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John 12:12-26: Fear Not, Daughter of ZionYour King is Coming!


On the next day, the large crowd that had come [Nom MS 2 Aor Act Part erchomai] to the feast, when they heard [Nom MP 1 Aor Act Part akouo] that Jesus was coming [3S Pres Mid Indic erchomai] to Jerusalem, 13took [3P 2 Aor Act Indic lambano] branches of palm trees and went forth [3P 2 Aor Act Indic exerchomai] to meet him and cried [3P Impf Act Indic krazo], Hosanna! Blessed [Nom MS Perf Pass Part eulogeo] is he who comes [Nom MS Pres Mid Indic erchomai] in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!

And Jesus, finding [Nom MS Pres Act Indic heurisko] a young donkey, sat [3S 1 Aor Act Indic kathizo] on it, just as it is [3S Pres Act Indic eimi] written [Nom NS Perf Pass Part grapho]:

Fear [2S Pres Mid Impv phobeo] not, daughter of Zion: Behold your King is coming [3S Pres Mid Indic erchomai], Sitting [Nom MS Pres Mid Part kathizo] on a donkeys colt!

These things his disciples did not know [3S 1 Aor Act Indic ginosko] at the first, but when Jesus was glorified [3S 1 Aor Pass Indic doxazo], then they remembered [3S 1 Aor Pass Indic mnaomai] that things things were [3S Impf Act Indic eimi] written [Nom NP Perf Pass Part grapho] concerning him, and these things they did [3P 1 Aor Act Indic poieo] to him. 17Therefore the crowd bore witness [3S 1 Aor Act Indic martureo], those who were [Nom MS Pres Act Part eimi] with him when he called [3S 1 Aor Act Indic phoneo] Lazarus from the tomb and raised [3S 1 Aor Act Indic egeiro] him from the dead. 18For this reason also the crowd met [3S 1 Aor Act Indic hupantao] him, for they heard [3P 1 Aor Act Indic akouo] this sign he had done [Perf Act Inf poieo]. 19Therefore the Pharisees said [3S 2 Aor Act Indic lego] to each other, You see [2P Pres Act Indic theoreo] that you profit [2P Pres Act Indic opheleo] nothing: behold, the world after him has gone [3S 2 Aor Act Indic aperchomai].

Now some Greeks were [3P Impf Act Indic eimi] among the coming-up-ones [Nom MP Pres Act Part anabaino] in order that they might worship [3P 1 Aor Act Subj proskuneo] at the feast. 21Therefore these came to [3P 2 Aor Act Indic proserchomai] Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and were asking [Nom MP 1 Aor Act Part erotao] him, saying [Nom MP Pres Act Part lego], Lord, we wish [1P Pres Act Indic thelo] Jesus to see [2 Aor Act Inf eido]. 22Philip came [3S Pres Mid Indic erchomai] and spoke [3S Pres Act Indic lego] to Andrew; Andrew and Philip came [3S Pres Mid Indic erchomai] and they spoke [3P Pres Act Indic lego] to Jesus. 23But Jesus answered [3S Pres Mid Indic apokrinomai] them, saying [Nom MS Pres Act Part lego], The hour has come [3S Perf Act Indic erchomai] that the Son of Man might be glorified [3S 1 Aor Pass Subj doxazo]. 24Truly, truly I say [3S Pres Act Indic lego] to you, unless the kernel of wheat, having fallen [Nom MS 2 Aor Act Part pipto] into the earth, dies [3S 2 Aor Act Subj apothnesko], it alone remains [3S Pres Act Indic meno]. But if it dies [3S 2 Aor Act Subj apothnesko], much fruit it bears [3S Pres Act Indic phero]. 25The loving-his-soul-one [Nom MS Pres Act Indic phileo] will lose [3S Fut Act Indic apollumi] it, and the hating-his-soul-one [Nom MS Pres Act Indic miseo] in this world unto eternal life will keep [3S Fut Act Indic phulasso] it. 26If me someone should serve [3S Pres Act Subj diakoneo], me let him follow [3S Pres Act Impv akoloutheo], and where I am [1S Pres Act Indic eimi] he also, my servant, will be [3S Fut Act Indic eimi]. If someone me should serve [3S Pres Act Subj diakoneo], the Father will honor [3S Fut Act Indic timao] him.

