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A Stranger Rode Into Town - Various Texts

In spite of repeated and open declarations to the Jews from Jesus that He was sent by God, that He was indeed the promised Messiah, and in spite of the shouts of the multitude, "Hosanna to the son of David", no one really knew who it was that rode into Jerusalem on the donkey on Palm Sunday

1 John 2:7-11; Matthew 4:12-17; Luke 2:29-32; John 8:12,19,25-27, 41-59, 9:15-33, 10:22-31, 12:44-46, 13:31-35, 14:21,23-24, 15:12-17, 12:13-15,32-36

Apr 13, 2014 12:00 PM


My taste in movies is rather broad.  It is no secret that I like Science Fiction.  I’ve seen the Star Wars Movies and the Star Trek movies and a lot of other geeky sort of movies.  However, one of my very favorite movies is the most recent edition of True Grit.  I like westerns in general, especially older ones.  They are pretty simple.  Because it was easy to know who was who.  The good guys were actually good, and the bad guys were actually bad.  And there was no confusion about who should and would win the inevitable conflict, which is what the entire movie was about.

Clint Eastwood became famous for his depiction of “the stranger with no name” in his “Spaghetti” westerns which were produced by Italian directors in Italy and Spain: A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, and several others which you would probably recognize.  In one movie, Eastwood rides into town on a donkey and immediately meets the bad guys.  Nobody knows his name and nobody cares.  Eventually, all the bad guys die.  And that’s the way it is in good westerns.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Unlike “the man with no name”, the people welcomed Jesus and shouted His praises.  But even though everyone knew His name, no one knew who He was.  And the ultimate "Good Guy dies.

John and the other apostles soon began to realize exactly who Jesus was, especially after His resurrection.  They began to remember things He said, and they understood why He said them.  Then, at Pentecost, it seems their eyes were fully opened when the Holy Spirit came upon them and indwelt them.  It was then that they began to preach and teach that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One sent from God.

Turn with me to 1 John 2:7-11.

[7] Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word that you have heard. [8] At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. [9] Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. [10] Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. [11] But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:7-11 ESV)

In chapter 1, John talked about darkness and light.  Often this refers to good and evil.  But here, John is using darkness and light to refer to those who have been enlightened versus those who are still spiritually blind and do not know who Jesus is.

John says here in verse 8 that the spiritual darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.  Look with me at Matthew 4.

[12] Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. [13] And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, [14] so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

[15] “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

[16] the people dwelling in darkness

have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.(Matthew 4:12-17, ESV)

A light has dawned, a new day has begun in the land of the Gentiles because Jesus is there.  He is the light of the Gentiles.  He is the hope of all the world.  When Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple, Simeon said of the baby Jesus:

[29] “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

[30] for my eyes have seen your salvation

[31] that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

[32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32 ESV)

Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles.  Isaiah said 600 years before Jesus was born that He would be a great light to the Gentiles living in spiritual darkness.  Later Jesus spoke about this also:

[12] Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

[19] They (the Pharisees) said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?”  Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19 ESV)

The Pharisees have no idea who Jesus is.  To the Pharisees, Jesus is the man with no name.  He is a stranger to them.

[25] So they said to him, “Who are you?

Do the Pharisees want to know exactly who Jesus is?  Is that why they ask Him, “Who are you?”

Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. [26] I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” [27] They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. (John 8:25-27 ESV)

They did not understand Jesus was saying God was His Father.

[41] You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality.  We have one Father—even God.” [42] Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. [43] Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:41-43 ESV)

[53] Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? (John 8:53 ESV)

They are still asking Jesus who He is, but they really don’t want to know who He is.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.(John 8:58 ESV)

OK!  Jesus now tells them clearly that He is the Messiah and He is equal with God.  So now the Jews have an answer.  Now they know Jesus is the Son of God!  So, what do they do?

So they picked up stones to throw at him. (John 8:59a ESV)

Look with me at chapter 9.  Here Jesus heals the man born blind.  When the man is taken to the Pharisees, they begin to question him about his healing:

[15] So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” [16] Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. [17] So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?”  He said, “He is a prophet.” (John 9:15-17 ESV)

What is a prophet?  He is a man who speaks for God.  He says God’s words.  The formerly blind man with no name says he doesn’t know who Jesus is, but he knows Jesus is from God!  He is a prophet.

