What would cause you to join a crowd? What would motivate you to get out of bed and join a group of people for a particular cause? We have seen people march on Washington over health care but I doubt many of you reading this were there. We have seen million man marches but I doubt many of you reading this were there. What would it take for you to show up at a specific time and place and join a crowd, chant their chants, cheer their cheers, and rally behind a cause?
It almost seems like a showdown as just a few verses earlier the Pharisees put out word to be on the look out for Jesus so they could arrest him (11:57). He doesn’t sneak into Jerusalem. He doesn’t walk into Jerusalem as just one of a whole crowd of religious pilgrims there for Passover. He comes in like a king. The crowds shout Hosanna (which means, “Give salvation now!”) as they hail him as King of Israel (12:13). What draws this crowd with such specific, messianic expectation? John 12:17-18 gives us the answer,
“17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.”
In John 12 there is one thing alone that brings these people together. Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead and now he is coming to Jerusalem at Passover where tens of thousands (Josephus said over a million at times) of expectant Jews came to worship God. The Passover pointed back to their ancestors deliverance from the Egyptians and forward to their future Messianic deliverance. What would you think if in the midst of all this expectation you heard someone had been raised from the dead?
Imagine if you heard that on the news at your house and it turns out the events were unfolding within walking distance from your home and that news crews were on the scene…hearing helicopters flying overhead, would you step out and see what all the hubub was about? If you found out it was true, would you be a part of the crowd and share the excitement of such an event? But here in John 12 it is more than that. The events leading up to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at Passover was crucial to the state of their nation, their hope, and the expectation of countless generations of their ancestors. There is nothing more hopeful and universally appealing than the dead being raised. Jesus was performing these miraculous signs pointing to more amazing things to come. Later in John 12, Jesus makes reference to his own death and resurrection with the result of drawing all men to himself (12:32).
John 12 is also the beginning of Jesus’ glorification through people honoring him in ways they do not even totally understand themselves. It starts with Mary and her anointing Jesus with expensive perfume (12:1-11), continues with the crowd upon his entrance into Jerusalem (12:12-19) and continues with the requests by the Greeks to spend some time with Jesus (12:20). And yet some of his very own people refuse to give him glory or recognize who he is (12:37, 42ff). Unfortunately his ultimate glory will come at the cross and empty tomb, where he will twice be lifted up. One on a cross and again from the dead. When he is lifted up in this manner he will draw all men unto himself (12:32).