Reading: John 12:12-19
So – its Easter morning. You would have expected a service at sunrise. When you were small you might have had an Easter egg hunt in the garden.
You climb out of bed and go downstairs.
And you see a Christmas tree and Christmas presents, with Easter eggs hiding behind them.
You rub your eyes, scratch your head – and go back to bed thinking this is a dream.
Try again 10 minutes later – and yes, it’s true. Someone’s got Easter and Christmas muddled.
You wonder why. What does this mean? What are they trying to tell you?
That’s exactly what makes Jesus’ triumphal entry so interesting.
It was the spring – it was Passover time. There were things you did at Passover – remembering the rescue from slavery and the blood of the lamb on the doorpost which saved people from death – and you celebrate their rescue from bondage.
And Jesus rides into the city on a donkey and people are waving palms.
This is a mid-winter thing happening in the spring. Like Christmas and Easter together.
Although it’s the wrong time of the year, the symbols of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem go with Hanukkah– which John has already mentioned in 10.22. (Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter)
When Judas Maccabaeus defeated the pagan invaders and cleansed the Temple in 164 BC, his followers entered the city waving palm branches in celebration (1 Maccabees 13.51; 2 Maccabees 10.7). (Tom Wright)
We were talking about these extra books called the apocrypha just recently – a whole series of them you don’t find in the Protestant bible.
Here’s the passage from the second book of Maccabees chapter 10, reading from verse 7:
2Ma 10:7 Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. 2Ma 10:8 They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.
After the temple was cleansed in 164 BC, Judas Maccabeus and his family became kings of Israel.
Jesus and his followers were combining Hanukkah and Passover – declaring that Jesus was the true King coming to claim his throne AND at the same time he would really set people free. He is the new Passover lamb as well – they just didn’t know it yet.
And the final sign that sealed the matter was the raising of Lazarus. He was set free from death!
That’s why the two verses before this passage and the last three verses of today’s passage are so important:
Joh 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, Joh 12:11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
Joh 12:17 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. Joh 12:18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. Joh 12:19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
The raising of Lazarus was the last sign and the hour had come. We talked about that last week.
Palm Sunday seals the destiny of Jesus.
People connected the dots because of the palms. Not just the Jewish community who would have remembered Hanukkah, but the Romans and Greeks would have all recognised the significance of the Palms as a sign of a victory parade.
Like a flag raising parade when the battle is won – it has huge significance. The enemy’s flag is lowered, and the conquering army’s flag is raised.
It’s a powerful provocative statement. And on a donkey – not a huge white horse. They would have remembered the prophecy in Zechariah 9:
Zec 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.
Palm Sunday is the triumph of the love the God – yes.
But the means of victory – we know looking back the way of achieving victory would be painful to say the least.
FOCAL POINT TODAY
I’d like us to focus on one verse today:
Joh 12:17 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.
Witnessing is a central part of discipleship – of following this amazing man called Jesus of Nazareth.
Giving testimony to what he has done.
Spreading the word.
- Have you testified this week?
- Given testimony?
- Have you been a witness?
V17 – they bore witness to Lazarus’ raising –
Do we talk about the resurrection?
It is the separating point between us and other religions– the dividing line – the ultimate sign of Jesus’ power and authority, his divinity, his supremacy – and of course it leads to his ascension when he is enthroned again on high.
It’s the greatest story worth telling.
Because it brings the greatest sense of hope.
Are we ready always to give a reason for the hope we have?
Our Mission in the newsletter these past weeks has been this; “Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have”
Hope – in the face of the greatest enemy – death.
WE DO THIS IN WORSHIP EACH WEEK
- We wave Palms every week!
- We cry Hosanna!
- Worship is exactly that – celebrating King Jesus
– Celebrating the triumph of the cross
– Celebrating the power of the resurrection
– Celebrating the glory of the ascension.
– Celebrating the love of the Father
– Celebrating the promises that apply to us – our inheritance that will outlast all the other shiny things that fascinate us.
Peter puts it like this (we shared this in our call to worship today):
1Pe 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1Pe 1:5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Palm Sunday takes us into this week called holy week.
I’ve asked today how we can make this a different week.
I don’t know how you’re going to do that.
But you can’t ignore the power of the events.
I hope that you take the time to remember at the various opportunities we have to remember what God has done for us to establish this inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
I pray that we can really discover for ourselves that he was and is the true king, the true rescuer, the bringer of true freedom.
As we watch his progression into Jerusalem, and on to meet his fate, we must ourselves be drawn into the action, and the passion, that awaits him.
And we must ourselves become part of the means by which his message goes out to the world. (Tom Wright)
The victory was won for us by a young man nearly 2000 years ago.
Our closing hymn captures the profound nature of this day.
1 Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds ‘Hosanna!’ cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.
2 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!
3 Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.
4 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.
5 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your power and reign!
Robin Mark has a song that helps us anticipate and appreciate what he has done as we close: