So last year I had a heart wrenching experience. An old friend of mine was dealt a tragic blow. This friend had been a family friend even before I was born. I had heard of the many great things my dad experienced with our family friend. But as I grew up, our friend really didn’t do much. I saw them every year, but every year, they seemed to be getting worse and worse. But something amazing happened, in the last couple of years our friend seemed to be getting better. Almost like they were in their hay-day. They seemed strong as ever, but then last year hit.
My dad and I both felt it. Our dear friend, was so close to coming back strong, but within seven days they fell apart. At the critical moment, when there seemed to be a glimmer of hope, they fell, and for the last five months I have been waiting to see them again. I am of course talking about the Los Angles Dodgers, who, in October 2017 lost in game seven of the world series.
And at that moment, I felt what it was like to be a fan from Chicago. I don’t know if you are a sports fan, I know that there are a lot of intense people that love sports. I’m one that likes sports. I like keeping up on it, in an overall manner. I like following my team during baseball. I like going and seeing my team play when I have the opportunity. But I have never been one of those guys that knows ever stat. I’ve never been one of those guys that follows every team. I like to see what’s going on, but that’s about it. But being a baseball fan, I do something that is completely unbiblical. I have rituals. And here is my biggest one. If I miss a game, and my team starts winning, I can’t watch them, until they lose. When they lose and can start watching them again, and if they win, I keep watching them until they lose.
It’s kind of strange, but they did make it to the world series last year, so there’s that. But I bring this up, because even though in reality it doesn’t matter if I watch the Dodgers or not, they are going to perform the way they will with me or without me. But when they win, I win. When they lose, I lose. And when they lose in game seven of the world series, I mourn with the other fans that just watch their season end in heartbreak.
If you’re a sports fan of any kind, you know the exhilaration of victory, and the sorrow of defeat. In those moments of victory or defeat, we connect ourselves to the players and teams, and as I have thought about Palm Sunday, I have asked myself this question, do we do the same with Jesus?
Do we recognize the victory that he has accomplished, and do we connect ourselves with it in our daily lives? We might sing songs like Victory in Jesus, where it says, “Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever! He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.”
But does it effect our lives moment by moment? Today I want us to take a look at, what is called Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and I want us to see how Jesus’ viewed this as more than just his victory march. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be going into the book of John, chapter 12, starting in verse 12. And as we go into the 12th chapter of John, verse 12, I want to set up what is happening.
Jesus had been preaching and teaching for about three years. Now in the book of John that we’re looking at today, there are twenty-one chapters. The first eleven talk about the first one-hundred and fifty five weeks of these three years. Whereas nine of the last ten chapters focus’ on one week. And this is where we begin to read in John chapter 12, verse 12.
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 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!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
16 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 these things had been done to him.
This is a moment of great triumph, the Savior of the world is fulling prophecies about him that were written down hundreds of years beforehand. To the people that surrounded Jesus, everything was going to get good now. The oppression of the Roman government was going to be gone, because Jesus was going to usher in a great new kingdom where God would live with his people Israel, and the nations would tremble before them.
The people were exhilarated at the prospect of going to the world series, their team was going to win. But within less than a week, Jesus would be crucified. Killed at the hands of the people he was supposed to overthrow. The bitter taste of defeat was in everyone’s mouths. What was once an assured victory, was gone in the final game. And all of the fans of Jesus fell away at his defeat.
And here’s the thing, in our lives we know how this roller coster of victory and defeat feels like. At one moment you can be on top of the world, with everything going your way, and then circumstances out of our control hit like a tsunami, and the high life of victory comes crashing down in defeat. Financial markets can be up at one moment, and then down the next. You can be driving along having a wonderful car ride, then all of a sudden someone runs a red light and tragedy hits. Victory and defeat, up and down, we all know those feelings. And that is what happens in these last pages of John’s book. Starting on the Sunday of John’s twelfth chapter to the Thursday of John’s seventeenth chapter, the people were riding the victory train, and then Jesus is taken, crucified, and buried. And with his burial, all that victory they had felt when Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding a donkey and fulfilling the prophecies, were shattered.
