On May 12, 1792, William Carey (1761-1834) published his pamphlet, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. In Which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings and the Practicability of the Further Undertakings Considered.

Prior to writing this influential work, some background story is helpful.

God laid a burden on Carey’s heart for missions. On the one hand, he had been significantly influenced by the Moravians. On the other hand, he had seen a lack of passion for or commitment to evangelism, to bring the gospel to the ends of the world through missions.

As Carey shared this burden with others, it was not well received. Shortly after he was ordained, he shared his burden and vision for reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ through missions. To this passionate plea to fellow ministers of the gospel, an older minister interrupted and rebuked Carey by saying, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

In response, he penned the work mentioned at the beginning. Carey concluded that the Scriptures taught, for which he also arguned, that Jesus’ Great Commission applied to all Christians of all times. He also exhorted fellow believers of his day for ignoring it writing, “Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.” This was not only a doctrine Carey believed or preached, he was also willing and eager to obey it, being committed to both biblical truth and the means God uses to accomplish that: “We must not be contented however with praying, without exerting ourselves in the use of means for the obtaining of those things we pray for.”

Here is the main emphasis in the pamphlet, which he then expounds in the rest of An Enquiry: (words are Carey’s; format is mine):

In order that the subject may be taken into more serious consideration, I shall enquire,

  • whether the commission given by our Lord to his disciples be not still binding on us,
  • take a short view of former undertakings,
  • give some account of the present state of the world,
  • consider the practicability of doing something more than is done,
  • and the duty of Christians in general in this matter.

One writes the following summary of this work:

In it he argued that Christ’s “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20 was not just to the apostles but to Christians of all periods. It proved to be kind of the charter of the modern Protestant missionary movement. Carey showed that if Christians want to claim the comforts and promises of the New Testament, they must also accept the commands and instructions given there. Soon after the publication he delivered a famous sermon in which he admonished Christian leaders to “expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” His colleagues formed a missionary society and sent Carey as their first missionary to India.

The publicaton was not the end of Carey’s work. In 1792 he organized a missionary society. At the first meeting he preached a sermon with the call, Carey didn’t stop there: in 1792 he organized a missionary society, and at its inaugural meeting preached a sermon with the reminder of who God is and the exhortation to respond in joyful obedience, words God has used in the lives of many Christians since: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!”

In the next year, Carey and his family, which included three boys and his wife expecting their fourth, and John Thomas, a former surgeon, were on a ship bound for India.

Carey’s pamphlet and missionary endeavors caused many Protestants to rethink God’s call and command to make disciples of all nations, and it became a manifesto for Protestants and Evangelicals since that time.

In a brief summary of Carey’s life and ministry, one concludes Carey was, indeed, the father of the modern missions movement.

His greatest legacy was in the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth century that he inspired. Missionaries like Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and David Livingstone, among thousands of others, were impressed not only by Carey’s example, but by his words “Expect great things; attempt great things.” The history of nineteenth-century Protestant missions is in many ways an extended commentary on the phrase.

“He is risen!,” exclaims one. “He is risen, indeed!, responds another.

This is a traditional Christian greeting. One exclaims the glorious statement of fact, a truth that has gripped and transformed them, “He is risen!” This is followed by a response from another that reflects the same glorious transformation, “He is risen, indeed!”

This greeting is grounded in the historical truth of Jesus’ resurrection. The hope that this expression exudes is grounded in Jesus’ first words to the gathered disciples, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19). Before explaining the significance of this expression, which is both theologically rich, and experientially life-transforming, it will be helpful to recount the events of this “first day of the week” (the day after the Jewish Sabbath, and a statement which reflects this is an early account of the resurrection, since after the resurrection, this day was referred to as “the Lord’s Day,” cf. Rev. 1:10), this day on which Christ was raised, the day we know as Sunday.

  • Early in the morning, a few women discover the empty tomb (Matt. 28:1-7; Mk. 16:1-7; Lk. 24:1-7; Jn. 20:1).
  • The women depart from the garden and inform the disciples (Matt. 28:8-10; Lk. 24:8-11; Jn. 20:2).
  • Peter and John run to the tomb and discover it is empty (Lk. 24:12; Jn. 20:3-10).
  • Mary returns to the tomb and meets the resurrected Jesus (Jn. 20:11-18).
  • Jesus appears to Cleopas and another with him on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35).
  • That evening, Jesus appears to the disciples, minus Thomas, in a house in Jerusalem (Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-23).

