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Enemies of God

Back to all sermons Revival

Date: April 10, 2022

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: Revival

Scripture: John 12:12–12:19

Tags: Jesus, Palm Sunday, crucifixion

This morning is Palm Sunday, the first day of what is known as Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Palm Sunday is the day which looks back at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that begins that final week. In a few days will be Good Friday, the day which commemorates his crucifixion. And next Sunday of course is Easter, the day in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We read the Matthew passage earlier in the service. Let’s read John’s account now:

 

John 12:12-19 - The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  13 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!"  14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,  15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."  16 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.  17 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.  18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.  19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!" 

 

Jesus has been teaching and healing people around the region for almost three years at this point. As he enters Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, the crowd is really excited. They are waving palm branches, and shouting “Hosanna,” an exclamation that communicates their belief that Jesus has come to save them. They call him the King of Israel. Clearly, the crowd sees him as more than just a good teacher or miracle worker. In fact, John references the Old Testament prophecy that the people believe is being fulfilled here:

 

Zechariah 9:9 - Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the people of Jerusalem believe that their long-awaited Messiah King has arrived, who will deliver them from their Roman oppressors and restore the kingdom of Israel to glory once again. They believe that the arrival of Jesus means that Rome will be overthrown, and that Israel will be a free nation again. In fact, even after Jesus died and rose again, remember what his disciples asked of him in Acts 1:6 - So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" So, again the crowd who has gathered believes that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah King who has come to Jerusalem to overthrow Roman oppression and restore Israel to its former glory.

 

But a few short days later, this same crowd that cheered wildly for Jesus with great anticipation and hope will be singing a completely different tune after Jesus has been arrested the Jewish religious leaders and brought before Pilate, the Roman governor.

 

Matthew 27:11-26 - Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.  12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.  13 Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?"  14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge-- to the great amazement of the governor.  15 Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.  16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas.  17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?"  18 For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.  19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."  20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.  21 "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered.  22 "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!"  23 "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"  24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"  25 All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"  26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.  

 

The same crowd that cheered Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, only a few days later is crying out for Jesus to be crucified. Even when they are given the choice between releasing Jesus or a murderer named Barabbas, they choose to have Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Why? What happened? And what does this say about us?

 

Why did it happen? I can see two main reasons:

 

  • They had expectations on Jesus that He did not fulfill.

 

They expected a military hero, but Jesus had come not to overthrow Rome with military might, but to die, and by his death to destroy the power of death itself. The misguided expectations the crowd placed on Jesus caused them to miss what God was really doing. They thought he had come to overthrow Rome and restore Israel to national prominence. But they missed what was really going on, which was so much greater: Jesus, coming as a King but in weakness, riding not on a horse but on a donkey. Jesus, entering on Passover along with hundreds of thousands of lambs, about to be slaughtered as the sacrificial lamb in order to bring about a greater Exodus. And Jesus, the resurrection and the life, about to overthrow the devil, destroy sin and death, and bring eternal life to all who put their trust in Him.

 

So they had expectations that He did not fulfill. But that alone wasn’t enough to cause the crowd to want Him dead.

 

  • He confronted their sin

 

When you look at everything Jesus did between his arrival and his arrest, you can understand why the religious leaders turned on him so vehemently. He comes to Jerusalem, but instead of confronting the Romans, he confronts the Jewish religious leaders instead. He enters Jerusalem, overturns the tables in the temple and drives out the moneychangers for turning the temple into a den of thieves. He tells the Jewish religious leaders that the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of them. He tells them that they have killed the prophets and will soon kill God’s son.  He calls them out repeatedly for their pride and hypocrisy and violence. And they respond by wanting him dead, accusing him of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God, and stir up the crowd to have him crucified.

 

But here is the thing. You may read this with the benefit of 2000 years and say “what is wrong with those people? I would not have wanted Jesus crucified.” But I want you to listen closely this morning and understand that you are no different than the crowd. If you had been there, you would have been asking for him to be crucified as well. And if Jesus were here today, your sinful nature would want him dead too. Why do I say that?

 

  • In our natural state, we are enemies of God

 

We are hostile to God. We do not submit to God’s law. And even when we are saved, that sinful nature remains and must be crucified daily.

 

Romans 8:6-8 - The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;  7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

 

And look at what Paul says about you in this passage:

 

Romans 5:6-10 - You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

 

If we were there with the crowd, we would have wanted Him dead. If he were here today, our sinful nature would want him dead. If you don’t think that’s true, I would argue that this is only because you have created a Jesus of your own imagination. You have likely exchanged the true God for an idol of your own creation, one who does not confront you the way Jesus does.

 

Listen to R.C. Sproul is his book “The Holiness of God” – “God is our mortal enemy. He represents the highest possible threat to our sinful desires… we despise His very existence and would do anything in our power to rid the universe of His holy presence…If God were to expose His life to our hands, He would not be safe for a second. We would not ignore Him; we would destroy Him. This charge may seem extravagant and irresponsible until we examine once more the record of what happened when God did appear in Christ. Christ was not simply killed. He was murdered by malicious people. The crowds howled for His blood. It was not enough merely to do away with Him, but it had to be done with the accompaniment of scorn and humiliation.”

