The scene is five days before the Passover: Jesus is coming to Jerusalem, and the people that were come to the feast took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet him. The valleys rang with their jubilant cry, "Hosanna: blessed is the King of Israel, that comes in the name of the Lord" [John 12:12,13].
Reactions on that day differed. We have seen how the recipients of his miracles and their friends and relatives responded to his coming. Lurking in the shadows of his popularity are those envious of his public praise. His disciples are present. And there is the entrance of certain Greeks who tell one of the Lord`s disciples their desire: "Sir, we would see Jesus" [John 12:21].
Upon hearing of their request, Jesus gives an analogy between himself and a kernel of wheat: of the wheat, he declares what every farmer knows: "Except it fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but, if it die, it brings forth much fruit" [John 12:24]. He then relates this to a man`s life: "He that loves his life shall lose it," just as that kernel is dead while it abides alone. But, "he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal": that kernel must fall to the ground and die to itself in order to bring forth much fruit. Jesus then relates this analogy directly to himself: "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me" [John 12:32].
Within this wording is a wonder of God`s Word: King David writes of this great truth, "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth: that thy beloved may be delivered" [Psalm 60:4,5].
In a day when God`s people have been cast off and scattered, when the earth beneath their feet trembles and they have been made to see hard things, when we feel as if we have drunk the wine of astonishment, we have a banner. It is an ensign: a standard to be raised in the day of battle and in the hour of need. When it flies, it signals to all our kin: come. That banner is the Lord.
A banner is a flag that carries the family crest. All of Israel camped beneath the standard of their family [Num. 2:2]. When they moved, they followed the ensign. It was the sign that told them they were in the right place, a safe place, a place of rest.
The first mention of the Lord as a banner is after a day of battle: Amalek, the first of the nations [Num. 24:20], refuses to allow Israel passage through their land. God gives them a great victory, and Moses offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord. Moses names the place where he built that altar: he called it Jehovah-nissi" [Ex. 17:15]. Jehovah-nissi means "The LORD my banner."
Isaiah speaks of a day when the enemy will come in like a flood. We know the feeling, all too often. On that particular day, declares the Prophet, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD" [Isaiah 59:19,20].
Jesus is that banner: he is our ensign, our family "standard." In the darkest hour, the Spirit of the Lord lifted him up on Golgotha, that we might see the need in the day of battle and come to its side for help and comfort. Our banner signals for us the site of our camp, where we may rest in the night. It shows us where the family of God meets: at the foot of his cross.
Jesus Christ was crucified by a Roman band, at the demand of a rebellious crowd; yet he freely laid down his life. The New Testament declares that he died, was buried and, three days later, rose from the dead. I believe that. I have seen the banner of the Lord that his Spirit has unfurled, and I have come to stand by its side. Have you? "If I be lifted up, I will draw all me unto me," saith the Lord.