In recounting what occurred on this day of Jesus’ resurrection, John describes these events. It began “early” with the discovery of the empty tomb (Jn. 20:1-10) and Jesus’ appearance to Mary (Jn. 20:11-18). And then “on the evening of that day” Jesus appeared to the disciples (Jn. 20:19-23). Because Thomas was not with the disciples at this time, and when informed of this appearance of Jesus by the other disciples, he would not believe. John records that “eight days later” when the disciples were gathered, this time with Thomas, Jesus appeared to them again (Jn. 20:24-29). This led to Thomas’ confession, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28)!

With this larger context of John’s recounting of the events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection in mind, I return to the evening of the day in which Jesus was raised. John writes, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn. 20:19). This word is key in this first encounter with Jesus. Jesus reiterates this statement, saying “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn. 20:21). And then, “eight days later,” when Thomas is now with the other disciples, not having been with them in their first meeting with Jesus, he, once again, meets them in a similar manner and says, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:26). In light of the disciples’ fears on the evening of this resurrection day, Jesus’ words of peace refer immediately to their present situation. He reassures them in the midst of certain and real fear of the Jews, they ought to be at “peace.” This is not the first time Jesus mentions peace.

Earlier in the Gospel, John records Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). Jesus gives peace unlike any peace offered by and experienced in the world. Based on the peace Jesus offers, our hearts are not to be troubled or afraid. Jesus reiterates this teaching post-resurrection. Later, Jesus declares, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Once again, Jesus promises to them peace – peace in the midst of tribulation. The reason is because he has overcome the world. Now when Jesus meets with the disciples on the evening of the first day of the week, the day in which Jesus resurrected, his first words are “Peace be with you.” Not only are they uttered as a culmination of Jesus’ previous teaching. They are also filled with meaning because of his death-burial-resurrection.

Jesus last words from the cross and the first words to his disciples are connected. It only makes sense that the last words of Jesus, “It is finished,” which reflect the completion of the earthly work Christ came to accomplish, are followed immediately after the resurrection with “Peace be with you.” The death-burial-resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ground by which sin, our defiance and rebellion against God, is addressed (Gen. 2:16-17) and his wrath is propitiated (Rom. 3:21-26). Faith is the means by which this completed, finished work of Christ is received in our lives. That is, if we truly understand Jesus’ final words from the cross, we then ought to expect that Jesus’ first words to the disciples would be “Peace be with you.”

G. R. Beasley-Murray, a New Testament scholar, captures the essence of this truth in the following statement:

It is well known that that was (and still is) the everyday greeting of Jews in Palestine – ‘Shalom to you!’ But this was no ordinary day. . . . Never had that ‘common word’ been so filled with meaning as when Jesus uttered it on Easter evening. All that the prophets had poured into shalom as the epitome of the blessings of the kingdom of God had essentially been realized in the redemptive deeds of the incarnate Son of God, ‘lifted up” for the salvation of the world. “His ‘Shalom!’ on Easter evening is the completion of ‘It is finished’ on the cross, for the peace of reconciliation and life from God is now imparted. ‘Shalom!’ accordingly is supremely the Easter greeting. Not surprisingly it is included, along with ‘grace,’ in the greeting of every epistle of Paul in the NT.

It is finished . . . Peace be with you. These two historical statements are rich with theological truth, and essential for our new life in Christ. The peace pronounced and accomplished by Jesus in the New Testament is the fulfillment of the shalom promised in the Old Testament.

Shalom, according to one, is “one of the key words and images for salvation in the Bible. The Hebrew word refers most commonly to a person being uninjured and safe, whole and sound. In the New Testament, shalom is revealed as the reconciliation of all things to God through the work of Christ. . . . Shalom experienced is multidimensional, complete well-being – physical, psychological, social, and spiritual; it flows form all of one’s relationships being put right – with God, with(in) oneself, and with others.” Although there is some overlap with how this term is understood outside of Christianity, there is a unique use of the term due to the death-burial-resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In essence, what makes this unique, concludes one, is “the offended party (God) initiates the process of reconciliation with his enemy. It is not humans who approach God to make peace, but God who reaches out to humanity. . . . it is by means of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ that peaceful relations between God ad humanity can be effected.” It is emphasized in the Aaronic blessing/doxology in the Old Testament, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Num. 26:24-26), and the person and work of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).

