Summary: Jesus entered this world for a purpose, and that purpose was the ultimate defeat of Darkness! Out of the darkest moment in the world’s history … the crucifixion of God’s Son … would shine the Light of Salvation and Eternal Life!
Passover was always an exciting time to be in Jerusalem. The streets were packed with pilgrims and visitors and sightseers from all over the Mediterranean region. The shops and restaurants and inns were doing a brisk business as usual. But something was different this year. There was something in the air … you could feel it … a heightened sense of excitement … of expectation … and, at the same time, a sense, and undertone of tension. It seemed like there were a lot more Temple and Roman guards patrolling the streets than usual … and there were clumps of religious leaders and officials in the markets and on the street corners with their heads together talking very seriously about something in whispered tones … casting furtive, anxious looks at the crowds milling around. There was a strange mixture of excitement, celebration, reverence, and foreboding that hung in the air above the city.
And then a shout went up. Like a wave, it started at the East Gate and rippled through the streets of the packed city. “He’s here! He’s Here!” People began breaking off palm branches and waving them, shouting: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! The King … the Messiah … of Israel has come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.”
A stranger asks, “What’s going on?”
… and they are told: “It’s Jesus! Jesus has arrived!”
“Jesus of Nazareth! Haven’t you heard? The man is an amazing prophet. He’s healed people … His teachings rival that of the greatest rabbis. Why, just a few days ago He raised His friend from the dead!”
“He did what? He brought his dead friend back from the grave?”
“Yes! His friend, Lazarus, who lives in the next town over, had been dead for four days … four days! And now he’s here, celebrating the Passover with his sisters, Martha and Mary.
“How can this be true? Four days? He brought a man back to life after being dead for four days! I don’t believe it!” the visitor scoffs.
“I don’t blame you, Sir, but a friend of mine was in Bethany and he saw it happen! I’ll introduce you to him if you want. I’m telling you, this Jesus of Nazareth is not only great prophet like Elijah but He has come to be our king and free us from the oppression of Rome! Hosanna! Hosanna! Jesus has come to deliver us!”
At the beginning of John’s gospel, he describes Jesus as “the True Light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9). This True Light came to shine in the darkness of this world which not only didn’t welcome the True Light, says the Apostle John, but tried to put it out (John 1:5). “He was in the world,” says John, “and the world came into being through Him … yet the world did not know Him. He came to what was His own, and His own people did not accept Him” (v. 10-11).
There are two central images or themes in John’s gospel. The first is the contrast between light and darkness. Darkness can be physical … as in the absence of light or physical blindness. Darkness also represents intellectual or spiritual darkness, an intellectual or spiritual “blindness” if you will. Jesus is the “Light” that brought actual, physical sight to the blind and intellectual and spiritual sight to the spiritually blind. The second image in John’s gospel is “signs.” “Signs” are God’s way of revealing His Light, His Son, to the world. “Signs” or “miracles” were physical proof of who Jesus was and what He came to do: to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:16, Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus’ “signs” were like flashes of light in the darkness in that they opened the eyes and the minds of those who were in the dark about Jesus and the spiritual truths that He came to proclaim. They also revealed the minds and hearts of those who chose to reject the signs and remain in spiritual darkness … and we see all this come to head when Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time.
Just before Jesus entered Jerusalem, He provided the world with one whooper of a “sign” … He raised His friend, Lazarus, from the dead … a pretty amazing and convincing “sign,” you agree, amen? As a result of this “sign” or “miracle,” says the Apostle John, “many of the Jews therefore, who had come along with Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him” (John 11:45).
And yet, for all the signs and miracles, says John, the “Light [had] come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of the Light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). When the religious leaders heard about Jesus’ miraculous feat in Bethany, were their eyes open to the spiritual truth of who Jesus was? Did the truth of who Jesus was dispel the darkness of their spiritual blindness? Nope! After hearing that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, they got together and held a secret meeting.