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Anticipation: Living for Tomorrow
Scripture: John 12:12-19
Track 1 of 3 in the History-Changing Words series
Track 12 of 12 in the Words to Grow By series
Running time: 29 minutes, 14 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, March 20, 2005
1st sermon in a 3 part series
Palm Sunday
"Convinced by a Resurrection"
"History-Changing Words"
(John 12:12-19)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

December 25th; the footsteps of the mailman; the phrase "keep your fork"; for the basketball fans among us; the month of March; summer; for the old folks among us, Carly Simon all have one thing in common and that's this term. . . .Anticipation.

We look forward to something happening. We anticipate with great expectancy a number of things in our lives. In fact, it strikes me that nothing ever happens quite as quickly as we would like for it to happen. The other side of that is, it seems to me just observation, that part of the fun in life is living in that anticipation.

In fact, I can think of those moments when we lived waiting for that first journey to Disney World. Which I didn't get to take until my children were children because we didn't ever get to go when I was a kid. And I remember being, in fact, a little let down when we finally got there because I had such anticipation of what it might actually be.

I have a sneaking suspicion that anticipation was one of the words that must have characterized Israel for years as they lived waiting for the coming of their Messiah. They had that in the back of their minds now for a long time. Four hundred years of silence since Malachi the prophet and then there was this character running around the hillsides of Galilee and Judea that was doing these strange things like - healing people, feeding them. Speaking words that sounded rich and meaningful and yet sometimes just a bit confusing. He'd garnered a lot of friends, a lot of followers and a lot of enemies.

Well we come to the text that we're looking at, this Palm Sunday text; John 12 if you want to look at it. We're going to take a look at that particular version of this great day, Palm Sunday. The day of the triumphful entry. The day that Jerusalem is teaming with people because of the coming Feast season. It's Passover time and typically in Jerusalem that meant, literally, thousands of people moving into the city for this one great celebration. There would have been, oh, maybe as many as 200,000 people, 300,000 people crowding into a city that was at best maybe 10 or 15 thousand in normal days.

So the roads, the dusty trails from outside of town would have been covered with people and animals and folk on their way. Living in keen anticipation of this great Jewish Feast. Here we are just a few days before the Passover is to happen in John 12 and we're about two miles away. The little town called Bethany. It's the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. It's where Jesus had spent a great deal of time and, in fact, it is where Jesus had performed the last of his great signs according to John 11, (the text preceding the one we're going to read), was the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Mary and Martha lived in that little village as followers of Jesus. They had become good friends of his and they had called for Jesus when Lazarus was ill but he didn't come. In fact he didn't show up until Lazarus had been dead for four days. And Jesus raised him from the dead and it created something of a stir. Your going to hear it reflected even in this text because it becomes part of the psyche of this great triumphful day when Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey in fulfilment of Zechariah 9. We pick it up in John 12:12.

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Blessed is the King of Israel!"

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."

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 they had done these things to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!'

It's this great Feast day. There are crowds coming from the direction of Bethany along with Jesus and there is this stir among the people that Jesus is coming to town. This is the one who has raised Lazarus from the dead and so people are going out from Jerusalem at the same time.

They end up throwing palm branches and coats down on the ground so that he can ride across them on the back of this little donkey. There was this anticipation that something of great significance was going to happen.

When I look at the characters in this particular story I find myself wondering what their anticipation was because the crowds certainly thought that something good was going to take place. It could have been nothing more than just anticipation that they would get to participate in one of these great miracles. This was this one about whom they had heard so many things. Maybe he would do something spectacular in their sight. Maybe they would be a part of the feeding that he had done of the 5,000 on another occasion.

The disciples must have been wondering if this wasn't the moment when their dreams would come true. Maybe Jesus would be crowned king after all even though on enough occasions he had kind of thwarted that kind of idea. That must have been something that they wrestled with and certainly the Pharisees and the leadership of Israel were in great fear that they would be losing control of what's happening.

Undoubtedly the Romans would have taken great notice of this. They would have been on special alert anyway simply because there were so many people coming into town. I mean, after all, population is going to go up by 10 or 20 times and they didn't want any kind of insurgence. They already knew there was enough happening that they would have been on alert to make sure that nothing outstanding occurred.

It must have been troublesome to them to realize that all of a sudden, just in this journeying, the normal passing of people coming to town, there suddenly was a parade happening. And nobody had gotten a permit down at the local city hall for this to take place. So here you've got it.

