The city of Jerusalem was buzzing with pilgrims who had come to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. Friends were being reacquainted with those they only saw yearly. Amid the normal conversations there was a new topic to discuss.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
Many had listened to the teachings of Jesus, many had been stumped by the tough questions He asked, and many more were amazed by all the miracles that He had done. Numerous opinions would have been circling about Jesus. Was He a magician able to do incredible acts that no one else could do? Was He a just a shock-seeking teacher? Was He trying to create a new religious system by systematically tearing down their old way of worship? Was He a political figure gathering a crowd? Was He a crazy man who really believed that He was the Son of God? Or was He exactly who He claimed to be?
A new development added to the excitement! In John 11 we are told that a friend of Jesus, Lazarus, had died. Jesus had been out of town and after waiting 3 days, Jesus came to visit His friends and their family. There had been a crowd gathered there to mourn and comfort those who were mourning.
Jesus decided to use the death of Lazarus to show He had power even over death! John 11:14-15 says, “So, Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’”
As Jesus arrived at Bethany He was confronted on His timing by Lazarus’s sister, Martha: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Jesus simply replied to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23).
At this point, it is obvious that Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, believed that Jesus was more amazing than anyone else they had ever known. They were people of deep faith who truly believed that there was an eternal life. This is evidenced by Martha’s reply in John 11:24, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
However, Jesus wanted them to understand that He was more than just an amazing teacher, a great friend, and miracle maker. Jesus wanted them to understand that He was the Hope they had been looking for. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; He who believes in Me will live even if He dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus then moved to the tomb and the crowd followed. Everyone gathered there assuming that Jesus had come to mourn over the loss of His friend. The crowd began to recognize as Jesus was weeping that He truly loved Lazarus.
And in that moment, Jesus put into play the greatest revelation of His power. “Move the stone from the entry of the tomb,” He commanded. Martha recognizing that Jesus was crying tried to warn Him against moving the stone, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39)
Jesus, in His prayer, demonstrated the importance of what was about to happen. Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead and many would finally understand that He is the Son of God! John 11:41-42 says, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”
As Jesus called out to Lazarus the crowd leaned in to see. Finally, the test of His power that would make it obvious, either He just said a whole lot of crazy words, or He really is the Son of God!
AND LAZARUS WALKED OUT OF THE TOMB!
“Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done believed in Him!!!” (John 11:45)
At this point there were 3 different groups that seemed to divide based on their opinion of Jesus. There was a growing number of believers that were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God. There was stronger following of those who were convinced, like the Pharisees, that He must be put to death. And there was another group that was still very confused over who Jesus might be.
And with these groups there were many different hopes for what Jesus could do. Some hoped that Jesus would finally bring peace to their nation. Others hoped for freedom from captivity. Others were looking for rising leader to rally the nation to defeat their enemies. And the Pharisees hoped He would just die so they could avoid the punishment of a man gathering this kind of attention.
The news had spread quickly to those who were in Jerusalem of the raising of Lazarus in Bethany (2 miles away). Many were amazed that Lazarus was alive, and they were more amazed that he was alive at the command of Jesus!
This was going to be a day like none other. Jesus and His disciples began their journey to Jerusalem and soon the news spread quickly that Jesus was on the move.
Those who had journeyed to Bethany to see Lazarus began following them. Soon those who were in Jerusalem began to run out to meet them. Come and see the man who raised a man from the dead!
As the crowd began to swell (some scholars believe this could have exceeded 1 million people) the hope of the people began to spill out in their chants! Some ran to the nearest trees (Date Palm Trees) and cut some of the branches off so that they could wave them in honor of the guest.
At some point the disciples gathered a donkey for Jesus to ride on.
And the crowd began singing chants of hope!
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Quite literally their chants were crying out for help! Help, I pray! Help, I pray! Help, I pray!
Amid their cry for help they reveal their hope for Jesus. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! There is only one who can meet that description – it must be the long-awaited Messiah!
And their hopes are revealed as they name Him the King of Israel.
Can you imagine the passion in those chants as the crowds cry out to Him? “Save us, Messiah, our King of Israel!”
Please consider with me, what are your hopes for who Jesus is? Is Jesus your hope for earthly success? Is Jesus your hope for political freedom? Is Jesus your hope for material peace? Is Jesus your hope for life that never ends? Is Jesus your hope for restoration to God?
“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” – Colossians 3:1-4
While those who were waving palm branches and chanting to the Messiah were still not clear on who Jesus was, we have the privilege of knowing the rest of the story. We know now that Christ not only demonstrated power over death for Lazarus, but He became the power over death for us as well. We have been raised up with Christ to live for an entirely different purpose than what we used to follow.
Friends, resist the urge to be distracted the wrong hopes for what Christ will do for you. Live for the one who died for you. Turn your attention not to the things here on earth but live on earth with a focus on the things of heaven.
May our daily cry be, “Help us, Messiah, King of My Heart!”