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  • « Jesus Christ: The Interpretive Key to the Scripture | Main | Images of the Savior (14 – His Cleansing of a Leper) »

    Passion Week Meditations: "Hosannas and High Expectations"- John 12

    "Hosannas and High Expectations"- Rev. Charles R. Biggs

    This Palm Sunday, let your cry of "Hosanna!" become your joyful shout of "Maranatha!"


    Expectations. How many times have your high expectations of others gotten you into big trouble and disappointment?! You had high expectations of another, yet when that person did not live up to your expectations you grumbled, felt anger, were discouraged, and decided that you would think twice about expecting anything from someone again. We all become disillusioned (and oftentimes demanding!) when we have expectations of others and they do not come through.

    This is even true of our expectations of God. Sometimes, in God's mysterious providence, he does what he knows to be best for us, yet we do not understand (Romans 8:28). We have expectations that we think God should live up to, but we have yet to begin to understand that God's ways are so much higher than our ways!

    God works all things out for our good, for our best, yet we fail to trust his thoughts and ways and remember that even our highest expectations that we have of God, if different from his will, are never high enough!

    Isaiah 55:8-9: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Remember, as the Apostle Paul teaches, that

    "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love him."

    We should be cautious of placing high expectations on others, but when it comes to God, I think we need to be reminded that our so-called "high expectations" are never high enough!

    Today, we shall look at the high expectations of the crowd when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem in John 12:12-23, and how these high expectations were simply not high enough.

    John 12:12-23: 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.

    Back from the Dead

    Jesus had healed Lazarus. Jesus had truly given back life to a man who had been defeated by death (John 11:17ff). He had called him forth with the power of a divine command, "Lazarus, Come forth!" - - and Lazarus came forth alive. Many in the crowd placed their hopes in this life-giver. In fact, because of what Jesus had done in the resurrection of Lazarus, man of the Jews were believing in Jesus (John 12:11).

    The crowds had high expectations for what this Jesus could do for the people! The crowd who had witnessed and heard about Lazarus thought that this must be Messiah. This Jesus must be the one we have been awaiting, the One to deliver us from Roman rule and oppression! The crowd had very high expectations of Jesus. The crowds were right that Jesus was a Messiah-King, but his Messiah-Kingship was not of this world- - and this they did not fully understand.

    "Hosanna!"- Blessed is He Who Comes In the Name of the LORD!

    When the crowd heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they went to meet him, proclaiming "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" (12:18). The term, or cry of praise known as "Hosanna!" means: "Save us O LORD!"

    This was a prayer of the Old Covenant people of God as they awaited God to provide their ultimate salvation and redemption in the Messiah-King. We hear this prayer in one of the Psalms known as the "Hallel", or "Praise Psalms" sung at the Feast of Tabernacles and at Passover (these include Psalms 113-118):

    Psalm 118:25-26: " Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

    The crowds apparently thought that if Jesus could raise the dead, heal the sick and give sight to the blind, he must be the long expected Messiah who could deliver the people from Roman rule and oppression. And what a wonderful time to do it! It was Passover, and many people had come from miles around for the yearly sacrifice offering for the sins of the people! The crowds would make Jesus king and he would rescue Israel and rule over all of the nations.

    Because of the people’s high expectations of Jesus, they paved his way with palm branches, singing Psalm 118 to him as he rode on the humble colt of a donkey.

    Despite the crowd's high expectations however, Jesus was riding the colt of a donkey into Jerusalem so that he might lay down his life for his people, and die as the final Passover sacrifice that year. Even though Jesus had given life to Lazarus, he was now going to offer up himself, to be raised up in a death on a cross. Jesus had come to lay down his life for the sins of his people and to offer peace and reconciliation with His Father.

    Jesus' Bloody Coronation

    Jesus loved his people so much that he was willing to die for sins in Jerusalem, to ride a humble donkey into Zion, so that he might overthrow the great spiritual powers of this world in his being lifted up. Jesus had come to deliver men from bondage to sin rather than those in bondage to Rome.