And I find myself looking and thinking there are some curious crowds in this bunch of people who are coming to see (well, maybe there just coming to see the show). I don't know if you've ever been caught in one of those but sometimes you know, you don't even know what's going on. All of a sudden you just recognize something is happening and so out of your curiosity you "chase the ambulance" or "the fire truck" or you cross the street to see what all this commotion is about.

That appears to have been at least some of these crowds were doing. And in their case sometimes what is happening is that curiosity, this wonder about who Jesus might be actually becomes much more than just curiosity, it becomes interest.

Some of these crowd people in John 12:42 of this text actually begin to believe what's going on. They pay enough attention to see. There are in this crowd, those disciples. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure I could fully get my hands around what the disciples must have gone through. The kind of "roller coaster" experience that they had with Jesus because they were so enamored by his teaching.

Remember at the end of the Sermon on the Mount their struck. He teaches as One with authority. Their amazed at his miracles and at the same time they have been dumb-founded as he has said things to them like; "no I'm not gonna be king now" and "no this is not the right time" and "oh, by the way, I'm gonna go to Jerusalem and die". And there is this kind of "roller-coaster" sense. But they have somehow made up their minds that they're going to stick this thing out, at least for the moment.

There's a determination there that they're going to hang in and see if, in fact, something does happen. Their curiosity had in some way turned into determination. They wanted to know.

Then of course there are those plotting Pharisees that we have had all through the life of Jesus, the leadership of Israel who are frightened by His influence; and frankly who are bent on destroying Him. They couldn't leave because they knew that Jesus was casting this lengthy shadow of influence and people were coming and listening and learning and they knew that they were losing control. For them, curiosity had become animosity. They were angry.

As I read this text I think about this experience. I am struck by the fact that Jesus attracts all kinds of people. My guess is that you could turn around and take a look and might draw that same conclusion. Just evaluate who you're sitting in the crowd with. It's interesting the kinds of folks who come into the presence of Jesus who are attracted to him. There are the curious. I'm absolutely convinced that some of us start coming to Jesus simply out of curiosity. We've heard about him. We know something. We've heard stories. We've had people tell us what he has done for them. We've heard people talk about the changes in their lives. We've probably heard about people who've had experiences that seemed almost borderline miraculous. We've watched as maybe families, members of our own, or friends of ours have gone through these strange changes and we don't know what has produced that. And our curiosity gets the best of us. And we begin to come and we listen and we look. We're almost living in the hope that something good might come out of this for us too. We just kind of hang around the edges and watch. Maybe we will begin to understand. I think that's great, frankly. If you're one of those curious people, I hope you'll stay curious. I hope you'll keep asking the question, "Is there anything in this for me?" "Is there anything that Jesus can do in my life that will make things different?"

I think he also attracts the kinds of people who are determined. I'm not sure that we always know what we're determined about, but we're pretty much determined that we're gonna give this thing a try and we're gonna see, if, in fact God is as faithful as everybody claims he is. And we will stay with this almost like Jacob wrestling with that angel - I'm not going to let you go until you bless me! - kind of attitude. I'm going to stay with this faith thing until I really see God work in ways that I want to see him work. I will not let go of you until you do what it is that I need for you to do.

My fear is that there are some folks out here and I don't know that they would ever be in church (not sure they would ever come to worship), but I suspect that there are in our world people who are not unlike those early church leaders who are absolutely determined that they're going to destroy His influence.

Maybe you watch occasionally and you pick up those little threads of information on the news. A Christian young man on a university campus was recently arrested and thrown in, not to jail, but to a psychiatric ward because he was living like a Christian and they thought that was really strange. And so, they accused him of being mad. In fact, they're having a hard time getting him out of the psych ward. Once he'd been committed, it was hard to get him out. There are those people out there who are determined that they will do whatever it takes to undo the influence of Jesus.

In fact, sometimes it's our own family members who just don't like the fact that we're changing and they don't like what they see in us and they'll do anything they can to stop that from happening. It's a strange kind of a thing but they do exist. It's a frightening experience I think.