And I think I know why. Let’s take a look a few verses down from where we left off. In verse 28 a voice from heaven speaks, and in verse 30 Jesus says this, “30 ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”
Two things happen in these verses: 1) A voice from heaven confirms that Jesus is long awaited Savior of the world. This encourages the people by emphasizing Jesus’ victory. 2) The second part is Jesus’ words, and John’s commentary on them. In verse 33, John says, “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”
Jesus is letting people know that his death, is going to happen. But it’s in the death, and eventual resurrection, where the victory is truly fulfilled. See the people are only looking at the triumphal entry. They’re looking at the future with Jesus destroying the Romans, but what Jesus is trying to get across is victory through a different means.
This is why the people reply to Jesus’ words in verses 30-32, with this, “34 The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man”?’”
We see the two views of victory in this instance. On one hand, the people view victory only when Jesus overthrows the Roman government. And on the other hand, Jesus views victory when he is crucified and resurrected.
And when Jesus is killed a few days later, the people lose their victory, because their trust was in the wrong triumph.
And this is were we have the tendency to do the same thing. A lot of the time, when we want a victory, our trust is in the wrong kind of triumph. We want triumph in our retirement. We want triumph in our schools. We want triumph in our families. We want triumph in our nation. We want to overcome the bad things that can steal our victory, and we’re willing to try anything to accomplish it.
But Jesus’ response to the people is interesting. In verse 35 Jesus says, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
Later on in verse 46 Jesus says, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
Jesus is saying the victory is not found in what you perceive it to be, but rather what God sees it as. Hear that again: victory is not found in what we perceive it to be, but rather what God sees it as.
The people perceived their victory was in Jesus the conquering king, but God saw their victory in Jesus’ death and resurrection. And this is the key difference between how victory is brought into our lives. If we look for God to come rushing into our lives fixing all of our ills, then we will be devastated when it falls short.
But if we trust God to work out the victory by his own way, by his own plan, then we will experience the victory in our lives, the way that God intends it.
The two views of victory here, are the same two victories that happen today. The people’s view is the same type of view where we have the idea that if I just say something over and over then God will do it. If I say money be in my pocket enough times, then God will put it there. If I just say this marriage will be restored enough times it will be. What we’re really doing is seeking to make God bring victory into a situation by telling him what needs to happen.
As if God is not paying attention, or doesn’t wants to heal situations. But instead of trying to force God into our perception of victory, we need to come before God humbly. We need to come to God and recognize he is good, and he wants good in our lives. So we need to seek his victory in our situation. We need to go to him asking him to take care of our needs, to restore our relationships, to right the wrongs.
When we do this, we are putting ourselves in a position to experience victory as God intends it. And that might mean some hard times. God’s victory over sin, was won by the blood of Jesus. The broken, crucified body of the Savior.
Victory God’s way usually means a harder road is ahead. But, the victory is true and lasting.
Now when you walked in today, there were palm leafs making a path into the building. They represent the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. How many of you walked around them? That is probably was the safer choice, we don’t want anyone tripping so we have to call the ambulance. But those palm leafs represent a choice that we each of have to made on a daily basis. Do we put our trust in the victory as God sees it, or do we try to find a different way to achieve the victory?
Do we walk on the victory path that Jesus walked, or do we walk our own path. If we chose to try and achieve victory through our own means, the victory will never satisfy. But if we chose to walk the victory path of God, though it will be difficult at the time, the taste of victory will be all the sweeter.
Here is the challenge for this coming week, I want you to make a list of three areas in your life that you want God to bring you victory in your life. Is that family, friends, finances, school, job, vehicle, dealing with the loss of a loved one. Whatever area you’re trying to achieve a victory in right now, I want you to list it. And for the next week, I want you to go to God every time that need arises, where you want to make the victory happen in your own power, and turn it over to God. Ask God to bring the victory in his way, even if that way means some heartache.
We need to realize, God is the God of victory, he overcame our sin on the cross, and if he can do that, then there is nothing that our God can’t do.
Now may God bring you into victory through his way, so that the victory may be lasting, and glorifying to him. Amen.