AGCC Sun. a.m. 2/3/2002
#1      (The "Countdown To Calvary" Series)

(Fri. P.M. to Sat. P.M.)

TEXT:  John 12:9-36


The final week of Jesus' earthly life reveals powerful truths. We will look at this final week and find ourselves challenged by these truths. It is interesting to note that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan, and according to Ex. 12:3 this was the day the Passover lamb was to be chosen for sacrifice by God's people - Jesus offered Himself as the Passover lamb on this very day! This first day of this last week (Fri. p.m. to Sat. p.m.) gives us a fascinating look at commitment. So many in this crowd of people wanted a celebrity rather than a Christ, celebrities demand almost no commitment, but Christ did. Why is it so hard to get people to Church? Why don't people like going to Church in our culture? What does it take to get them interested? What dangers are there for the modern Church? Are there any connections with the following facts; we like our movies no longer than 1½ hour, and our worship services about the same! In the entertainment business the audience sits back and takes in the show, what happens in too many Churches today? Large crowds will follow around celebrities, and sometimes this is true with superstar preachers also! What went wrong with the crowd who waved palm branches and shouted, "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!" (12:13) and who a few days later shouted, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" ? We are a culture of boredom, a people who demands entertainment and shallow commitments, consider these remarks from Billy Graham: ILLUS:America is said to have the highest per capita BOREDOM of any spot on Earth! We know that because we have the greatest number of artificial amusements of any country. People have become so empty that they can't even entertain themselves! They have to pay other people to amuse them, to make them laugh, to try to make them warm and happy and comfortable for a few minutes, to try to lose that awful, frightening, follow feeling, that terrible dreaded feeling of being lost and alone. -- Billy Graham The need or desire for the spectacular is compelling, and can keep us from being committed. There is a huge difference between entertainment and edification, we are called to the later. The first may inspire awe, the second awesome change. ILLUS:A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor if he would recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it after him. He agreed. The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received a lengthy applause. The preacher then stood and recited the Psalm, his voice was rough and broken from years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished, but when the preacher was finished there was not a dry eye in the room! When someone asked the actor what made the difference he replied, "I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd!" -- Source - Unknown PROP. SENT:      The Word of God teaches us that Christianity is not just about celebration, it is also about commitment! We must be careful to not just build our relationship with God on celebration only, we must establish it with commitment.


A. Celebrity Motivation!     12:9 1. You will note that the crowd came to Jesus not just to see Jesus but to see the walking miracle Lazarus. a. "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." b. Their interest was created by a spectacular miracle, a man who had been dead 4 days now alive again. c. Jesus usually avoided such grandiose public miracles for this very reason, the crowd liked the spectacular miracle more than the spiritual message! 2. This is our human nature! a. Why do you think there is so much interest today in the New Age movement, and transcendental meditation, and other such supernaturally unusual cults. b. We have psychic hotlines, popular tarot readers, all because these grab our attention and demand next to nothing from us, it is entertaining. 3. The crowd was fascinated with the miracle of Lazarus, and this was the principle reason they came to Jesus. a. While the spectacular can get a crowd, commitment is the only thing that will keep them! b. There is always a tendency to be fascinated with the trappings of entertainment and the spectacular, but it can corrupt us! ILLUS:The story is told in Russia about the late Premier Leonid Brezhnev, who wanted to impress his old mother from the Ukraine. First he showed her through his sumptuous apartment in Moscow. She said nothing. Then he drove her in his chauffeured black limousine out to his dacha in Usovo, showed her the marble reception rooms, and treated her to a fine lunch of caviar and crab. She still appeared unimpressed. So he flew her in his private helicopter to his hunting lodge in Zavidovo, where a fire crackled in the huge fireplace of the banquet room. She seemed increasingly ill-at-ease. At last he burst out, "Well, Mama, what do you think?" She said with some hesitation, "It's nice, Leonid, but what if the Communists come back?" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 111. 4. This is why the Church must be careful to not replace the call of commitment with a service of entertainment. a. You might see the Church advertise "Miracle Night" or "Prophetic Ministry Night" and get a crowd … but what about "Commitment Night?" b. There is nothing wrong with having the best and presenting the Gospel in a way that is interesting, but if this becomes the main focus the Church will lose its way and the followers will have nothing but a shallow commitment. c. There is a difference between "excellence" and "entertainment." B. Callous Mentality!     