Well, this particular Sunday - Palm Sunday - I guess you know that. This is Palm Sunday. This is the Sunday before Easter. It is that first Sunday when we really begin to sense that we are entering into a different kind of piece of the calendar. It's the Holy week or at least we live in that anticipation. We don't always call it that. It's what you'll see in the paper. Palm Sunday - it's that Sunday when we begin to anticipate what's coming over the next several days. And I'm really hoping. I have one really kind of fundamental hope for what I'm doing this morning in the twenty minutes that I'm going to stand up here and talk. I'm hoping that the same kind of anticipation that showed up on Palm Sunday two thousand years ago will begin to surface in you. That just as there is that sense of curiosity or determination, whatever it is in that inner spirit of ours that says, "I wonder what Jesus is up to?" Just as there were people who probably lined the street between Bethany and Jerusalem just wanting to catch a glimpse of Jesus to see, I'm hoping that somewhere in you there is that kind of spirit of anticipation. Is there anything to this?

Maybe you've been coming here for months and just kind of hanging around the edges and wondering if there's anything truthful about what we say here. I'm hoping you'll begin to sense a stirring in you of anticipation to see God do something that you may have never seen before in your life.

Just to anticipate that there is a need in your life that can be met and you may have struggled with that wondering for years. If anything could fill this hole in here. And maybe we can just whet your appetite with the Scriptures that we've read or the songs that we've sung or the time that we'll spend together around the table and it will just begin to whet your appetite for what God could actually do in your life if you would just open up and let him have his way.

I'm hoping that we can create in you a kind of anticipation that Jesus will in fact satisfy your hunger for meaning in your life. That there will be something about being in this place with these people and with Him that will help you understand that there is a connection that exists because of our common experience of Jesus that allows you to know that there are people who think and feel and believe like you do and that can give you the kind of courage and strength to go through whatever it is that life brings. Because sometimes it will be Good Friday and you'll feel like you're all by yourself and we don't want that to ever happen. We want you to anticipate that sense of community and connection among us.

I'm really hoping that what happens on a Sunday like Palm Sunday, which seems so almost anticlimactic, knows that in a week we're gonna celebrate Easter, that there can be this sense of renewed hope that there is a future out here that is better than the past. That there is something on the other side of either the experiences of your life right now or the experiences of your death that make all of this worthwhile. Frankly, to be honest with you, we want you to anticipate the kinds of things that are just going to occur in the natural order of things over the next week.

I wish that I could climb into the minds and the hearts of those disciples as they watched the unfolding of the next several days of the life of Jesus. It would be really interesting to have a diary from somebody who lived out that day. We just don't know much about what happens over the next two or three days.

But come Thursday, this all began to change. Go up to the Upper Room. Set up a table and let's have supper and I'll meet you there. And He does!

And some of the most profound things in all of the Gospel occur in one evening meal. In fact, it's fascinating to me that so much of the Gospel of John 13 all the way through John 18, 19 all occur in that one evening. A third of the book happens on one night at one table. I'm wondering if Maundy Thursday could be that kind of night in our lives when we would have those kinds of profound experiences around the Lord's Table that would help us really get a grip on what it is that Jesus is trying to do. What he's trying to communicate to us about being servants - about loving one another - about His impending death and life.

So we're hoping you'll celebrate Maundy Thursday. We'll have packets available. They're out at the ministry center. If we run out there, we'll print up more so that you can go to somebody's home and share around the Lord's Table at a meal with friends much like they did. Somebody from your group can lead you in some kind of prayer and devotion time where you can celebrate the Lord's Supper. The reminder that He came as this last Passover Lamb.

If you don't want to do it at home, if you don't have a group of people that want to get together around the table, then come here to the building, because we'll be doing it here too! And we'll gather here and we'll worship together and we'll talk about the Lord's Supper and we will break bread together as a family of people here. In the idea that we're going to have a chance to think about what God has done in and through Jesus Christ to change our lives.

We hope you'll anticipate Good Friday. Because of where we live on this side of Easter we understand that it was Good Friday. Because if you lived on the other side of the cross, if you didn't wake up on Saturday morning on this side of Easter, there was nothing good about Friday. It was just the most horrific day in the history of humanity. When God himself became man and we put Him to death. It must have been absolutely awful to have awakened on Saturday morning if you were a disciple of Jesus and wondered what just happened.

But we don't live on that side of Friday. We live on this side of Easter and we know that Friday was good. As bad as it was, it was good, because it provided what we couldn't provide for ourselves - an atoning death. Our choir will be singing about that on Friday night and we want to help you come to grips with that reality of how meaningful Friday is for us. So we invite you to come, either of the two hours that we'll be meeting here together on Friday evening.