On this day in which we remember and celebrate this peace we have received, we ultimately worship the One who brought this peace, Jesus Christ, who is the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), and is himself our peace (Eph. 2:14ff). Here are a few implications of Jesus’ completion of his earthly work (“it is finished”) and the peace he brings (“peace be with you”).

First, we have peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 5:1; 8:1).

Second, we have peace with one another. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:14-17).

Third, we live lives marked by the peace of God and the God of peace. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . . What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me– practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:5b-7, 9).

Finally, we live with the certainty of future, ultimate peace (shalom). “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:19-20).

Dear friends, on this day we remember and worship Christ, confessing he is “My Lord and my God!”

Peace be with you!

Christians refer to this day as Good Friday. It is the day Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion. Although there is much about this day that would rightly be considered bad, for Christians, because of what it means, it is not only considered good, it is truly good. Jesus death (and resurrection!) is the only means by which sinners are, by faith, enabled to be made right with God. It is referred to as the great exchange, or imputation (double imputation): my sins are placed on Christ and Christ’s righteousness is given to us (2 Cor. 5:21). Referring to this day as Good Friday is a theological statement/truth.

Another fitting way this day could be described is as dark Friday. From 12:00 noon until 3:00 PM (according to the Jewish reckoning, these hours were known as the time between the 6th and 9th hours, since the day began at 6:00 AM), there was darkness over the whole land: “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (Mk. 15:33; cf. Matt. 27:45; Lk. 23:44). These three hours of darkness ended with Jesus’ death. Referring to this day as dark Friday is a historical statement.

Before focusing on the final words of Jesus from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30), it is important to recount the events of the day (these events are compiled through the reading of the synoptic gospels along with the Gospel of John, and they are included in a number of different published sources):

  • Judas betrays Jesus and his arrested (Matt. 26:47-56).
  • Jesus appears before Annas for an informal hearing (Matt. 26:57, 59-68; Mk. 14:53, 55-65; Lk. 22:63-71).
  • Peter denies Jesus (Matt. 26:58, 29-75; Mk. 14:54, 66-72; Lk. 22:54-62; Jn. 18:15-18, 25-27).
  • Judas gives the silver back and hangs himself (Matt. 27:3-10).
  • Jesus is questioned by Pilate, who sends him to Herod Antipas (Matt. 27:11-14; Mk. 15:2-5; Lk. 23:1-7; Jn. 18:28-38).
  • Jesus is questioned by Herod Antipas, who sends him back to Pilate (Lk. 23:8-12).
  • In this second appearance before Pilate, Jesus is condemned to die (Matt. 27:15-26; Mk. 15:6-15; Lk. 23:13-25; Jn. 18:38-19:16).
  • Jesus is mocked and led to Golgotha (Matt. 27:27-34; Mk. 15:16-23; Lk. 23:26-49; Jn. 19:17).
  • Two thieves are crucified with Jesus (Matt. 27:35-44; Mk. 15:24-32; Lk. 23:33-43; Jn. 19:18-27).
  • Jesus breathes his last breath (Matt. 27:45-56; Mk. 15:33-41; Lk. 23:44-49; Jn. 19:28-37).
  • Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus in a new tomb (Matt. 27:57-61; Mk. 15:42-47; Lk. 23:50-56; Jn. 19:38-42).

Immediately prior to his death, John records Jesus’ final words and his final voluntary and obedient act: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 1It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:28-30). Everything about this dark/good Friday, and everything about Jesus’ death is important for us to grasp, with the implications of Christ’s death (and resurrection!) vital for us to experience for new life. Of these many truths and implications, I focus upon five.

First, Jesus is aware he is here for a divine purpose, a purpose arrived at through one divine will. This is not the Father against the Son. This is the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – willing from eternity past (immanent Trinity) to redeem a people for himself, and this is the means by which that redemption becomes real in time (economic Trinity).

