The week leading up to Easter Sunday is called Holy Week. Turn with me to the Gospel of John, John chapter 12. Our text today will look back upon the events of the Sunday before Easter called Palm Sunday, others known as Jesus’s Triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
John chapter 12, beginning in verse 12. As it is written.
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”
16 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. 17 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.
18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 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.
The title of this blog is Paradox.
A paradox can be defined as something that appears to be opposing or contradictory. One example of a paradox is when a statement seems to go against logic but nonetheless may still be true. Another example of a paradox is when a false statement first appears to be true.
I would like to illustrate what a paradox is with a couple examples that can be found in popular cultural.
In William Shakespeare’s play titled Hamlet, “I must be cruel to be kind.” In George Orwell’s book titled Animal Farm, “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” Lastly, in the movie Scarface, Tony says, “Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”
The reason why I am bringing up the idea of paradoxes is because there is a verse in our text that we just heard that is a paradox.
Verse 25. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
At first glance, this verse appears to a contradiction of logic or reasoning, which is why I am suggesting it is a paradox.
Why would it be for the person who loves life to also be the one who loses it?
Why would it be for the person who hates life in this world be the one who keeps it for eternity?
The contradiction of logic is that the opposite should be true. It should be the person who loves life will be the one who also keeps it, and it should be the person who hates life will also be the one who loses it but that is not what Jesus says. Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
The next thing I want to say regarding this verse is that Jesus demonstrates the true meaning of this verse by the way he lives his life. If you were to look forward a few days from Jesus’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and gaze upon the cross, then you will discover the meaning of this verse in action.
If Jesus loved his life in this world, then he would not have willingly gone to the cross to die. Think about it. If Jesus loved his life in this world, then he would not have sacrificed his life as the Lamb of God for the sin of the world.
So, if you are struggling with understanding this paradox, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” then look to Jesus. Look at what Jesus said. Look at what Jesus did. I will ask to you to trust what Jesus said and trust what Jesus did.
Faith is that simple, believing in your heart that Jesus is true.
Not only did Jesus speak nothing but the truth, but he also lived nothing but the truth. Look to the cross and you will discover what it means to hate life in this world so that you keep it for eternal life.
The next thing that I want to say about our text today is that there is a lot going on here. Not only with how Jesus has entered Jerusalem but its connection with Old Testament prophecy. Each verse carries significance. Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is part of a much larger story that first began in the Old Testament.
We get a glimpse of this with our opening verse, verse 12, which begins with “The next day.” The next day is significant because it connects Jesus as the Passover Lamb of God first mentioned in Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt.
The Israelites were instructed to bring into their home a spotless, male lamb (Exodus 12). They were instructed to keep it and care for it for four days. Then after four days, they were instructed to slaughter the lamb and smear its blood on the door posts of their homes.
When God passed over Egypt, the homes that had the lamb’s blood were spared from the wrath of God. That is why it’s called the Passover. God passed over the homes where the lamb’s blood covered the door posts. It didn’t matter who was in the home or what sin they committed. The blood of the lamb is what mattered. It was the blood that protected them from the wrath of God.
Take a guess what day Jesus made his way into Jerusalem. That's right, Jesus entered four days before the Passover. That’s why verse 12 is significant, the next day marks four days before the Passover. Jesus is the Passover lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Another example of the richness of this story is found in verse 16.
16 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.
This is an interesting verse because it reveals there were two different perspectives of Palm Sunday. One of which occurred in real time, when Jesus was first welcomed and cheered on by the crowds with palm branches waving in the wind.
But after the cross, after the cross, the disciples looked back at Palm Sunday and remembered what happened. When the disciples looked back, they remembered that Jesus’s actions were first written down in the Old Testament.
Now, these things were written about him is an important phrase as it confirms again that Jesus’s life is part of a much bigger story. This phrase connects the Old Testament with the New Testament. One way I find to be helpful in this connection is to consider Jesus’s role in prophecy.
The Old Testament prophecies the Messiah will come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecy when he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
The next thing that I want to point out in this verse has to do with glory. Remember how the disciples thought one thing about these events before the cross and then gained a deeper understanding of these events after the cross.
Before the cross, Jesus was being glorified by the crowds at his entrance. On Easter Sunday, after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, the disciples knew it was the cross that brought the true glory. True glory comes from God.
As the crowds were cheering on Palm Sunday, no one expected Jesus was being led to the slaughter, but Jesus knew. That is why it is written of Jesus; “Who 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” (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus knew what was at stake and went willingly, joyfully to the cross to die.
Jesus begins to elaborate about these things in verse 23. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
The first thing that I want to say about this verse is that it reveals Jesus has been working on a divine schedule. The hour has come is another important phrase in our text. Not yesterday or tomorrow but now, the hour has come.
There have numerous events throughout Jesus’s life that look like his hour had come. It could have been miracles or the threat of death, but he continued to remind his disciples that he is in control of the timeline.
Turn back with me for a moment to John chapter 8, verse 20.
20These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
No one arrested Jesus that day because his hour had not yet come. It wasn’t that the authorities were being kind or gracious, but that Jesus was in control of the divine timeline. We all understand what timelines mean and how often plans change from the original plan.
