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John 12:12-19 Study Guide: The Triumphal Entry or \"A New Kind of King\"

Community Group Study Guide — The Triumphal Entry (or, A New Kind of King)
John 12:12-19

Study Information:
What comes to mind when you think about a king? Not many of us have lived in a government run by a king. Maybe when you think of kings and queens you think of the regality of it all, characters from movies, books and games or maybe you think about power and abuse of authority. I imagine that not many of you reading this associated the idea of a king with the word “humility.” Yet, our text of scripture highlights the kingship of Jesus as one marked by humility and how his kingship contrasted with all the worldly forms and expectations of kingship. Jesus was the righteous, humble king who came to save (Zech 9:9-10) but the crowds looked for a king who would establish a physical kingdom and bring political freedom.

John 12:12-15
There has been a large crowd following Jesus around ever since he raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). This crowd was spreading new about the resurrection of Lazarus and as word spread the religious leaders conspired to put Lazarus to death too (John 12:9-11)! At this point Jerusalem was getting jammed full of people who were gathering for the feast of Passover and the crowds eagerly awaited Jesus showing up. When they caught word that Jesus was near the city the crowd went out to meet him in a way that was politically charged. The crowd lined the streets into Jerusalem and waved palm branches as they shouted out “Hosanna” which meant “God save us now!” and to top it all off they called Jesus the “King of Israel” (John 12:13). The palm branches were more than just shade and a fan to keep cool; palm branches were a symbol of independence and revolution ever since the Maccabean revolution 200 years prior which was the last time Israel had independence. When the Maccabees successfully won their freedom they celebrated with music and waving of palm branches throughout the city. To wave palm branches was to ask for freedom. Likewise, “Hosanna” was a cry for salvation from their enemies and when they called Jesus the “King of Israel” they were risking a lot of danger from Rome. 

Jesus simultaneously responded in a way that was to reinterpret the expectations of the crowd, but likely it just stirred them up even more. John 12:14 highlights that Jesus saw the crowd and went and found a young donkey and entered the town sitting on it. This was all planned and on purpose and may not seem like much to us modern day readers, but John connects the dots for us to Zechariah’s prophecy about the Messiah who’d bring salvation to the people of God. 

Zechariah 9:9–10
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (ESV)

The crowd had heard about Jesus miraculous works, including the raising of Lazarus from the dead and put all their expectation and longing for freedom from Rome onto Jesus. They were hoping for a restoration of their kingdom. Jesus connects back to the Zechariah prophecy in order to show that he was indeed the Messiah they hoped for, but not the kind of king they were expecting. The connection to Zechariah’s prophecy shows us three marks of Jesus’ kingship. 

Three Marks of Jesus’ Kingship:
Jesus is the Humble King
Instead of being a power hungry, self focused King, Jesus is humble. Zechariah tell us that Jesus arriving on a donkey was a symbol of humility. He did not arrive on a warhorse or chariot ready for battle, but on a beast of burden that was associated with times of peace and humility. Jesus was not like worldly leaders looking for power and fame. He had all power and glory, but chose to use his power to serve and ultimately this act of entering the city of Jerusalem was the beginning of the last week of his life which culminated in the sacrifice of his life for our sin. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Christ’ entire earthly ministry showed just how unlike the worldly rulers and kings he was; he was and is the most humble person to have ever lived. 

Jesus is the King of the Nations, not just Israel
The prophecy about the Messiah in Zechariah comes after a passage that discussed how God was going to bring judgment to all of Israel’s enemies, but it did not end there. Zechariah 9:1-8 presented God as a warrior God protecting his people, but then took a big turn when Zechariah prophesied about the coming of the Messiah, not only would he arrive on a humble beast but God would cut off the weapons of war from his own people (chariots, war horses and battle bows) and in turn would bring peace to the nations. This Messiah would not just be the king of Israel, he’d be the king of the world. We look forward to one day God ruling and reigning over a New Creation and in the meantime we see people from all over the world coming to a place of wholeness and peace with God through what he has done in Christ. God’s kingdom is not limited to just one people group but God transforms people one by one when they are forgiven and reconciled to God as they put their faith in Christ and they enter his kingdom as new creation (Colossians 1:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17). 

Jesus brought Spiritual Freedom
The crowd longed for physical freedom from Rome, but Jesus brought spiritual freedom from being enslaved to sin and death. Romans 6 tells us that something will be our king - either sin, our selves or Christ our Savior. We can think that having a king would be stifling to us, but submitting to Jesus as king leads to freedom. All of this took place around the time of Passover which was a national celebration about how God delivered them from slavery to Egypt. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, tells his disciples that Passover would be fulfilled in him as his body was given for them and his blood became a sign of forgiveness through God’s New Covenant. Jesus’ kingship is not about control but leading his people towards a flourishing life through his teaching and his ways. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 12:12-19

What comes to your mind when you think of a king?

What clues do we have in the text that tells us that the crowds were looking for a physical king who would bring political freedom?

How does Zechariah 9:9-10 show us a different kind of kingship? Why is it significant that Jesus’ kingship is marked by humility?

Many of us do not like the idea of submitting or surrendering to someone else’s authority. But the Christian life is one of submission to Jesus as king. How is Jesus a better king than other things or people we can give our lives to?