Second, Jesus is aware he is fulfilling the divine plan and purpose that had been prophesied earlier. His statement of “I thirst” is a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures (cf. Ps. 69:21; one concludes, “the hermeneutical assumption is that David and his experience constitute a prophetic model, a ‘type’, of ‘great David’s greater son’.”). This “jar full of sour wine” is not to be confused with the “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mk. 15:23), which Jesus was offered on the way to the cross. That was used as a sedative intended to alleviate the pain, to dull the senses, so that one would not feel the pain of the suffering. This Jesus refused. He was committed to obey his Father to the end, voluntarily and obediently to drink the full cup of suffering assigned to him in his role as the God-man. Being the opposite of dulling the pain, this “sour wine” would prolong life and therefore prolong pain (cf. Mk. 15:36).

Third, John records that the “sour wine” Jesus requested was given to him “on a hyssop branch.” This is only mentioned by John, and this little plant, of which a sprig is ideal for sprinkling, was regularly used in the Old Testament for this purpose. In one connection to God’s divine will, and the fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures, and the fulfillment of the types foreshadowing Christ, this is the plant used to sprinkle the blood on the doorposts and lintel at Passover (Ex. 22:22). For those homes who engaged in this obedient act commanded by God, the promised response was “the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you” (Ex. 22:23). Jesus is the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36).

Fourth, Jesus utters his final words from the cross: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). This not only refers to the end of Jesus’ earthly life, a time at which he dies, but, more importantly, the fulfillment and completion of the work he came to do. It is not merely a chronological reference, pointing to the end-point of a period of time. Significantly, it is also a theological reference, the completion of his work of addressing sin (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12-21), so that we might have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Jesus came to propitiate God’s wrath and to forgive sins (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Jn. 4:10), to remove the fear of death (Heb. 2:14), to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8), and to triumph over the principalities and the powers (Col. 2:14-15). D. A. Carson writes,

In the Greek text, the cry itself is one word, tetelestai. As an English translation, It is finished captures only part of the meaning, the part that focuses on completion. Jesus’ work was done. But this is no cry of defeat; nor is it merely an announcement of imminent death (though it is not less than that). The verb teleō from which this form derives denotes the carrying out of a task, and in religious contexts bears the overtone of fulfilling one’s religious obligations. Accordingly, in the light of the impending cross, Jesus could earlier cry, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing (teleiōsas; i.e. by accomplishing) the work you gave me to do’ (17:4). ‘Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them eis telos—not only ‘to the end’ but to the full extent mandated by his mission. And so, on the brink of death, Jesus cries out, It is accomplished!

Another gloriously concludes, what is most important about Jesus’ last works is the truth that “Jesus work was finished. He came to work God’s work, and this meant dying on the cross for the world salvation. This mighty work of redemption has now reached its culmination. . . . Jesus died with the cry of the Victor on his lips. This is not the moan of the defeated, nor the sigh of patient resignation. It is the triumphant recognition that He has now fully accomplished the work that He came to do.”

Finally, Jesus final earthly act voluntarily and obediently experienced is that after confessing “it is finished,” he “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30; cf. Matt. 27:50; Mk. 15:37; Lk. 23:46). He is the sovereign one over life and death, and although many are humanly responsible for Christ’s death, no one ultimately took his life. He is the one who had authority to lay it down of his own accord (Jn. 10:18), which is the final filial act of obedience to his the will of his Father (Jn. 8:29; 14:31). Jesus’ final utterance of “it is finished” (Jn. 19:30) reveals the truth Jesus stated earlier, “he loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). The end of his love was his death on the cross. This love of the Son is also reflected by God the Father who loved, and his love was the ground and basis for the propitiatory sacrifice (1 Jn. 4:9-10).

This “giving up” or “handed over” is the last one in a series of uses of this verb (note the different ways the word is translated). The devil through Judas Iscariot “betrayed” Jesus to Caiaphas (18:2), and Caiaphas “delivered” Jesus to Pilate (Jn. 18:30), and Pilate “delivered him” to the Jews for crucifixion” (Jn. 19:16). But ultimately and absolutely, Jesus was in control of it all, in that he is the one who “gave up his spirit” to the Father (Jn. 19:30; cf. Matt. 27:50; Lk. 23:46).

