Sunday Morning | August 6, 2023 | John C. Majors | Louisville, KY
On August 6, the sermon titled "Baby Donkey King," based on John 12:9-19, emphasized four essential ways to follow the King, drawing insights from the biblical account of Jesus's entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. First, it encouraged seeking the presence of the King, exemplifying the importance of developing a personal and intimate connection with Him. Second, it stressed the significance of worshiping the King publicly, echoing the jubilant praises offered by the crowd in Psalm 118. The sermon then urged listeners to pay close attention to the actions of the King, reminding them that genuine discipleship involves observing His teachings and deeds. Lastly, the message highlighted the need to continually talk about the King, sharing His transformative influence with others. The sermon concluded with three practical applications: a call to remember and be grateful for the grace of the King in one's life, a caution against a fickle heart that wavers in devotion, and an invitation to worship the King for who He truly is. Through these four ways and three applications, the congregation was encouraged to deepen their connection with the King and embody the essence of true discipleship.
At Valley View Church we are currently studying through the entire gospel of John, verse by verse. You can join us on Sunday mornings at 11 AM for worship. We are located at 8911 3rd Street Road, Louisville KY 40272.
Well, good morning, Valley View. It's great to be with you today. It's great to be here preaching. I haven't preached in a few weeks, but we're going to be back in the book of John today. We've taken a little break from the book of John. Thanks to Andrew and Colby and Jeff, who all did a great job walking us through that theme of Free and Fearless. That's been our theme for the church this year. I'm so grateful for them to unpack that. And part of the reason we did that, that also gave me some space to think out ahead a little bit for the church to not just be in reactionary mode, you tend to get into that with the busyness of life. But I was able to plan out all my sermons between now and Easter, along with a couple of other mini series. We'll get through the Book of John by then, but right around that time I was also able to think about what are the next couple of books of the Bible I want to teach through? Go ahead and plan out some of that. I was able to think about Wednesday nights. You know, when we get Wednesday night suppers going again, which hopefully won't be too long, y'all aren't as eager to clap. Now you notice that I'm noticing who claps when I say that. But also we're going to do an open Bible study kind of church service type thing. And so what kind of content do I want to prepare for that is able to think out ahead on some of that. I was able to think some plan, some with our team when we relaunched the fellowship. Paul We're going to throw a big party, an 85th anniversary party and feature that room and show it off and just enjoy worshiping together on that day. So we were planning some for that, engaged some with a men's ministry, invested some there, started to think more long term with them, met with the staff to sit, kind of take some time and set some annual goals as a staff together. Think out of it as a as a team, spend some time reading, read about 11 books over the month of July. And then also I did take a week of vacation in July as well. So it was a really productive month and thankfully we have people who can step in and allow that space so that I can try to think out ahead as well. But we're back in the book. And John, today we're going to continue in the book of John and we're in John chapter 12. If you have a church Bible that will be on page 840, if you don't have a Bible, we want to put one in your hands. We always have copies of the Bible out in the connection corner. Those are free for you. And those Bibles in particular tie to the page numbers you'll see on the screen will be in John chapter 12. And we're going to look at in this story ways, in fact, for particular ways to follow a new king. Every few years, our country appoints a new president and every time a new president is appointed, about half the country is super excited and about half the country hates the person. It doesn't matter what President it is, and you may fall on one side or the other, depending on the president. But you always you'll hear this phrase, you'll either here, that's my guy, that's the guy I'm following, or you'll hear, not my president. Okay, not for me. What do you do when a new president or a new king is appointed? How do you follow that person? We're going to see today a group of people calling Jesus King, calling him their new king. What does it mean to follow him? How do they follow him in that situation? So we're in John chapter 12. I want to start by looking at verses first couple of verses with verse nine, when the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came not only on account of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priest made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him, many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. So we I need to refresh us a little bit on the background because it says when the large crowds of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, where is there? Well, he had just been came to Bethany, where Mary Martha Lazarus lived, came there for some kind of dinner party, probably celebrating Lazarus new life. And there was at least one other guy there who probably had been healed by Jesus, just a party to celebrate. And then Mary comes in and anoints his feet. And that was a really rich time of looking at what she did and what it meant. But people hear about it. They hear that Jesus is in town. We need to go see him. In fact, the first way you go about following a new king is just get in his presence, get near him wherever he is. I got to go be around him. I don't know what's going to happen. I just got to get near him. You know, we do that