And of course we're just hoping you'll live in anticipation of next Sunday morning when we will as a family of believers rise to celebrate the most incredible experience in the history of humanity. The one event that separates absolutely everybody from us, the Resurrection of Jesus. If you can't get up next Sunday morning with a light heart, then somehow you have not yet quite grasped the meaning of Him coming out of that grave. Because every major teaching in the New Testament is somehow tied to that Resurrection. . . . . . . promise is tied to that Resurrection. The hope that you look back on that your sins are forgiven. . . . tied to the Resurrection. The hope that you look forward to of eternal life. . . .tied to the Resurrection. The hope that you have something beyond death. . . .tied to the Resurrection. The hope of your family. . . .tied to the Resurrection. The hope of life being meaningful in this life. . . .tied to the

Resurrection. So quite honestly, if it was okay with you and I had any control over it, we would just skip this week and move right to then. 'Cause quite honestly, without that Resurrection Sunday, everything else just doesn't mean much!

So you know what we're really after this morning? It isn't much. That you would begin to anticipate that Jesus means something to you right here and right now! That in light of everything He has done - in light of everything He has gone through - in light of His coming forth from the grave - that changes everything today.

To be really honest with you, as much as I anticipate the opportunity to go and see Jesus some day, that isn't what I really look forward to. Oh, it's not that it's not meaningful, don't misunderstand me.

I got an e-mail yesterday that one of the ladies from the church where I first ministered thirty years ago, had gone to be with Jesus. Her services are this afternoon and I'll be thinking about her family today because this sweet sister in Jesus has now gone face-to-face with the one that she loved.

But if that's all there is, is something out there, then I'm sorry I'm not sure it's everything I want 'cause I don't live out there. I live right here, every day, moment-by-moment, dealing with life. And what I want to know is, "Does Jesus have anything that he can offer to me tomorrow morning?" And the answer is, "absolutely!" That the power of the Resurrection that promises us something on the other side of death is the power that promises us the ability to live with life right here and right now.

And all we really want to do this morning is just try to encourage you to believe that. To live in the anticipation that no matter what life brings, the resurrected Jesus makes a difference today.

I can't begin to explain all those differences. What I can do is tell you this. Whatever life is doing, good or bad, Jesus is right there sitting beside you, with you walking down that road and holding it together. It's not just that He offers you an eternal future. It's that He offers you a NOW with meaning and with purpose.

We're going to celebrate this table today. As a part of a Christian community, we're going to come around a table that reminds us of the reality of Jesus' life and death for us and that we can live in anticipation of His presence in our life, making our life count.

I remember as a college student, this is one of those moments, you know, that you kind of have freeze-framed in your mind and it just doesn't go away. I was sitting in a little church building at 18th and Eastman in Boise, Idaho. It came communion time on Sunday morning and Edgar Nichols (??) stepped up to this table. Looked almost exactly like this table.

Edgar was a guy about the size of my little finger. I remember him being old 'cause he was and he should have been. Because he had lived one of those lives that just was full of richness. He spent his life as a missionary. He was one of the first people who was a believer in Jesus, to spend time in Tibet. And the communists ran him out over the Himalayan mountains just before winter. He took his wife and two daughters and some Sherpas and they made their way just ahead of the snow storm over the Himalayan mountains. In the process he became deathly ill. They left him in India for two years in a TB hospital to recover while his family came back to the United States. And while he was there, he did mission work.

Then he came home and gathered up his family and they went to Ghana and he did mission work in Ghana and I just happened to be blessed to have him as a professor late in his life. And I remember this frail old man making his way to the communion table one Sunday morning and this is the way he prayed as I watched him with tears in his face make this statement, "Lord, we have waited all week to be here today." And I remember thinking to myself as a 20 year old college student, "No I haven't". And I hadn't! I had never looked forward to the Lord's Supper a week at a time thinking I can't wait for next Sunday to be at this table. But from that day forward, I did.

Because he reminded me that I live in anticipation of spending time in the presence of Jesus week-after-week-after-week. And that this table with a piece of bread and a cup of juice is the privilege of walking again in the life of Jesus and having his presence among us.

And so we come to this table having waited all week to once more fellowship with our Savior.

Father, we come here knowing that you meet us here. Have invited us here and we share this table together with one another and with you in the anticipation of what you're doing in our life and in the anticipation of what is to come. Through Jesus. Amen