Easter Eye’s View #4
"Easter with Faith"
John 12:12-19; 18:15; 19:25-27; 20:1-9
1. There is a story about a Persian general who sentenced a captured spy to
death. The general always offered a choice to those facing execution. He let
them pick between a firing squad and the big, black door. The spy took a while
to decide and then chose the firing squad. It wasn’t long until the shots rang
out and the spy was dead.
The general turned to an aide and said that they almost always choose the firing
squad because people prefer the known to the unknown. The aide asked what is
behind the big, black door. "Freedom," the general explained,
"but I’ve only known a few brave enough to take it."
2. Facing the choices leading up to the first Easter, many of the
eyewitnesses made poor choices. The enemies of Jesus chose to arrest and
execute him. Judas chose betrayal. Thomas chose doubt. Peter chose denial.
3. John bravely chose faith. Some might consider it the black door. John
saw it as freedom. Of all the characters in the Easter story he is the one I
most want to be like.
Do you know who is on pages 756-784 of the Minneapolis phone book? There
are 28 pages of Johnsons—those named after the one disciple of Jesus who saw
Easter with faith from start to finish. It is a good thing to be named after
John and even better to be like him.
I. Faith in celebration John 12:12-19
1. The week began with Palm Sunday. It was a day of exuberant celebration
and John was there.
2. John 12:12-19
[That Sunday] 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, "Hosanna!"
"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!"
3. It was a great day in Jerusalem and Jesus was the center of attention and
¨ The city was crowded with visitors from all
over the world who had gathered for the coming Jewish Passover. It was the
goal of non-resident Jews to celebrate in Jerusalem at least once in a lifetime.
Even in 2003 the Passover celebration ends with the words, "next year in
¨ Stories about Jesus were spreading quickly.
None was hotter than the Lazarus story that Jesus had brought a dead man back to
life. Only God could overrule death and Jesus had done exactly that. Excitement
was in the air.
¨ When Jesus entered Jerusalem he deliberately
chose to ride on a donkey. That was an ancient symbol of the Messiah. It was
an expression of humility, unlike the conqueror riding a warhorse. He was saying
that he was the one they had hoped and prayed for over generations.
¨ The crowds paved the road with palm branches.
Palm branches were the ancient equivalent of our confetti, streamers and
fireworks. They were honoring Jesus with an ancient tickertape parade.
¨ They shouted "Hosanna!" which means
"Save!" It’s actually a quote from Psalm 118:25-26. "Blessed
is the king of Israel!" In modern England they would be shouting,
"God save the King!"
4. Did you see the people celebrating in Basra and Baghdad when coalition
forces entered the city? Do you remember the old movies of the Allies
liberating Paris and the people dancing in the streets? Palm Sunday was a day
for dancing—and shouting, laughing, singing and celebrating! It was the day of
dreams come true. It was a day when thousands celebrated Jesus.
5. For the religious leaders called Pharisees it was an awful day. They
were disgusted and frightened by the popularity of Jesus. It was like a standing
ovation for the enemy. They were sick inside. It seemed to them that the whole
world had gone after him.
6. John was one of the partiers! He believed in Jesus with all his heart.
I can see him waving his palms, shouting his praises and dancing with
enthusiasm. Did he understand exactly what was going on? Not really. By his own
admission, he really didn’t get it until after Easter, but he enjoyed the
7. What a way to see Easter! Just celebrate Jesus with all your heart and
figure out the details later. It takes faith - - - and that’s exactly what
II. Faith in danger John 18:15
1. A lot changed by Thursday night. Jesus wasn’t in a party mood. His
talk seemed dark and dangerous. Jesus was looking depressed. Then it got
dangerous with soldiers and arrest and threats and trials. Jesus was on a fast
track to the cross and just about everyone was abandoning him at a record pace.
2. John didn’t waver when danger peaked. He stuck with Jesus all the
3. John 18:15
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this
disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s
John wrote these words. He was an eyewitness biographer of all that
happened. John did a curious thing when he told Jesus’ story—he never
mentioned himself by name. The book that we call "The Gospel according to
John" always refers to him indirectly. Here he calls himself "another
4. John knew the high priest personally. He didn’t even need security
clearance to go right into Caiaphas’ home. Of course this put him at the
highest level of danger.
In political conflict it is common to not only eliminate the enemy but those
aligned with the enemy. Whether Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein or a new President
Washington, the common practice is to get rid of all the top deputies as well as
the leader himself.
Peter denied he knew Jesus in order to save his skin. That wouldn’t work for
John because they all knew who he was.
