the interesting thing through it all is the attitude of Jesus. Rather than AVOID it, pretend it’s not there. Jesus WELCOMES it. NAMES it. STARES it DOWN, and says BRING IT ON!

We’ll come back to it again. But just for a moment, flip over to Ch 12 v23 to see where we’ll FINISH.

23 Jesus replied, “THE HOUR HAS COME for the Son of Man to be GLORIFIED. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and DIES, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

The time has come. Jesus has been waiting his whole life for this moment, and now it’s arrived.

At his very first miracle, his mum asks him to do something about the wine running out. (Ch 2 v4) and Jesus says, Dear woman, why involve me, my HOUR has not yet come.”

And then in Ch 7, he says it again. His brothers want him to reveal himself to everyone in Jerusalem, but he says, “My hour hasn’t come yet.” That’s v6.

And then a bit further on in v30, when the leaders try to seize him, we’re told they can’t because HIS HOUR HADN’T COME YET. Same thing again in ch 8 v20.

But NOW, as the opposition intensifies. And ous threats are voiced. Jesus finally says, “THE HOUR HAS COME for the Son Of Man to be GLORIFIED”. Time for everyone to SEE the glory I came to reveal. They’ve seen the SIGN-POSTS, now it’s time for the BIG FINALE. They’ve tasted the ENTRÉE, now it’s time for the MAIN COURSE.

Because it’s how Jesus deals with that reveals who he is, and why he’s come. That ultimately and SUPREMELY reveals his GLORY.

D.eath is the heavyweight championship title bout. And Jesus says BRING IT ON.

Scene 1: ly schemes

But let’s jump back to some time earlier. Scene 1. ly schemes. It’s the aftermath of Lazarus being raised from the . Which you would think would be an incredibly JOYFUL time. With people falling over themselves to follow Jesus. The one who’s more powerful than !

And there’s SOME who do that. That’s v45. But there’s others who aren’t so sure. So they head to the Pharisees to find out what THEY reckon.

And as we eavesdrop into their meeting, listen to their LY SCHEMES. V47.

“Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Notice they’re not denying Jesus did miracles! That’s a given. What’s of more pressing importance is that all of the miracles might attract the wrong sort of attention. The Romans might interpret all the excitement as political uprising. Rebellion.

And then they’ll come and squash everything. The Jewish leaders will lose their power base. The temple and the nation will be destroyed.

And so, rather than any of THAT happen. It’s politically expedient for Jesus to be KILLED. To quietly remove the cause of all the excitement. Hush everything up before there’s too much noise. Look there in v49.

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that IT IS BETTER FOR YOU THAT ONE MAN DIE FOR THE PEOPLE THAN THAT THE WHOLE NATION PERISH.”

Better their political SKINS be SAVED, than the people might recognise God’s Messiah, and be SAVED THEMSELVES. Better to protect their own necks, than the people Jesus came to save.

It’s the ultimate in political expediency. Feathering your own nest. Worse than any corruption in Wollongong City Council. And it would be the ultimate tragedy if it wasn’t something that had all happened according to God’s plan.

You see, Caiaphas was talking about a POLITICAL solution. “If we allow Jesus to LIVE, the Jewish nation will be DESTROYED. If we DESTROY Jesus, then the nation will be SAVED.”

But John goes on to explain / Caiaphas had spoken ONE truth with TWO meanings. He meant ONE thing, but GOD meant something DIFFERENT. That in the wicked scheming of MEN, God was working out his perfect and sovereign plan. See it there in v51?

51 He did not say this ON HIS OWN, but as high priest that year he PROPHESIED that JESUS WOULD DIE FOR THE JEWISH NATION, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.


You see, Caiaphas spoke BETTER than he KNEW. Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. But in God’s plans. Not to remove the threat of a y Roman massacre, but to remove THE WRATH OF GOD.

Caiaphas said it is BETTER for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.