    Jesus' ride up to Jerusalem was not his coronation as an earthly king. He was never crowned king in Jerusalem.

    Rather, Jesus' bloody coronation, crowned with a crown of thorns would occur when he was lifted up on the cross to die for sinners and be proclaimed the Heavenly King Who rules over all creation!

    Although Jesus was going to his death, he described what he was about to do in his laying down his life as the "hour for the Son of Man to be glorified" (12:23). God-fearing Greeks (in contrast to the Pharisees who were plotting to take his life, 11:45-57) had come to Jesus, revealing to all that the time had now come for all of the world to be drawn to the Son of Man by faith. Jesus comes in the Name of the LORD to bless all of the nations and offer peace and reconciliation with God His Father.

    When the people in the crowd sang "Hosanna!" to the Lord as he rode, and declared him their King, they did not know fully at that time that they were celebrating the True King who was going to be lifted up and crucified in order that he might be glorified in his resurrection and ascension. Jesus would take the throne and receive the glory that belonged to him since the foundation of the world (John 17:3), and he would draw both Jews and Gentiles unto himself!

    All these things the Apostles did not fully understand at the time (John 12:16), but they remembered later when the Holy Spirit came to them after Jesus had been glorified. So many things in Jesus' ministry were better understood, as Jesus said that they would be in John 16:12:

    "Many things I have yet to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."

    "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion!"

    One of the things that is better understood by us today is that the expectations of the crowd were not too high, but too low. This was indeed the Messiah, the King who would reign over heaven and earth and draw all nations to himself. As the Prophet Zechariah had prophesied about Jesus the Messiah:

    Zechariah 9:9-10: 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. 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.” As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

    The crowd thought he was a mere political messiah who would deliver the people from mere earthly threats, but Jesus exceeded all expectations!

    Notice three important truths about this passage from Zechariah: 1) Jesus is King and comes on a gentle colt of a donkey. 2) Jesus will proclaim peace to the nations. 3) Jesus' blood will be the seal of God's covenant with his people. The crowd's expectations were simply not high enough!

    The context of this passage in John 12 helps us to see Jesus as the One who acts out, or fulfills the prophecy from Zechariah.

    1) Jesus comes into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, righteous and having salvation for all those who believe:

    "Look, the whole world has gone after him" (John 12:19)

    2) Jesus proclaims peace to the "Daughter of Zion", but also to the nations, particularly the Greeks in this passage:

    "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." (John 12:21)

    3) Jesus' blood will be the seal of God's covenant with his people, the payment and propitiation for the sins of covenant-breakers who believe:

    "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

    He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (John 12:33)

    Jesus came gently and humbly and with peace to destroy the power of death, hell, and the devil so that those who believe upon the Son of Man may be saved, reconciled to God, become part of a New Creation, and one day inherit the earth, reigning with Jesus the Almighty King! Jesus comes on a donkey so that those who are in rebellion against God Almighty might lay down their weapons and surrender to His terms of peace!

    Yet, those who came just to see Jesus perform another miracle, or do another sign, those who had high expectations for him to be a mere political Messiah, did not accept Jesus' terms of peace (John 12:9, 18)!

    From "Hosanna!" to "Crucify Him!"

    In fact, many of those in the crowd who yelled "Hosanna!" that day as Jesus rode into Jerusalem would later become disillusioned and demand he be put to death. These people would yell "Crucify Him!" in just a matter of days, because Jesus did not live up to their mere earthly expectations and hopes.

    The crowd's expectations of Jesus were not high enough and so because God did not live up to their expectations- - their own will- -they crowned Jesus with thorns, actually fulfilling the purposes of God above and beyond what they could have ever imagined!

    Through Jesus' death, he was highly exalted above all rule, power and dominion, and every name that can be named not only in this present age, but also in the age to come. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians:

    Ephesians 1:19-23: [That you may know] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

    We can truly say as Christians: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!" because of what Jesus has done for those he loves through his death! With extremely high expectations we can live by His Spirit knowing that He will indeed return for us, but the next time on a great white charger (Rev. 19:11-16) and he will judge the world for sin! Right now he offers peace for both Jews and Gentiles, but on that Day, he will judge all of the world!