As much as we wants and tries to stay true to timelines, we all know plans change. But that isn’t the case with Jesus and on Palm Sunday. Everything is about to change, because the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus is in control of the divine timeline.
Beginning in verse 24, Jesus expounds upon what glory from God looks like.
24 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.
This verse begins with Jesus saying “Truly, truly.” Truly, truly is an expression that Jesus commonly uses when he is teaching. The word is taken from the Greek word amen. The word amen carries with it different implications depending upon how it is used. Most of us know that prayers are often concluded with this word, amen. Used in this way, the word literally means “so be it,” as an expression of affirmation to our prayers.
The word amen can also be used in conjunction with an agreement. Someone might say something that we agree with and in response, we could say amen to demonstrate agreement with that statement.
But that is now how Jesus is using the word. When Jesus says, “truly, truly,” he is making an incredibly bold statement because it connects with Jesus’s power. Jesus is saying, what I am about to tell you is true, so pay attention because I am the one who originated this truth.
Let me show you what I mean in Verse 24. 24 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.
Before we connect this verse to Jesus foreshadowing his own death upon the cross, he is making a simple agriculture illustration. Crops bear fruit because seeds first fall into the ground and die. Simple enough. Now think about this from the perspective of God, the creator of all things.
God designed the way in which agriculture works. God designed fruit. God designed seeds. God designed how and when fruit would grow. Because Jesus is God with us, we know that when he says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” Jesus is boldly saying I made it this way and that’s why it’s true.
God’s divine design. The only way for there to be fruit is if something happens to the seeds. Seeds must die before fruit can grow.
That is the point Jesus is making. The seed must die before there can be fruit.
Verse 24. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Hopefully, this paradox comes with a deeper understanding with what we just heard in verse 23.
The fruit can be compared to eternal life. For there to be eternal life, something must happen first, something must die. The seed can be compared to our lives. If you hate life, it is because you see the value of bearing fruit, eternal fruit. The seed must die in order to bear fruit.
If you don’t see the value in bearing eternal fruit, then you will keep your life, holding onto the seeds, keeping them away from the soil. That’s the point Jesus is making. “Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” because they will recognize the value of eternity and necessity of death.
Considering eternity, our lives here on earth are supposed to be given freely to God. However, if we hold onto our own riches, our own stuff too much. If we hold onto the pride of life, then we won’t present to God our lives as sacrifices.
Eternal fruit is infinitely more valuable than the riches of this world. Jesus says elsewhere in the sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 6. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-20).
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Let's return to John 12.
Verse 26, 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.
In all honesty, this verse strikes like lightning. Not as much before the cross, but after. After the cross the implications of this verse are staggering. As Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me,” he knows his road leads to the cross.
Before the cross, the crowds are cheering Jesus’s name and waving palm branches in the air.
Jesus says, “follow me.” This may sound appealing before the cross, especially in lieu of the crowds. Jesus says, “follow me.” How does this sound after the cross? Do you still believe Jesus is true in what he says and does?
I am going to the cross, follow me. I am going to die, follow me. Jesus says, follow me and where I am, there will my servant be also. That is why this verse strikes like lightning.
Christian’s follow Jesus. It’s that simple. But to do that, we must die to ourselves. We must die to ourselves to live with Christ. We must die to self to be reborn in Christ. Faith is essential for understanding what it means to follow Jesus.
Trusting what Jesus said and trusting what Jesus did, we can follow him to the cross knowing that life does not end at the cross. The cross was only the beginning.
Jesus did not stay dead. Jesus's resurrection changed everything. Life no longer stops at death. Jesus's death is the beginning of new life. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 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.
Let’s hear what else Jesus has to say about the hour which has come. Picking up in verse 27. As it is written,
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Everything is about to change now that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. We get a glimpse of this is in verse 31.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
We can define this world as those who are in opposition to Jesus. This world has a leader who is opposed to God, his name is Satan. At the cross, Jesus defeated the world. At the cross, Jesus defeated the culture who are in opposition to God, and he cast Satan out.
At the cross, Jesus obtained victory over this world and Satan. At the time when Jesus was lifted up from the earth, hanging upon the cross, the world and all its opposition to Jesus looked like it had won.
But death was swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is another reason why Jesus tells his followers to follow him, to obtain victory over this world and over Satan. At the cross is where people will obtain victory over this world and Satan. The cross changes everything.
Remember what Jesus said, “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.”
We must see Jesus’s willingness to go to the cross as our example and motivation. At the cross of Christ, those who follow Jesus will obtain victory over this world and Satan.
Verse 36. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.
Jesus knew that his earthly ministry was coming to an end. After the resurrection, Jesus would soon ascend into heaven where he is now, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high.
We must see these moments as opportunities to believe in Jesus, because this time won’t last forever. We must answer His call while it rings to us. Today “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:15
“In a favorable time, I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2
If you believe in the name of Jesus, then you will become children of light. If you are children of light, then you will follow Jesus and where Jesus is, there will his servant be also. If anyone serves Jesus, the Father will honor him.
On this Palm Sunday, we look back and remember Jesus’s fulfillment of prophecy as he entered Jerusalem as the Passover lamb of God. On this Palm Sunday, we look to the cross at the example Jesus set before us, who is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.