Comment: I can hear Dr. Webster from my seminary preaching class: You must find the tension in the text. The tension in the text is the place where God meets humanity, death meets resurrection, sin meets grace, and crucifixion meets glorywhere neither side can be downplayed while still remaining faithful to the text itself. There is a tension to the biblical storyline that both makes sense of the brokenness that we experience every day and points us to limitless glory, albeit in unexpected ways. The tension in the Palm Sunday text in the Gospel of John revolves on the axis of Christ's unique kingship. As the people hail him as king, they have no idea that in less than a week they would be demanding his crucifixion. How could they possibly praise him with loud Hosannas and then urge him to be crucified? Part of the answer is that they did not understand the nature of Christ's kingship; the other part of the answer is the God understood exactly the nature of Christ's kingship. The Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ was not to be ushered in on the praises of the people, as though Jesus was simply campaigning to be elected into his holy office. Rather, our Lord would purchase, establish, and root his Kingdom in his crucifixion. Whenever Christ was hailed as King, he never downplayed the significance or the truth of the assertionbut he always redefined it. Here, on Palm Sunday, Christ was most triumphantly declared to be King of the Jews, and here he is also quickest to assert that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). The Kingdom of Jesus is inseparable from the Cross of Jesus. Fear not, Daughter of Zionyour King is coming! He comes, though not in triumph and glorious array, but as the Man of Sorrows to the cross where he will give up his own life to purchase yours. 12:12-19 Fear Not, Daughter of ZionYour King is Coming!: The crowd gathered for the Passover feast at Jerusalem hears that Jesus is coming. So, to herald his coming, they begin to take up palm branches. Lenski offers a helpful word about the significance of the palm tree: To the oriental the palm tree was the perfect tree, embodying everything a tree should really be; even its life, extending to 200 years, made it a symbol of immortality. We usually regard palm branches as symbols of victory and triumph but the oriental regarded them as symbols of life and salvation.1 When he begins to arrive, they cry out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! Lenski also helps to understand the significance of the people's cry: The words are taken from Ps. 118:25, 26, to which interpretive additions are made: compare also Luke 19:38. Psalms 113-118 are termed the Hallel, and this was sung at the Passover when the festival procession was received by the priests; it was sung also, a part before and a part after the Passover meal (Mark 14:26). The most distinctive part of the chant was Hosanna, three of the evangelists recording the Hebrew transliteration: Hosh-'ah-na, schaffe Heil, grant salvation (save now, A.V.) In greeting Jesus the word seems to have been used by the multitude less like a prayer to God and more like a joyful acclamation, a little like our: All hail! The rest of the words taken from the Psalm: Blessed he that comes in the name of the Lord (Jehovah), constitute a welcome. The perfect eulogemenos, having been blessed, has its usual present force, having been and thus now still blessed. And ho erchomenos, here too is a
1 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John's Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 851.

Messianic designation, especially since it is coupled with the phrase, in the name of Jehovah. The enthusiastic multitude thus acclaims Jesus as blessed by Jehovah, not merely with words of benediction, but with all the gifts and treasures implied in the benedictory words, coming thus to Jerusalem bearing these blessings.2 Interestingly, we read that Jesus himself finds the donkey to sit on, fulfilling Zechariah's prophesy:

And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. Very often in the gospels, it seems as though Jesus intentionally avoids references to his kingship. For example, immediately after having fed 5000 people, we read, Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself (John 6:15). On Palm Sunday though, we see Jesus very deliberately making a claim to kingship by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The Jewish people were awaiting and anticipating their messiah, and when it seemed as though they had found him, they were eager to claim his as king by crying out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! (John 12:13). They saw Jesus as the King who was coming to the daughter of Zion, and they rejoiced. Jesus, for his part, did nothing to stop them, but in fact encouraged them to recognize him as King. The time had come, and the moment was finally hereJesus had come into the world to claim his kingdom, and the time for doing so had at last arrived. Jesus no longer wished to avoid being identified as Israel's true king, and so he mounted a donkey's colt and rode into Jerusalem openly. There was no mistaking what he was doing, and he intended it that way. Even if his disciples didn't realize that they were fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah until after Jesus was resurrected (John 12:16), the hosannas of the people were of an unmistakable intent. Giving credence to his claims to kingship were those who testified to how he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Many who might have been skeptical at least suspended their doubt to find out more about Jesus, and even the Pharisees thought that they had lost their propaganda war:

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him. Everything pointed to Jesus' ascension to the throne in Israel. The people insisted upon it, and the religious leaders were resigned to it. Even Jesus seemed to be warming up to the idea compared with previous attempts to enthrone him.

2 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John's Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 852.