But the Pharisees say Jesus cannot be from God.  They don’t know who Jesus is, but they know He is not from God.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” (John 9:24 ESV)

They don’t know who Jesus is or where He is from, but they know He is a sinner!  But what does the man with no name say?

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25 ESV)

He only knows one thing for sure: now he can see!  But he sees more than physical things.  Then the Pharisees ask him again:

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” (John 9:26 ESV)

He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (John 9:27 ESV)

Is that why the Pharisees keep asking the same question over and over?  Because they want to understand who Jesus is?

[28] And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. [29] We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” (John 9:28-29 ESV)

Jesus is still unknown to them!  They know He is a sinner, but they do not know where He comes from.  These men are in spiritual darkness.  But the man who was blind now sees because he is walking in the light.  The Lord Jesus has shined His light on this man’s heart and now he really sees.  He is now a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ.

[30] The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. [31] We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. [32] Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. [33] If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." (John 9:30-33 ESV)

The “blind” man knows who Jesus is and where He is from even tho he has never seen Him!!  Based solely upon the one miracle he has experienced for himself, this man has come to the obvious conclusion that Jesus is from God.

[22] At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, [23] and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. [24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. (John 10:22-24 ESV)

[25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me . . . [30] I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:25, 30 ESV)

The people asked Jesus to tell them PLAINLY.  He already had and they didn’t believe Him.  So He tells them again, VERY PLAINLY. Therefore . . .

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. (John 10:31 ESV)

Did they really want to know who He was?  These are the people John speaks of who walk in darkness.  Not only do they not know who Jesus is, but they don’t want to know.  They cannot bear to know.

[43] Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. [45] Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. [46] Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? [47] Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:43, 45-47 ESV)

[44] And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. [45] And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. [46] I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:44-46 ESV)

Jesus causes men to walk in spiritual light.  They see the truth and walk in it.  They understand the gospel and believe it.  They understand who Jesus is and follow Him.  They recognize Jesus as Lord and obey His commands.  This is what it means to walk in the light of Jesus Christ.

[31] When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. [32] If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. [33] Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ [34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 ESV)

Jesus says this is a new commandment.  What is new about this?  I think this relates to what John is saying in 1John 2 --

[7] Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.

What old commandment had they heard from the beginning?  What is the greatest commandment?  “To love God and your neighbor as your self.”  Jesus said that one command sums up the entire law and the prophets.  It is a summary of everything God has commanded us to do.  That is the old commandment John is writing about here.

[8] At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

What is it that is new about this commandment?  John says it is new because the darkness is passing away. What darkness?  The spiritual darkness.  Jesus has come to give light, spiritual light.  And John says that light is for the world, for Jews as well as the Gentiles who lived in darkness but have seen a great light!

What makes this commandment old and new at the same time is the change that has taken place.  In the Old Testament, the Jews were to love God and their neighbor as themselves.  In the New Testament, the Jews have new neighbors: Gentiles.

[9] Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. [10] Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. [11] But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:7-11 ESV)

[21] Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

[23] Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [24] Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.  And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. (John 14:21, 23-24 ESV)

[12] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you. [15] No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. [16] You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. [17] These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:12-17 ESV)

So Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people love Him!

[13] So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [14] And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

[15] “Fear not, daughter of Zion;

behold, your king is coming,

sitting on a donkey's colt!” (John 12:13-15 ESV)

But a few verses later, these same people are still asking questions.  Jesus said to them:

[32] And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” [33] He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. [34] So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?(John 12:32-34 ESV)

“Who are you?  Where are you from?  Who is this Son of Man?  Why are you saying these things?”  So Jesus answers them yet again:

[35] So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. [36] While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. (John 12:35-36 ESV)

Darkness and light.  Jesus Himself is spiritual light to all who believe in Him.  All who truly believe in Him love Him.  All who truly love Him, love their brothers and sisters in the Lord, regardless of who they are or where they come from.  All who truly love their brothers and sisters in Christ show the world that they are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Do you love Jesus, or is He still a stranger to you?  Has His light opened your eyes, or are you still blind?  Do you obey His commands, or are you unconcerned with what He has said?  Do you love Christians, or do you hate the brethren?  Do you love believers in such a way that even the world takes notice and gives glory to God?


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