I conclude in this way. Jesus’ “it is finished” refers to the fulfillment and completion of the work he as the God-man came to accomplish. Part of his completion and fulfillment is as the second Adam. Where the first Adam failed, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, faithfully and fully fulfilled, captured in his last earthly words on the cross: “it is finished.” Here is how one summarizes this wonderfully amazing truth:

The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden. The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man. The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped. The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree. The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face.

The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body.”

This day is historically referred to as Maundy Thursday. The Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which means command, and refers to the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples to love one another, as recorded by John (Jn. 13:34-35).

Jesus gave this command in the midst of the celebration of the Passover with his disciples. It is helpful to recount the events of this day of this final week of Jesus’ life prior to the cross. Jesus initially instructs his disciples Peter and John to get a room for the celebration of Passover (Matt. 26:17-19; Mk. 14:12-16; Lk. 22:7-13). Jesus and his disciples celebrate the Passover meal, at which time he informs them of the coming betrayal, and he institutes the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:20-29; Mk. 14:17-23; Lk. 22:14-30). This Passover becomes the Last Supper and the Lord’s Supper, which marks a transition between the two, and marks the beginning of the new covenant ushered in through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, the new covenant in my blood” (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). Finally, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, interacts with them and gives the Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 13:1-17:26). One has written that the purpose of this section of John’s Gospel “is to ‘unpack’, before the event, the significance of Jesus’ departure – his death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and the consequent coming of the Holy Spirit.”

In this section of John’s Gospel focusing on the Passover and the washing of the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:1-38), there are a number of key truths that are important for us to grasp to understand the significance of Jesus and his work, leading to the cross.

  1. When John reaches this point in his Gospel, he notes of Jesus that “his hour had come to depart” (13:1a). The “hour” is related to the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry which is the cross, the place where Christ experiences the depths of sin, yet also the beginning of his exaltation through resurrection and glorification. It is important to note John’s transition. When Jesus was asked to do certain things, He made it clear that the “hour had not yet come” (Jn. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). But Jesus final journey to the cross marks his transition such that John records Jesus as saying, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn. 12:23; cf. 12:27(2x); 13:1; 17:1). The cross is the unique way through which He will be glorified. Jesus’ High Priestly prayer begins, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (Jn. 17:1).
  2. God loved the world that led to the giving of his only-begotten Son (Jn. 3:16). God’s love for the world is not that it was good, but in order to draw men and women out of it. This is why he gave his Son. God’s love is the reason he sent his Son, and the Son’s death was the propitiation for our sins. God is not moved from wrath to love because of Christ’s death. Rather, it is God’s love that leads to his satisfaction of his wrath against us and our sin. This is how John states this truth: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9-10).
  3. Jesus loved his own from the beginning, but now he reveals the full extent of his love (13:1b). This expression could mean either “to the end,” viz., he loved them to the uttermost that he could not love any more. Or it could mean Jesus loved them to the very end of his life. Whichever way it is understood, “the text presupposes that the way Jesus displays his unflagging love for his own is in the cross immediately ahead, and in the act of self-abasing love, the foot-washing, that anticipates the cross.” Jesus “loved them to the end,” which culminates in Jesus’ statement “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30), and bowing his head and giving up his spirit (Jn. 19:30). God the Father’s love was the ground and basis of the sending of his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:9-10). God the Son loved to the end, to death on the cross (Jn. 13:1; 19:30). The Father and Son are one in will, intent and purpose.
  4. Jesus, being the God-man, knew the “Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God” (13:3). Jesus knew his purpose and he trusted his Father. We confess that Jesus is fully God and fully man, one person in two natures. This is revealed in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane where “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk. 22:44). Knowing what was before him he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). And yet, the Scriptures also reveal that “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 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” (Heb. 12:2).
  5. Because he knew who he was and what his purpose was, he served. Jesus takes the humble posture as he “laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (13:4-6). This reflects the nature of God, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
  6. In addition to revealing the sacrificial love of God, which will be expressed fully by Jesus giving his life at the cross, this foot washing also serves as an example to Jesus’ followers. Jesus says, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (13:14-15). Jesus takes the form of a servant and serves. We, as his followers, also serve.
  7. It is in knowing the Lord Jesus and the truths about him and doing them, living by them that brings blessing. Jesus emphasizes, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (13:17). It is the knowing and doing. The doing is not the basis of life, but the fruit and manifestation of life.
  8. After Jesus stated one will betray him, he also acknowledged that it was through this means he and the Father would be glorified: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once” (13:31-32). The purpose for which Jesus came was to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:10) and to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8). And the means by which these would be realized, and the way in which God the Father and God the Son would be glorified is through his death on the cross.
  9. Finally, Jesus gives a new command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). This command is not new because nothing like it had ever been said previously. Rather, as noted by D. A. Carson, it was new on the basis of it being a “new standard (‘As I have loved you’) [and] with the new order it both mandates and exemplifies. . . . This commandment is presented as the marching order for the newly gathering messianic community, brought into existence by the redemption long purposed by God himself. It is not just that the standard is Christ and his love; more, it is a command designed to reflect the relationship of love that exists between the Father and the Son (cf. 8:29; 10:18; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10), designed to bring about amongst the members of the nascent messianic community the kind of unity that characterizes Jesus and his Father (Jn. 17). The new command is there not only the obligation of the new covenant community to respond to the God who has loved them and redeemed them by the oblation of his Son, and their response to his gracious election which constituted them his people, it is a privilege which, rightly lived out, proclaims the true God before a watching world. That is why Jesus ends his injunction with the words, All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Orthodoxy without principial obedience to this characteristic command of the new covenant is merely so much humbug.”