12:10-11 1. The leaders were jealous of Jesus' popularity, they cared less about who He might be and more about who they were in the eyes of the public! a. Note the irony here, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and these leaders are now plotting to kill Lazarus … reverse the miracle again! b. In their foolish hearts all they cared about was getting the crowds back. c. No preacher is worth his salt if his concern is his own popularity rather than preaching the call to repent and follow Christ! 2. These were the "spiritual" leaders of the people, and they were completely misguided by their own prideful needs. a. They would literally kill to be popular! b. They probably justified their plan spiritually, that the people will come back to the truth as they see it, so they figured God was on their side! c. They were misguided into thinking God cared about their position more than people … God is on the side of truth, not trivial needs. He cares more about people than positions. ILLUS: Luke DeRoeck of Chicago, in a letter to the editor: "To suggest that God really cares about the outcome of a sporting event is preposterous. Conservatively, 20 million people in the U.S. went to bed hungry on Super Bowl Sunday. A God who cares about the outcome of the Super Bowl is not a God I ever want to meet." -- Sports Illustrated, 3/2/98. From the files of Leadership. 3. Who cares who gets the credit as long as they find God! We must be concerned about people finding Christ and making a commitment more than God blessings petty things. a. But if our lives lack commitment and our faith is expressed only in petty ways then this is the way the world will view a commitment to Christ. b. Christ is not an entertaining character, He is the Christ who calls us to commit our life to Him. c. Such a commitment will alter the very character of our life, and the value we place on the things of this world. d. When we get more bent out of shape over the length of a service that goes 10 minutes over rather than joy in the person who raised their hand to be saved at the end of the service we have lost our focus. II. CELEBRATION VS. COMMITMENT     12:12-36 A. Commitment Minimal     12:12-19 1. You will note that jealousy produced exaggeration in the misguided leaders, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!" 12:19b a. We still do this! b. We will say about a movie, "that is the best movie ever" or "that was the most boring sermon," etc. c. When we have little or no commitment to anything we don't care that much about it except how it pleased us or failed to please us. 2. The crowd had a wonderful time waving palm branches and celebrating Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, they shouted, "Hosanna! " "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" 12:13 a. Something was missing however! Notice that Jesus did NOT ride in on a horse which was the proper way for a King to announce His victory over a political enemy, such as defeating Rome. b. When a king rode in on a donkey it was to show his humility and to announce peace … Jesus CHOSE a donkey because His offer was not a political solution, it was a spiritual solution, yet they missed the meaning of the donkey! c. Even His own disciples missed it! 12:15-16a "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…" 3. Jesus was deliberate in His entrance, but all the crowd saw was the "celebration of an earthly king" to lift their persecution from Rome. a. They wanted a life of freedom from hassles and problems, a king who can raise dead people might have the power to make all this possible … b. They were not interested in a message of sacrifice and commitment! c. A life of ease will not produce commitment or character! ILLUS:There is a place in northern Chile where it never storms, it is always sunshine! Morning after morning the sun rises and sets, there is never a storm. Whilte storms can be seen off in the distance they never strike this one spot, it is always brightly lit during the day and clear at night. The sunsets are always beautiful! However, if you think this place is paradise you are wrong! Because it never storms on this spot there is no life whatsoever! It is a barren patch of land, nothing grows on it, nothing lives on it! If our walk with God was nothing more than miracles we would find our lives truly empty, devoid of commitment and character. -- Source - Unknown d. Too often we think an easy life will increase our commitment, but the truth is that it will often produce a more shallow one. 4. In just a few short days many in this same crowd will be shouting "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" a. When Jesus doesn't deliver the lifestyle they wanted they quickly turned away! b. They didn't mind shouting in celebration as long as it didn't cost much! c. How about us? 5. Interestingly enough, one day we will have "Palm Sunday" … but in heaven, notice John's description in Rev. 7:9-10 "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." a. "Hosanna" means "Save," "Salvation," or "Save us now" b. Note this crowd in heaven is holding "palm branches" and they cried, "Salvation" … the sense of "Hosanna" … this will be the celebration of the committed! We will get in on this celebration in the future if we are committed in the present! B. Commitment Maximum     12:20-22 1. Suddenly interjected into this story is an unusual note, while the crowds in the street are waving palm branches and celebrating there is a small group of Greeks who want to see Jesus! a. What a contrast, Greeks who were interested in Jesus! b. Many of the Jews weren't that interested except for the miracle parts, but these Greeks wanted to "see" Jesus. The word "see" here means in Greek "interview." They were interested in Jesus' the Christ. 