DAYS OF THUNDER 1: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

When I first started putting this sermon together, I thought I would call it “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” (Matthew 23)

But I decided on a different title. I am calling this “A Tale of Two Cities.” Now, you might realize that I am stealing the title from a famous book written way back in 1859 by a brother named Charles Dickens. It was about London and Paris during the French Revolution.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period…”

I think a Tale of Two Cities is a great title for today’s sermon because the two cities in John chapter 12 are two different lenses of one city called Jerusalem.  John 12 is set in the great city of Jerusalem at the time of the triumphant and promised entry of King Jesus, the Messiah, riding on a donkey as the Bible had prophesied for centuries.

In this one city we find two completely polarized groups. Complete opposites. 

Jesus’ closest friends and His most evil enemies.

People in high society and those nobody recognized.

A crowd that recognizes him as The King. A group of religious people who just want him dead.

Speaking of dead we have Lazarus being resurrected and Jesus laying his life down.

His Holiness and deity recognized and terrible accusations coming after Him.

Jewish people and Greek people.

People hearing God speak in an amazing way and others not having a clue.

People madly in love with the Lord and giving up everything they had. Then we have Judas, hating Jesus and getting all he could get.

All this at the same time, in the same place; it’s a tale of two cities both called Jerusalem and

“…in short, the period was so far like the present period…” – Charles Dickens

In this present period, you are going to have to live in the tale of two cities while serving God.

Which city are you going to be?

Supernatural sanity or anxiety and depression?

Financial favor or crashing the economy?

Security and confidence or fear and freaking out?

Are you a city set on a hill?  Or are you the ghetto of something else entirely?

Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

John 12:1-29 – Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.

Lazarus is a problem.   

Resurrected people are always a problem.

3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

$100,000 and then some.

6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

Judas Iscariot is the Father of socialism, Marxism, Antifa and all things woke.

7 But Jesus said, Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Mary got the revelation that none of His closest disciples did:

“If you’ve got such an agenda to hang out with and help the poor, you can do that for the rest of your life. Right now, make a big deal out of hanging out with me.”

9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

(The Triumphal Entry12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

That’s Zechariah 9:9.

“On a donkey” means he’s coming in peace. On a horse means he’s coming in war mode.

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

There were things that made sense later that didn’t make sense in that moment.

17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

So the last 6 days of the life of Jesus, Lazarus was front and center wherever Jesus was publicly. Jesus had made him famous! But the Lord is using this as proof of the miraculous event of the resurrection so there is a way for them to have hope and believe in His resurrection after he has died.

The Fruitful Grain of Wheat

20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.

What we are going to find out is that for Christ to be glorified, life has to triumph over death. Something has to die and resurrection power has to be made manifest.

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.

He’s saying it’s not time for Him to meet with the Greeks and go to all the world; it won’t be until he dies.

25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

When the crowds of Jerusalem were saying, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” and throwing babies in the air, Jesus was dealing with the reality of death and resurrection. They are thinking “Party! Party! Party!’ but he knows that in a few days they will be saying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” He knows it’s going to be bad and horrible.

(Jesus Predicts His Death on the Cross27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”

This is a timeless statement.

“I have laid it down and picked it up. I am about to lay it down and pick it up. I’m going to lay it down and pick it up again.”

29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, An angel has spoken to Him.”

One group heard what was said and knew it was God.

Another group knew it was supernatural but that’s all they knew.

And another group said it thundered.

God is speaking

You’ve got to believe you can hear Him.

He’s the greatest communicator ever.

You don’t trust your ability to hear. You trust in His ability to reach you.

Little Judah

They said he was non-verbal but Peace had to speak 7 languages to him before he began to respond.

He spoke a language the people who loved him had to discover.

God knows your language.

Connecting of the dots.

General Revelation      
Personal / Relational / Specific Revelation