 

So why are we enemies of God in our natural state?

 

  • We want a God who serves us and meets our expectations

 

We are self-centered. We want a God made in our image, who thinks like we think, who approves what we approve of, who is understanding of our weaknesses and says it’s no big deal. If we hear or read that God disapproves of something we approve of or like, we think the fault must be with God, because we are good people, and if God were good, then certainly He would think like we do.

 

The truth is that we do not want a Lord. We do not want to have to answer to anyone. We want to be our own masters. We want to be on the throne, and we want a God who meets our needs and who we can manipulate like a genie to do our bidding. Don’t call us, God, we’ll call you. You stay over there and do your God things, and we’ll call you when we need you.

 

We want the God of the health and wealth gospel. Give us positive affirmations. Focus on the statements that boost our self-esteem, but ignore the ones that confront our sin and pride. Give us good health and promotions at our job and success everywhere we turn. But if you let us suffer, then something must be wrong with you.

 

We want a God who serves us and meets our expectations. But the true God is the enemy of your sin. Your natural state hates God as He really is. Why? Because He threatens your idols. He does not exist to serve you. He will not be commanded by you. He is not a genie that you can manipulate into doing your will. He demands utter allegiance, total obedience. And you hate that. You do not want a master. You do not want to bow your knee to anyone. You do not want accountability. You want to do what you please whenever you want to.

 

  • We do not want a God who confronts us

 

Like the crowd with Jesus during holy week, we don’t want a God who confronts us or expects too much of us. We want a God that we are comfortable with.

 

But Jesus will have no other gods before Him. The Bible talks about idols, those things that we look to besides God for our satisfaction, our comfort, our joy, and our salvation. Jesus has a way of putting His finger on our idols and calling us to abandon them. Not because he is mean, but because he knows that our idols will not save us, can not deliver what they promise us. And we would rather tell Him to get lost then abandon our idols. Think of the rich young ruler.

 

Mark 10:17-22 - As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-- except God alone.  19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"  20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."  21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."  22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 

Think of the Pharisees and their pride. Think of the woman caught in adultery – I do not condemn you; now go and leave your life of sin. Think of the woman at the well – call your husband and come back. Jesus has a way of putting his finger on that one thing we don’t want to give up. But we plug our ears and resist His voice. We love our idols, and we hate those who threaten them. It could be money, appearance, reputation, family, romantic love, our children. There is not one corner of our life that He does not want to be sovereign over. And if God were to come to us and say, “one thing you lack” – give that up, we would tell Him to go to Hell. We do not trust God’s intentions.

 

Matthew 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

 

James 4:4 - You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

 

As long as He is serving us, we cheer Him. If he will serve us and help us get our idols, then he can hang around. But the second he confronts us, we want him dead.

 

Think about the prevailing narrative of our day: My story, my truth. My experience, my story, is my truth, and no one can argue against that. But what happens when “your truth” is confronted by “the truth”? What happens when “your story” is confronted by The Story? Like the crowd, we will tell nail God to the cross as quickly as we can.

 

Sorry Jesus – you can go to Hell. Get your hands off my idol. In our natural state, we are enemies of God. And part of that sinful nature still remains, even as Christians. We want a God who serves us and meets our expectations. We do not want a God who confronts our sin or tells us to lay down our idols.

 

So why does this matter?

 

  • It magnifies what Jesus did for us

 

I used to think that God was lucky to have me on His team. Then I began to realize that He saved me in spite of my sin and unworthiness. Now I am seeing that I was not just neutral. I was His enemy. I wanted Him dead. Last week we saw how we are like the disciples who fell asleep on Jesus. Now we see how it is even worse – we are like the fickle crowd, worshiping Him one moment and sending Him to the cross the next. We would rather kill him than give up our idols. But if that is true, then all that does is magnify His choice to die for us.

 

Romans 5:6-10 - You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

 

Jesus died for us when we were at our worst. He replaced our heart of stone with a heart that responds to Him.

 

Ezekiel 36:26-27 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

 

And it is his kindness, his grace, his undeserved love, that helps us to trust Him.

 

RC Sproul - “The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him… to love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.”

 

Romans 2:4 - Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

 

Remember what I have been sharing every week – revival is birthed out of an increased awareness of the holiness of God and an increased awareness of the depth of our sin. Our sin doesn’t get much lower than this, nor His majesty much higher than this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.

 

  • It reminds us that we need to daily kill our sinful nature

 

We must kill our sinful nature, for it wants God dead and works against us.

Romans 7:15-25 - I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing.  20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law;  23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25 Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

Daily choice to live by the Spirit and put to death the sinful nature.

 

Galatians 5:16-25 - So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Make no mistake. Your sinful nature is an enemy of God. It wants no master. It wants God dead. And it wants to destroy you.

 

Palm Sunday shows us that we are no better than the crowd. But Christ died for us when we were His enemies, and now we must destroy the sinful nature that seeks to destroy us and God.