    Revelation 19:11-21: Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

    A Time for Peace...A Time for War

    This is the time of peace as Jesus offers himself as the One meek and lowly (Matt. 11:28-30). When he returns it will be too late. Repent now and avoid the terrible wrath of God Almighty that will be upon all of those who rebel against this great and mighty King Jesus!

    We live in a time the Apostle Paul refers to as the "Day of Salvation" (2 Cor. 6:1-2), a time of patience that should be characterized by our repentance (2 Peter 3:9ff). This is the time of Jesus' proclamation of peace on a donkey's colt, but when he returns it will be a time of Jesus' proclamation of wrath and judgment on a great white war horse! As the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us all:

    "[There is ] a time to love, and a time to hate;

    a time for war, and a time for peace."

    In the passage from Revelation above, notice the similarities to the Zechariah 9 passage- - and the dissimilarities that mean an end to God's patience! 1) Jesus rides on a white war horse rather than a donkey's colt. 2) Jesus in righteousness does not offer salvation, but judges and makes war and treads the winepress of the Almighty God's fury and wrath (Rev. 19:11, 16). 3) Jesus' robe is dipped in covenantal blood (Rev. 19:13) that was shed for the purification of his people and to covenantal cleanse them from their sins (Rev. 19:14).

    Notice the additional revelation that Revelation gives to us as well concerning our Majestic and Awesome Returning King. He comes this second time as the full revelation of the Incarnate Word of God- - the glorified God-Man Who is the Great King! So we say:

    "Hosanna! Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the LORD Who is Faithful and True!" "Hosanna! Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the LORD Who is the Word of God!" "Hosanna! Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the LORD Who is the King of kings and Lord of lords!"

    Christ's name is "Faithful and True", He is the Word of God, and He is the King of kings and Lord of lords- - and he will deliver his saints completely from sin, death, the devil, and the miseries of this present age.

    From "Hosanna!" to "Maranatha!"

    When he returns we shall not escort him into Jerusalem laying down palm branches and shouting "Hosanna!", but he will call us up to be with with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God(1 Thess. 4:16, 17), and he will escort us into the New Jerusalem saying "Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master!"

    God's ways are truly higher than our ways. We should never be demanding of our Gracious God, but should always allow Him to fulfill our expectations in a way that will glorify Him and be for our good!

    So, are your expectations too high? Or perhaps, they are too low! With God all things are possible! Do you believe?

    This Palm Sunday make sure you know King Jesus, the Prince of Peace. On this Palm Sunday believe that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to King Jesus and therefore submit to his rule and repent of your rebellion laying down your pride and whatever else is keeping you from bowing to him in humility! Do this now before it is too late!

    And Christians remember: Palm Sunday has taken on new significance now that our Heavenly King and Prince of Peace has sat down at God's right hand! We no longer say: "Hosanna! Blessed is the King Who Comes in the Name of the LORD"- -for He has come and sat down at God’s right hand, on the throne of his father David. Rather, we now say: "Maranatha"- - "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”

    This Palm Sunday, let your cry of "Hosanna!" become your joyful shout of "Maranatha!"


    Soli Deo Gloria!
    Pastor Charles R. Biggs


    For Further Reading

    D. A. Carson, 'Gospel According to John'

    H. Ridderbos, 'The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary'

    L. Morris, 'The Gospel According to John' (NICNT)

    J. Calvin, 'Commentary on the Gospel of John'

    R. Brown, 'Commentary on the Gospel of St. John'

    J. Dennison, Articles on John's Gospel at

    J. Boice, 'Commentary on John's Gospel'

    Ryken, Longman III, et al, 'Dictionary of Biblical Imagery'

    Posted by Charles Biggs on March 28, 2007 10:38 AM

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