On this day, may we reflect on two critical truths: Jesus “loved them to the end” and on this basis we are commanded and enabled to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 12:12-19

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 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!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 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. 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 heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Introduction

Many have read and recounted the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-11; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:29-44; Jn. 12:12-19), otherwise known as Palm Sunday. Prior to entering into Jerusalem, Jesus views the city and weeps (Lk. 19:41-44). Once arriving, Jesus visits the temple (Matt. 21:12-17; Mk. 11:11; Lk. 19:45-46) and predicts his death (Jn. 12:20-36).

Historical and Contextual Setting

As we read this text and ponder the events of this first day of the Jewish week, and the last week of Jesus’ earthly life leading to his crucifixion, it will be helpful to address some of the historical and cultural background. The crowd and Galilean pilgrims are there for the Jewish festivities. They spread their cloaks on the ground with Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem.

During the Jewish festivals, especially Passover, Jerusalem was an exciting place. The population of the city was approximately 40,000, and because Passover was one of the major Jewish pilgrimages, during this festival the population would increase to about 240,000 people, six times its normal amount. There was great anticipation for those celebrating this festival, and the city was abuzz. The Romans were on special alert during these days. Having that many Jews in one place concerned them. All the Jews were enthusiastic about their faith and this ritual of Passover, as they relived an important part of their history and their faith. The Romans wanted to control the people and the festivities, so they were extra observant and vigilant.

In addition to these historical and cultural matters, there were significant theological issues as well. Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a donkey. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy given by Zechariah. This was important for the Jews. Furthermore, the way in which Jesus entered into Jerusalem was the same way Solomon entered when he became king. The message communicated through these events, which fulfilled Old Testament prophetic promises, is that the Messianic king entered Jerusalem, God’s holy city. This was exhilarating for the Jews and others in the crowd. They were expecting a Messiah who would be a national deliverer, who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom. Jesus looked a lot like the Messiah who had been promised in the Old Testament Scriptures: he taught with authority, he healed the sick, he even raised the dead. The people welcomed him with this in mind, as they prepared the way for him as the Davidic king entering Jerusalem.

What this means is that Jesus entered into an exciting, tense and potentially explosive situation. The Romans wanted to keep things under control, so things did not get out of hand. The Jewish authorities also had concerns since they did not want to upset the Roman authorities. It was an intense and unstable situation for Jesus and the disciples.

Biblical Context

This section in John’s Gospel focuses on the feast of unleavened bread culminating in the Passover. John begins this section in this way: “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead” (12:1). At Bethany, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with oil (12:3). Other Gospel writers also include that Jesus’ head was also anointed, indicating there was sufficient oil to anoint both Jesus’ head and feet (Matt. 26:7; Mk. 14:3).