What incredible comfort this should bring us! Our King is coming! Jesus certainly could have abdicated his throneafter all, his reception up to this point has been entirely mixed. Some have adored him; others have hated him. Others have followed him for a time only to abandon him when his sayings became too difficult. But the King is coming nevertheless. Fear not, Daughter of ZionYour King is Coming! 12:20-24 The King Must Die: Jesus indeed is coming to claim his throne; however, his means of claiming the throne are entirely unexpected. Jesus begins to redefine popular conceptions right away, beginning with his answer to a request from Greek Jews to see him. John writes:

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, Sir, we wish to see Jesus. 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Some Greeks are among those caught up in the fervor to enthrone Jesus. They come to Philip and tell him of their desire: Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Philip takes their request to Andrew, and the two disciples relate the request to Jesus. Here is where the tension in the text appears. Jesus, at this point, might return again to the people to sate their appetite for glory and fame. He might have paraded among them, grandstanding back and forth on his donkey, until he had squeezed every last drop of human approval and praise from every last person present for the feast. The Greeks represent a further opportunity: Jesus could demonstrate that his lordship rules over all the nations of the eartheven extending to Greeksby simply allowing them to kiss his hand and offer him their allegiance. At first, it seems that this is exactly what Jesus plans on doing. In v. 23, he says, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Finally! At last, Jesus is about to reveal the fullness of his glory and the extent of his reign! Beginning with the crowds, and now extending to the Greeks, Jesus is beginning his triumphant claim to the throne of Israel as the King of the Daughter of Zion. But then Jesus says something incredibly strange, given the circumstances: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). Jesus is on the verge of glory, and yet he speaks of dying? How would dying bear more fruit than ascending to the throne now? Jesus, at this very moment, is redefining glory. Yes, the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified; however, the glory of the Son of Man will look nothing like what everyone is imagining it to be. The glory of the Son of Man will not look like a ticker-tape parade, nor a coronation, nor even any kind of exaltationat least not yet. The glory of the Son of Man will look like suffering, torture, and death. It will look like the wrath of God for human sin poured out on the innocent Son of Man. And yet, there is glory here. The grain of wheat does not fall into the earth and die to no availthe grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies so that it might bear much fruit. Jesus' humiliation is his exaltation. His weakness is his strength. His defeat is his triumph.

Recall Paul's words to the Philippians: Therefore [i.e., on account of his humbling himself to the point of death on a cross] God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name... (Phil. 2:9). Or, remember the words of the author of Hebrews: Jesus...for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Or even, meditate on the conquering power of Christ spoken of in the Revelation:

And one of the elders said to me, Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (Rev. 5:5-6) The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered because he was the Lamb who was slain! Shockingly, the glory and exaltation of Jesus is the cross, where he was lifted up that he might draw all men to himself. Paul writes the decisive word on this principle in 2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. The power of Jesus is made perfect in his weakness, and his glory is made perfect in his humiliation. The King must die in order to claim his everlasting throne. 12:25-26 The Servants of the King Must Die Too: Not only must Jesus die; the twist of this passage comes as Jesus transfers the logic behind his own glory (via suffering) to his servants:

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. First, Jesus explicitly describes the paradox of life via death, of glory via suffering (the tension in the text!), by insisting that anyone who loves his life will lose it, but that anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. There are but two options: (1) seek to preserve your life and lose it; or (2) hate your life (enough to lose it) in this world, and keep it for eternal life. Jesus is not, however, encouraging some kind of suicidal pietywhen he says that he wants us to hate our lives in this world, he quickly clarifies his meaning: If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Hating your life means losing it for the sake of serving and following Christ. In turn, serving and following Christ leads to honor from the Father. The point is not merely to hate and lose your life, just as it was not the point to kill the grain of wheat. The death happens for a purposein the case of Christ's death, for the sake of bearing much fruit; in our case, for the sake of keeping our life for eternity with honor from the Father himself. But don't miss the connection between v. 25-26 and Jesus' own conception of his kingshipwe are called to reign with Christ, and Palm Sunday is an illustration of how we will join in his reign. If we follow Jesus into his suffering, then we will follow him into his glory.

Paul tells us this in 2 Timothy 2:11-13:


The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful

for he cannot deny himself. To die with Christ is to live with him, and to endure with Christ is to reign with him. Palm Sunday is about Jesusour King is coming! But Palm Sunday also plots a map for us. The tension in our own lives is that we must die with Christ to live with him, and we must endure Christ's sufferings if we are to reign with him. The world offers us myriad routes to glory, but Christ offers only onehis own route, the way of the cross.