And he was RIGHT. But “better” not just as a POLITICAL solution. Better because it was GOD’S solution. God’s solution to the problem of our SIN. Sin that deserved judgment and . But which God wanted to FORGIVE. And so his plan was for Jesus to suffer the punishment we deserved. And so justice would be satisfied. The of ONE would count as acceptable/ in place of the of MANY.

And Better, not just for the privileged few Jewish leaders. And not even just better for the Jewish nation. But BETTER for the WHOLE HUMAN RACE. One perfect man’s , so that all people who trust him might become God’s children.

A plan by wicked men. But behind it all is God’s SUPREME plan.

And so, Jesus is a marked man. ly schemes are put into place to take his life.

And the chapter finishes by announcing it’s almost time for the Jewish Passover. When a lamb is sacrificed for the forgiveness of the sins of the Jewish people. Another of ’s shadows hangs over the scene.

2. Scene 2: ly preparation

Into ch 12, and our second scene. Once again, with the smell of about it. It begins with a time check. Six days to Passover, until the lamb is slain, it’s poured out so God would overlook sin.

And Jesus is back at Mary and Martha’s house, with Lazarus too. It’s a welcome home dinner for Lazarus. A party. In honour of Jesus who brought him home. As usual, Martha’s doing the cooking. And as usual, Mary’s out socialising.

They’re all seated on the floor around a low table. Their legs are out AWAY from the table. And the food’s out BEFORE them.

What would the MOOD of the party be like? On the one hand, it might be JOYFUL – after all, no one expected Lazarus to be there. Every time they looked at him, they’d be shaking their heads incredulously. The image of him walking out of that dark tomb, wrapped in rags, still burned into their memories, still bringing a smile to their faces.

But at the same time, there’d be a SOMBRE feel to it. Perhaps the smiles are FORCED. Because ’s gloom is near. Jesus is a wanted man. With a price on his head, and here he is, only a few km’s from the religious and political centre. Risking his life.

Whatever the mood, at some point in the evening, Mary loses it. She can’t hold back her emotion and gratitude a moment longer. She takes a huge jar of expensive perfume, it open, and pours it on Jesus’ feet. Perhaps she’d bought it for Lazarus’ burial. But she doesn’t need it for THAT any more. And then, because she doesn’t have a cloth, she wipes his feet with her hair.

And the end of v3 tells us that the house was FILLED WITH THE FRAGRANCE OF THE PERFUME. And the beauty of the ACT and the beauty of the AROMA mingle in the senses of those watching.

Hang the expense. Hang the embarrassment. Who cares what’s appropriate. Jesus has done EVERYTHING for me. What LITTLE can I do in return?

But even the beautiful sweetness of the moment, there’s also the bitter taste of . When Judas grumbles about the WASTE, Jesus rebukes him (v7)

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my BURIAL. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Not that Jesus is saying that the Poor don’t matter. But that Mary’s action foretells of ANOTHER perfuming. In about a week’s time. When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would wrap Jesus’ lifeless body in strips of linen, together with about 30 kg of spices and perfume. And place it in the tomb.

Once again, another PROPHECY. Someone who’s actions speak more truly than they know. Did Mary KNOW Jesus was going to die. And that her anointing was symbolic of what others would do to Jesus’ body in about a week’s time?

No. But Jesus saw the significance. Jesus is saying. is COMING. I can feel its shadow. So let’s make the most of LIFE, while I’m still here.

But it’s not just a shadow hanging over Jesus. It’s Lazarus too. The chapter finishes with Jesus discovered. The crowd assembles. And when the leaders find out Lazarus is there too. HE gets added to the list.

3. Scene 3

And so we move to scene 3. Which, on the surface, doesn’t LOOK like it’s to do with . But there’s still that time check. V12. A great crowd. Arrived for PASSOVER. Five days to go. Until the Lamb of God is slain. His poured out and splashed about so God would pass over sin.