Judas, not unexpectedly, objects, since this oil could have been sold for a full year’s wages (12:5). It was, according to Judas, a waste. In the providence of God, it was a precursor to the anointing of Jesus’ body after his crucifixion and prior to his burial.

Large crowds came to see Jesus and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead (12:9). The chief priests desired to kill both (12:10).

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry

A great crowd that had come to the feast of unleavened bread (12:12), associated with the Passover (12:1), heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, so they followed him (12:12; cf. 12:9). The excited crowd took palm branches and spread them on the road where Jesus rode into the city on a donkey (12:13). As they went out to meet Jesus with the palm branches, they recalled the words recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures. They quoted a text from Psalm 118:25-26, which they believed was being fulfilled by Jesus as he approached Jerusalem.

One has written, “By waving palm branches (a Jewish national symbol) the people hail Jesus as the Davidic king and echo the language of Ps. 118:25-26, hoping that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Most of the crowd probably understood the title King of Israel in a political and military sense, still hoping that Jesus would use his amazing powers to resist Roman rule and lead the nation to independence.”

“Hosanna,” is a Hebrew expression which means “save,” and it became an exclamation of praise. It remains so to this day. The statement “king of Israel” refer to the expectations for this person to be a political deliverer, whose identity is as the Messiah. In the beginning of this Gospel, John records Nathanael saying the same thing about Jesus: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (1:49)!

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, which is the fulfillment of another prophecy written by Zechariah (9:9), which identifies the one on a donkey as a king. Jesus came not on a war horse, but on a donkey, depicting his humility. As one concludes, “Jesus is depicted as the humble shepherd-king of Zech. 9:9, who comes to the Holy City to take his rightful place. An early messianic prophecy speaks of a rule from Judah, who, riding on a donkey, will command the obedience of the nations (Gen. 49:10-11).”

His disciples did not understand these things, until after Jesus was glorified (Jn. 12:16; cf. 7:39) At that time, the Spirit brought these things to mind (cf. Jn. 16:13) and gave them “eyes to see” and understand. The same occurred with what Jesus said of the temple and his body (2:22).

The crowd that was with him when he raised Lazarus from the dead continued to follow him. They continued to “bear witness” to what they had seen. It was this sign that led the people to desire to meet Jesus. (John records seven signs or miracles Jesus performed that are truly significant, in that they point to the person of Jesus Christ who is the God-man: water turned to wine [John 2:1-11]; healing the sick [Jn. 4:46-53]; healing on the Sabbath [Jn. 5:1-29]; feeding the multitude [Jn. 6:1-14]; walking on water [Jn. 6:16-24]; healing the blind [Jn. 9:1-12]; raising Lazarus from the dead [Jn. 11:1-44].)

The Pharisees concluded this was getting them nowhere, which meant their earlier desire to kill him was only strengthened. They claimed the “whole world”, was going to see him (12:19; cf. 12:10), a bit of hyperbole to strengthen their justification and resolve to kill him.

Following this, Jesus speaks of his impending death, his “hour” in which he and the Father are “glorified” (Jn. 12:23; 17:1).

Conclusion

The “hour” is related to the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry which is the cross, the place where Christ experiences the depths of sin, yet also the beginning of his exaltation through resurrection and glorification.

It is important to note John’s transition. When Jesus was asked to do certain things, He made it clear that the “hour had not yet come” (Jn. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). But Jesus final journey to the cross marks his transition such that John records Jesus as saying, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn. 12:23; cf. 12:27(2x); 13:1; 17:1).

The cross is the unique way through which He will be glorified. Jesus’ High Priestly prayer begins, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (Jn. 17:1).

Response

Jesus’ sinless life, his perfect substitutionary death and his glorious resurrection and ascension are historical and doctrinal truths we remember this week. More than that, these are truths that we not only believe and affirm, they are truths we have experienced which have transformed our lives. Ultimately, this leads to worship of the Lord Jesus. Like Thomas, we utter, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28).

Might our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ this week lead to worship of him and proclamation of this truth, as we trust him to work in the lives of people “to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”