2. While not stated here, it is most likely this interview took place. a. Note they came to Philip to make the request, "Philip" is a Greek name, hence someone they knew would care about them. Even "Andrew" is a Greek name, and he helps by going to Jesus to request the interview. b. Quietly in the backdrop of the triumphant entrance to Jerusalem Jesus is meeting with a small group of Greeks who want to know who He is and what is expected of them. c. What a contrast! The Jews had said, "We want to see a sign!" (Matt. 12:38, NKJV); but these Gentile Greeks said, "We want to see Jesus!" 3. Perhaps John records this small section to show that while so many in the crowd demonstrated a minimum commitment there were others who were interested in a maximum commitment! a. This small group of Greek outsiders was surely a contrast to the large fickle crowd. b. Real commitment is what really changes people … and the world with all its flair can't offer this. ILLUS:Not long ago at a high school, three military recruiters showed up to address some high school seniors. Graduation was only a few months away, and the military men were there for the obvious--to articulate to these graduating young men and women some of the options that military service would provide them. The meeting was to last forty-five minutes. Each recruiter--representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps--was to have fifteen minutes. Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away. When it came time for the Marine to speak, he had two minutes. So he walked up with two minutes to make his pitch. He stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds--half of his time. Then he said this: "I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps. I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed." He turned smartly and sat down. When he arrived in the dining hall, those students interested in the Marines were a mob. They acted without delay. He appealed to the heroic dimension in every heart. -- W. Frank Harrington, "It's Decision Time," Preaching Today, Tape No. 162. 4. Commitment may attract a smaller crowd, but it will be the people who will transform the world for Christ! a. And it will be this group of committed believers that will hold palm branches in their hands in Heaven before the Lamb! b. Commitment comes before celebration. 5. You will never truly ENJOY being a Christian without a deep commitment! a. Some only "savor the miracles" rather than "serve the Master." b. Do you need a service to be spectacular or spiritual? C. Christ's Message     12:23-36 1. Jesus now spells it all out, it was time for Him to be glorified, not by reigning over Rome but by dying for our sins! a. His commitment isn't in question, what about ours? b. He clearly says that those who wish to experience His joy must also experience His commitment, "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." 12:26 2. Jesus' message has always been the same, "come serve…" make a commitment. a. You may not always build a huge Church this way, but you will always build His Church! b. Jesus was telling them He was committed to die for them, the ultimate commitment. 3. No one wanted to grasp this message … in fact, in John 6:54 when Jesus explained how they had to "eat His flesh and drink His blood" -- meaning to be fully committed to Him, we read their reaction to this call of commitment, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." John 6:66 a. We shrink from this level of commitment, it seems so total! b. EXACTLY! 4. Our priorities reflect our true commitments! ILLUS:Dr. Reid Vipond of Canada shared this story of an oil company that needed a suave public relations man for its office in the Orient. After interviewing several candidates the officials decided to ask a local missionary to take the position instead of those they had interviewed. They had heard that this missionary had unusual gifts and influence with the local people. The company called him in and made him a handsome offer, however, no matter what proposition they made him he always answered them the same, "NO!" Finally in frustration the oil company spokesman asked, "What's wrong, isn't the salary big enough?" The missionary answered back, "Yes, the salary is big enough, but the job isn't!" As far as he was concerned he already had the biggest and best job -- sharing the Gospel and his life, that had the best reward.-- Source - Unknown 5. Celebration is nice, but commitment is needed! a. And so, where are we? b. Is it easier to get you to Church if there is going to be something spectacular, or doesn't it matter? c. Christ is calling a people who will be committed to Him. The celebration part will come in its proper balance when we start with commitment first! CONCLUSION:    The crowd in Jesus' day fell into two camps: (1. Those who wanted a glorious monarch. (2. Those who wanted God's Messiah! The first group looked for a king who would do spectacular things like overthrow Rome and take care of all their needs. The second group wanted a Lord who could save them from sin and overthrow the rebellion in their heart. A celebrity commands little to no commitment, but a Christ demands full commitment! What are you looking for? It will show by the kind of commitment you are willing to make!