with famous people. If you hear somebody famous coming in town, you you might go out of your way to try to just go get a glimpse of them. I remember when we lived in Fiji doing missions there for a season. We heard that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were coming to visit because Fiji had been a British colony, and so they were coming as a representative, traveling around all throughout the South Pacific, visiting with people. In fact, here's a picture of them. When they first showed up, they were meeting and of course, a lot of the folks there dressed in their kind of traditional warrior tribal gear, and they were given them presents and all kinds of awkward stuff and awkward moments with them. But when we heard that they were going to be there, my first thought was, I don't care. I thought we broke away from the British. I'm not going to go see some British royalty, right? Who cares? We got all kinds of famous people back in America. I don't care. We're going to stay home. But we got caught out in traffic and they shut the whole country down. And here we are. We don't have anything else to do. We might as well walk down there and see him join everybody else. There's nothing else to do. Can't even drive home for hours and hours and hours. So we go down there and show this video. I tried to just catch a video of all the people lined up all over the place, and I don't know how well you can see it, but as far as you could see in every direction, in both directions, people were everywhere. And I wish I could play the sound, but I also made some kind of weird upward comments about the crowd, so I didn't want to play that. But everybody is laughing the whole time. Just laugh and laugh and laugh and that's how the Fijians are. Everything was funny, you know, People would try to sneak across the road and some some officer would yell at them, everybody'd laugh at them. You know, it was just such a it was like a big party out on the street. But here we all are. The whole country is standing there to just catch a glimpse of these two people they've never met before and will never meet again. Just passing by in a in a moment in an SUV, just there they go. That was it. Hours and hours and hours of waiting. Get in his presence. Get near him. If there's a new king, how do I get around him? Something good might happen. Who knows? If I'm not there, I won't know. The cool part of this story, though, is it wasn't just Jesus there were wanting to see because it says they also wanted to see Lazarus. Yeah, Jesus did the healing, but I want to see the guy he raised from the dead, you know, and of this is true in our lives is God has worked in your life in some amazing way. People want to hear about it. They want to know what is it that he did in your life? I see a change in your life. Tell me about it. Get in his presence. Now. Part of the challenge with this is that, yeah, the crowd heard that Jesus was there and that Lazarus was there. But there was another group that heard about it as well. It said in verse ten, the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death. You know, you read this and you already knew their were callus. They had already had made it clear in John 11 that they were out to get Jesus. All right. We got to get rid of him. He's messing things up. And now they're going after Lazarus, right? You read these guys and you feel like you're reading about some kind of modern mafia boss or something. You know, their only solution to a problem is murder. If anybody's in my way, we got to get rid of them. It's like you can almost hear him saying that. Lazarus, you disappoint me. You know, we got to get rid of you, and Lazarus is going. But I didn't do anything. I was just laying there dead. I did nothing. Oh, go after me. Go after the other guy. But here's the problem. He was guilty by association, but it wasn't because of what he did. It's what he represented. He represented the healing power of Christ, the victory over death, the Christ brings. And make no mistake, we can't avoid this reality. Guilty by association is something that is true for us as well. There will be people who will hate you simply because you walked in the door doors of a church, not because of what you've actually done or actually said or anything you've done to them, but because of what you represent. And that's a hard truth. And some of those people you will be able to engage with and reason with, and they may even come to know Christ. But there will be those. Maybe they aren't trying to kill you, but they wouldn't crowd your funeral. But this is where Jesus steps in and Matthew five and he says, Blessed are those. Blessed are you. When people persecute you, when they say all kinds of evil things about you, all kinds of falsehoods, all kinds of lies on account of my name, blessed are you. Rejoice for your reward is great in heaven. I don't always feel good to hear that, though, does it? I don't want people not like me. I don't want people hating me. But yet the choice is I'm still going to follow Christ. In the midst of that, we're still going to try to get in his presence, try to get around him. So that's the first way of the four ways of how do you follow a new king? Just get in his presence, get around him. Second, worship him publicly, worship him publicly. Look at this next set of verses verse 12 the next day. So we get a setting change moving forward, a day that large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took the branches of palm trees, went out to meet him, crying out Hosanna, blessed to see who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. All right. We're going to take note here of what this crowd does. It's a large crowd and the ancient historians, Josephus, who was a contemporary of Jesus, he recorded that at that time, the city of Jerusalem would swell to over 2 million, two and a half million people who would all come there for Passover. This was at the time of Passover. And notice two things here, what they do and what they say. We're going to unpack what they did and what they said in