And when the crowd hear Jesus is on his way, they rip down palm branches, and yell out “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”

The palm branches are a national symbol of pride. Like the way the Aussie flag was used in the Cronulla riots. Tattoos of the Southern Cross, and Aussie Pride stickers. They’ve become more than just objects, they’re messages of patriotic fervour.

And the people’s hope is that Jesus is the King who’ll deliver them from the Romans. The Jewish WARRIOR King. Who’ll lead a military uprising. Ride into town on a noble battle horse. That’s ONE type of glory.

But Jesus has ANOTHER in mind. And so, instead, he organises a donkey. A young donkey. Probably would have almost looked comical. And his point is to hose down the expectations. Yes, he’s come as Messiah, Yes, he’s come as KING. But it’s a different TYPE of kingdom.

And it’s only LATER that the disciples put the pieces together. And remember that Zech ch 9 talks about God sending a king. But listen to HIS type of kingdom. Zech 9.9.

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim PEACE to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Not only was it a kingdom that was different in NATURE, but it was different in MAGNITUDE. The Jews expected a NATIONAL king. But Jesus’ kingship was INTERNATIONAL. Worldwide. Universal.

Just like we learned in the last chapter.

he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

And so, as Passover approaches, the crowds continue to gather. And the Pharisees get more and more anxious and ous.

Scene 4: The knell sounds

And so we come to scene 4. The knell sounds. The last scene finished with the Pharisees worried that the whole world has gone after Jesus.

And THIS scene shows they had something to be concerned about. Because some GREEKS turn up. They’re in Jerusalem for the Passover. And they want to meet Jesus. This king riding on a donkey, who’s come to bring peace to THE NATIONS.  From one end of the world to the other.

And it’s at THAT point Jesus announces the time has arrived. That verse we looked at / at the beginning. V23. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”. has been hanging around. Now it’s time for process to begin.

“Bring it on, “ he says. “Because when I die, many will live. Like a seed that perishes so that a new plant can grow, and produce lots more seeds.”

It’s as if the arrival of these GREEKS has been the final item on the checklist. All the things that need to happen before the hour arrives. Jesus knows he’s destined to be king for the whole world. And here he gets to see a TASTE of that worldwide kingdom. When EVEN GREEKS want to know about him.

And he recognises that the time has come.

I wonder what he makes of his kingdom NOW. People from every corner of the globe. Male and female. Every colour, Every language. Every size and shape. Every income band and interest group. All following their King of Peace. Their DONKEY king. Their SERVANT king. Who welcomed / that many might live.

(slowly) A kingdom that includes US. We’re part of the kingdom that the sweet aroma of Mary’s perfume has reached. And she sets US an example of how to respond to Jesus our King.

Did you notice how Mary is always at Jesus’ FEET. Lk 10 tells us ANOTHER time, she sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching.

When Lazarus died, she FELL at Jesus’ feet, overcome with emotion, in humility and sorrow.

And here, in gratitude, and thankful worship for the richness of his mercy, she pours out the rich perfume onto his feet, and washes them with her hair.

And we would do well to follow Mary’s example. Forget the COST, forget the appropriateness or embarrassment.

Hang the expense. Hang the embarrassment. Who cares what’s appropriate. Jesus has done EVERYTHING for me. What LITTLE can I do in return?

What will that look like FOR YOU? Perhaps it means

–         become a Christian. Hand your life to King Jesus for the FIRST TIME.

–         Financial.

–         Time – regular weekly time – Home Group. Holidays – beach mission, kids camp.

–         Bible college

–         Ministry – teaching Sunday school

–         Prayer group.

–         Organise an event.

Honour King Jesus with the best you’ve got. Lay all that you have, and all that you Are at HIS feet. Pour your LIFE out at his feet in EXTRAVAGANT service. In service of the Lamb who died that you might LIVE.

Hang the expense. Hang the embarrassment. Who cares what’s appropriate. Jesus has done EVERYTHING for me. What LITTLE can I do in return?

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