5. John was willing to risk his life for Jesus. His faith was not limited
to happy days when the crowd was shouting praises; he believed in Jesus and was
faithful even when the crowd was shouting for crucifixion.
6. There’s a lesson here for us all. Some of us love to party with
Jesus in the good times but have little faith in the bad times. When life is
good we gladly carry the title "Christian" but when life gets
dangerous with problems, sickness, financial reverses, lost job and a long list
of scary options—we’re not so sure about faith in Jesus.
7. John’s faith was for every season—faith in celebration; faith in
danger; and faith in duty.
III. Faith in duty John 19:25-27
1. John was the only male follower of Jesus who showed up at the crucifixion.
The rest were low on faith and hiding out.
2. John 19:25-27
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the
wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the
disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman,
here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
3. It was a dramatic moment. Jesus was dying and he knew it. The pain must
have been indescribable. Every breath was precious and every word was almost
impossible to speak. The whole point of Jesus’ death was human salvation—he
was dying there in our place; he was taking the eternal consequences of our sin;
he was saving our souls from hell and for heaven. Nothing could be bigger and
nothing could be more important.
But Jesus had a personal, practical need. He was the eldest son of a widow. He
needed someone to take care of her after he was gone. His own brothers weren’t
there; he couldn’t count on them to do what needed to be done. So, he asked
The ancient historians tell us what happened in the following years as the
gospel of Jesus started to spread across the empire and beyond—all the
disciples of Jesus left to become missionaries except one. John stayed behind to
care for Mary until she died. It was his duty.
4. Faith in Jesus calls some of us to special assignments. They may not
be glamorous and they may not be easy. Jesus may ask us to do what no one else
will show up to do. Others may do the spectacular and sensational. Others may
have their names in the headlines. Others of us may be assigned to take care of
the elderly. Our names may not even be mentioned—we are just "the other
disciple" or "the disciple whom Jesus loved."
5. We learn from John that faith calls us to duty and our duty is to do
whatever Jesus wants us to do.
IV. Faith in resurrection John 20:1-9
1. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like during those long hours
and days after Jesus’ death. A dark cloud hung over the followers of Jesus—a
cloud that would not go away.
Remember those times when you felt totally trapped by hopeless circumstances.
Everything went wrong. You felt so lonely. Hopeless. Confused. Frightened.
2. Jesus had told them he would rise from the dead but they didn’t believe
it. Frankly, it was just too much to believe. Even those who had seen the
once-dead Lazarus come out of his tomb couldn’t muster up enough faith to
believe that Jesus would come back to life. All their dreams were shattered.
3. There is no record that John was different. Maybe the depression of
the others dragged him down into the pit of unbelief. But, knowing everything
else about his life and faith I can’t help but wonder if he wasn’t different
from the rest. It seems to me that if there is anyone who saw Easter coming it
must have been John.
4. John 20:1-9
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene
went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So
she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and
said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where
they have put him!"
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the
other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked
in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who
was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying
there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth
was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple,
who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They
still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
5. John was that "other disciple." It didn’t take much to
start him running. Mary Magdalene didn’t report a resurrection, only that
Jesus’ body was missing. John’s faith kicked in and he started running.
Panting for breath and hoping for life he won the race and arrived at the empty
6. "He saw and believed." Honestly, he didn’t see
much. Since Jesus’ body was the object of attention—technically, John didn’t
He didn’t need to see, hear or touch Jesus. He didn’t even need to fully
understand what was happening. John was tilted toward faith. John was anxious to
believe. John was waiting to believe. John was ready to believe.
7. What was it like?
Imagine: A prisoner with a life sentence suddenly set free.
Imagine: A patient with a terminal illness who is told there is a cure.
Imagine: A drowning swimmer who is rescued.
Imagine: A driver who totals a car and walks away without a scratch.
8. Jesus was alive! Resurrection worked! Every person destined to die can
now come back to life and live forever.
9. John was the first to believe. I doubt that he was surprised. He must
have thought to himself, "Of course Jesus is alive! Of course Jesus arose
from the dead!" And then I can picture him throwing back his head in
uncontrolled laughter. He was filled with joy. The celebration of Easter beat
out the celebration of Palm Sunday ten thousand times.
Your name doesn’t need to be Johnson to be a son or daughter of John.
Join the celebration. Share the laughter. Run to the resurrection. See Easter
with eyes of faith. Believe in Jesus!
April 12-13, 2003 Wooddale Church
© Leith Anderson 2003