this moment to greet Jesus, to welcome their new king. The first thing they did was they took palm branches. This is partly why we call the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday. It's a reminder of what happened the Sunday, the week before Easter, when Jesus entered Jerusalem. In fact, when we lived in Phenix, one Sunday we did this. We had people bring palm branches and wave them at the beginning of the service in memory of Palm Sunday. We could do that there. People could go out on their yard and cut upon branch here. We'd have to call it okay. Sunday if we wanted to do that. You where are you going? To find palm branches. But what did the palm branch represent? Why a palm branch? Why wave that of all the things they could wave? Well, it had three specific significances religious, cultural, national significance. The first just to talk about the religious, there was actually an established practice where they would combine three different branches. In fact, here's a sing a an of an actual it's called a lullaby. And one of those in there is a young palm branch. There is also two others. And they would while they were reciting some of the Psalms during the Passover festival, they would be waving that gently, just kind of as a way to wave along and acknowledge, Yes, God, you are great. The Psalms of the Hallow, which we'll get to here in a minute, were the Psalms of praise, praising him, waving the palm branch that had religious significance already built in. Second was more of a secular significance. It was a pretty common practice when a conquering king, especially in Roman times, would return to his city with all of his conquering army behind him. The people would be waving palm branches, welcoming him back. But it's a part of a way of saying thank you, part of a way of saying how great you are. We even see this show up in our time. Here is a relief actually, from the Capitol building. And you can just see George Washington's in the middle. And then over to the right, left is a palm branch waving the palm branch of victory. So there was a secular significance as well. And then third, though, would have been and probably would have been the most potentially significant for them at this time. There was just this national significance. Get the Palm at the time had taken on a symbol of their own national independence and freedom. As a Jewish people. It symbolized that for them in a lot of ways, much like maybe for us, the American flag would be when all of those people were lined up to welcome Harry and Mark and whatever name was Megan, they were waving the flag, the Fiji flag. We love our country. See how great our country is. We're so great You had to come here to see us. You know, it's a sign of our freedom, of our identity. And the Palm branch had become that for them in a lot of ways. In fact, they would put it on their coins. Here's an actual go and show the next image coin of ancient Judea. There's a palm branch on there. There's also a grape leaf. Not only did they put it on their coins, but the Romans up the next picture. When the Romans conquered them, they put it on the coin. In fact, this image here, it's hard to see, but there's a woman under a palm tree that they had just conquered. And it's their way of saying, oh, you think you're so great or you think your palm branch is so great, go ahead and sit under your glorious palm branch that protected you so well as we conquered you. They even recognized that was a symbol of their significance. So in this moment, they're waving the branch. There's all of this is caught up in that. Bring us our freedom. We are praising God. Come as a conquering king. Come do all that. And then what do they say in that moment? Look back at what they said. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. This is what they're crying out as he's coming in. Now. This is actually a quote from Psalm 118. So turning your Bibles to Psalm Psalms bowed right in the middle of the whole Bible. It's in the Old Testament and in the church Bible. It's on page 479. I'm going to look at Psalm 118. Psalm 118 is the last of what are called the Hillel Psalms. Hillel is just the Hebrew word for praise. Psalm one 1314, 15, 16, 17, 18 are considered the Hillel Psalms, and they were often sung every day during Passover. They're the Psalms of praise. In fact, we're going to see this right here in these first four verses. Look at how he the author of this psalm, starts out in praise. Oh, give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever. Look for this repeated phrase as we go. Let Israel say his steadfast love endures forever. Let the house of Aaron say his steadfast love endures forever. Let those who fear the Lord say His steadfast love endures forever. A psalm of praising God for his steadfast love. He has been there through thick and thin. Now, why does this particular author say that? Keep reading. Look at verse ten through 13. This gives the context for why they are praising him. All the nations surrounded me in the name of the Lord. I cut them off. They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side in the name of the Lord. I cut them off. They surrounded me like bees. They went out like a fire among thorns in the name of the Lord. I cut them off. I was pushed hard so that I was falling. But the Lord helped me. Many believe this is a psalm written by a king. Maybe David, who was being attacked, trying to be overthrown. And in the midst of that trouble, in the midst of that trial, God stepped in, protected him. And so he is praising the steadfast love of the Lord in midst of the challenge. All of that leads up to the verse that is quoted in John, verse 25, Save us, We pray. Oh Lord, in the original Hebrew, that is just the word Hosanna. Save us, we pray. Please save us, Lord, save us, we pray. Oh Lord, Oh Lord, we pray. Give us success. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. So we get this same phrase in the midst of trials, in the midst of oppression, come save us. And when they say Blessed to see who comes in the name of the Lord, the one who comes the coming one at the time would have been a messianic title. So they are waving the palm branches and they're saying, Come be the one who the Lord uses to rescue us, not just as a messiah, though, because look back to John and look what they add on to this quote that wasn't in Psalm 118. So back in John 12, Hosanna Blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord. Here's what they added. Even the king of Israel often times the Messiah and the King were seen as completely different. People, much like you might have a general running the war, but you still have the president and they're separate. But here they put them together, Come be the Messiah and come be the King. Come all our hope is in you in that moment. And so for us, the step they take here first, seek his presence. Second, worship him publicly for us. That's the call for us as well. Keep worshiping him publicly. Keep proclaiming him publicly. Don't say he is a king. Say he is my king. You see, the difference between those, right, is a gigantic gap between, yeah, he's he's the king, but he's my king. I will submit to whatever he says. I will follow him. I will bow at his feet. Those are radically different, different things. And so to follow a new king, keep praising him, keep worshiping him publicly over and over and over and over and over again and again and again. Keep praising him. That's the second way to follow a new king. Third, pay attention to his actions. Pay attention to his actions. Look at verse 14 and Jesus, a young donkey, donkey and set on it just it is written Fear not Daughter of Zion. Behold, your king is coming sitting on a donkey's coat. 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. Pay attention to his actions, because in this moment the whole crowd is declaring him king. They're worshiping him. They're saying, please step up, be the messiah, be the king, be our leader, fulfill all these hopes. And this is one of the stories in John that does actually appear in all four gospels. You know, we've been in a section of John starting from about midway through Chapter six until now, where it wasn't repeated anywhere else. It was all unique to John, which isn't surprising. We know John's something like 90% unique material, but this story, a version of it, also shows up. Matthew, Mark, Luke But we get a whole lot more detail there. Jesus gives the disciples instructions. Here's where you'll go to find the donkey. If this person asks you what it's for, tell him it's to bring him to me. Gives him all this detail, all this instruction. But here it just simply says Jesus found a young donkey. It takes us right to the heart of the action, because in this moment, when you have everyone saying, Come be this king upon whom we put all our hopes. Pay attention to what he does in that moment. He goes and finds a donkey, not just a donkey. It could even say a baby donkey in the moment where he should be coming in on a white war horse with so much armor and metal attached to it. You could hear it coming long before you see it. He'd be high above. Everyone else trailing with a conquering army behind him, intimidating, powerful, looking down on those who serve him. You know, Lyndon Johnson, President Lyndon Johnson, who came in after Kennedy was assassinated. He was known when he first entered the White House. One of the first things he did was to cut down the legs of all the other chairs in the room. He wanted everyone else lower than him, and he wanted them to know it. He wanted them to feel his intimidating, towering presence over them. And that's what the world values power, position of authority, prestige and Jesus gets on a baby donkey. He probably would have been more visible to just walk. That probably put him lower than you probably might even miss him passing through the crowd. And he says, okay, you've tried to make me king already. I've avoided it. I'll go along with the plan. Let me just make sure you know what kind of king I am. I will not be manipulated into becoming the image of who you think I am. I'll show you who I really am. And it's interesting. In this moment, the disciples didn't get it. They weren't paying attention. Later it all came together. Later they go later, after they abandon him. But after he came back. Back when he got on that donkey, I see what he was trying to do. He was quoting from Zakaria. We thought he would be the kind of king we think he should be. And he was saying, like the king and Zachariah, I'm coming as a king of peace and I'll bring an eternal rain, but I'll get rid of a war horse. If you look at the Book of Zachariah, it's all about calling people to faithfulness to follow God who'd been so faithful to them. Pay attention to the detail of who he says he is. Pay attention and follow him for who he says he is. I think we all struggle with the temptation to make God in our own image. Well, this is what I think God should be like. My God would never do that. Well, I read that in the Bible. That's not my that's not how my God would act. That's not what he would do. I'll pay attention to who he says he is. I've got to tell you that the sooner in life you begin to follow who he says he is rather than the image I've made of him and the so much richer, it'll be humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. First Peter. Five, six. Humble yourselves under who he is as king, not who I think he should be. So pay attention to the details. And then number four, how do you follow King? Number four, Keep talking about him. Keep talking about him. Look at what happens in this next set of verses for 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. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they had heard he had done this son. So the Pharisees said to one another, You see that you were gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him. I mean, you hear the desperation here. Oh, world's going after him. We're losing. It's not working. Let's step up our game and get rid of these guys. What are you waiting for? You know, this one little section summarizes so much of what this whole passage is about. The crowd who started following him and started talking about him continues to go after him. They want to be near him, but then they just keep praising his name. They keep talking about him. They continue to bring him up even when others aren't listening, even when they know there are people who want to get rid of him. When I look at these four ways of following a new king, I think there are three applications for us today. Three things for us to be mindful of in in our time and our day and age. And here's the first number one. Remember his grace in your life. Remember his grace in your life. And here's what I mean by this. It's so easy to look at this story and to look at the chief priests and to look at those who are rejecting him and to think, how evil can you be? How horrendous can they be to hate him, to want to kill him? And yet, was there not a time in your own life where you hated him? When I hated him, okay, maybe I didn't want him dead. Maybe. What's worse, it was just utter indifference. Who is that guy? What is he even not even relevant to my life? Paul says in Corinthians, You know, the sexually immoral that idolaters on and on won't be in heaven. And by the way, such were some of you We can't ever forget his grace in our lives. Because if he hadn't moved in my life, I would want any part of him in this world or strength. Power is what is honored and valued. Money, wealth, fame. I don't give me Jesus in the midst of that unless he moves in my life. That's not happening. So remember his grace in your life. Number two, be very wary of a fickle heart. Be very, very wary because this is Palm Sunday. This is a big party. What a celebration. But what's coming. Many in this same crowd were there a few days later. Go and kill him. Be done with him. Jesus, you're the greatest. I really We want to see you dead like that. It's easy to praise him when things are going great. It's easy to praise him. What about when they're not? I had dinner this week with Doug Kutner. Many of you know Doug and Jennifer. They're involved here at church. They help with the students. They help with some of the children's ministry activities. And I've been one to connect with him for a long time, just to catch up, get to know him better. But I also knew that he's been really struggling with an illness for six months a year now, and it's been devastating. It's wiped out his energy and I went through a season like that years ago. It was really hard on me and I just wanted to connect with him, try to be an encouragement. But also here, what is God teaching you through that? What is he doing in your life in that moment? You know, don't don't let let an illness or a sickness, don't let it be wasted. How is God using that in your life? And Doug said to me, he's like, you know, John, I don't know. I have no idea what he's trying to teach me through this. I wake up every morning and ask him, God, what do you want to teach me through this? I don't know. But every day I get up and I pray and I say, God, if you want to show me what this is about, great. But it's not. I'm still going to follow you. I'm still going to trust you. So be wary of our own, my own fickle heart. And then number three, worship who he says he is worship who he says he is. Again, not in the image I've made him into, but who does he say he is? That's who we want to worship. That's real worship. Worshiping him as he says he is, and when he comes on a donkey recognizes his agenda is not the same as mine. His thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways are not my ways. However, there will come a day when he is not on that donkey. There will come a day when he comes in very differently. That is also a part of who he is. Revelation 19 makes this very clear to us. I looked up into heaven and behold a white horse, and on it was one who was named faithful and true in righteousness. He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire on his head are many crowns, and there is a name written that no one knows but him. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and he is named the Word of God and the armies of heaven arrayed in white linen, white and pure, are riding behind him, following along on white horses, and out of his mouth comes a sharp sword. And with it he will strike down the nations. He will rule with a rod of iron, and he will tread on the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty, and on his thigh and on his robe is a name. And you know what that name is? It's king of Kings and Lord of Lords. God, thank you that you are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thank you. That you came lowly, humble, gentle, and thank you. That you conquer. You are in charge. No enemy could stand before you in fact, Lord, right now I ask that you would give us the humility to bow before you to worship you as you say you are. In fact, let's just do that now if you are able, and if you feel that in this time you need to say to God, I want to call you King in every aspect of my life, just kneel before him now. Just bow before him now. God, we thank you for being king. You are king of kings. You are Lord of Lords. In fact, let's sing that chorus again. Holy, holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. It's the Lord God Almighty who was in this and needs to come with all creation. And so creation dies. He prays to the king. New king, You are my everything and I will then join you. Come see what church. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to go with all creation die. You sing praise to the King of kings. You are my everything in the will and joy you Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is called With all creation. I sing praise to the King of Kings. You my everything and I will enjoy you. Thank you, Lord. We love you, Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for being king God, we praise your name. We honor you. Help us to follow you. You are and help us to worship you. Help us to submit our lives to you. Thank you for being our King Jesus. We love you. Amen. Amen.