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Palm-Passion Sunday

John 12:12–43

James T. Batchelor

Palm-Passion Sunday, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Mar 29, 2015 

When you read the various Palm Sunday accounts in the four Gospels, you learn that there were a wide variety of responses to this figure riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Some were friends.  Some were enemies.  Some were people who wondered what all the fuss was about.

There were people who expected big things from Jesus.  They had heard Him preach and seen His miracles.  Some of the people in the crowd might even be the beneficiaries of His miracles.

The Gospel according to Mark tells of a blind man named Bartimaeus.  Jesus met him as He traveled to Jerusalem and gave him sight.  Bartimaeus responded by following Jesus on the way (Mark 10:4652).  Bartimaeus himself may have been in the crowd.

Then there was the miracle that Jesus performed in Bethany.  Bethany was just the other side of the Mount of Olives and the starting point for Jesus entry into Jerusalem that day.  Bethany was also the home of Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha.  Lazarus had been dead, but Jesus called him back to life.  There were people in the crowd who had witnessed this resurrection.  They were telling everyone they met that Jesus had done this sign.

Jesus had performed all the signs of the Messiah.  The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matthew 11:5) It really is not too surprising that people were looking for more of the same.  Some of the crowd were big fans of Jesus because they were looking for someone to use divine power to make their lives easier here on this earth.

Then there were the enemies.  These enemies came from the full spectrum of the political life in that day.  There were the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, chief priests, Herodians, and others.  Many of these groups were mortal enemies with one another during normal times.  It says something about their hatred of Jesus that they were able to overlook their intense differences in order to come together against Jesus.  It is really not surprising that they wanted Jesus dead.  If Jesus was successful, their comfortable lifestyles would disappear.

Some of these enemies had a vested interest in the religious establishment of the day.  The activities at the temple provided them with both comfort and prestige.  They were very comfortable with the status quo.  Although they could not deny the signs that Jesus did, they insisted that Jesus performed His many wonders by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24). They refused to believe that Jesus was God or even from God.

Then there were those who were just there because it was Passover.  The Law of Moses instructed devout Jewish men to spend the days of the Passover in the temple areas in Jerusalem.  There were probably thieves and other criminals who took advantage of the large crowds.  Then there were the extra Roman soldiers who were out in force just to keep the peace during this great Jewish festival.

From an external point of view, Jesus entry was not unique.  Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, cited a couple of popular leaders in a speech before the Sanhedrin.  He said, Before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. (Acts 5:3637) It is possible that many people were thinking, Here we go again. Its another guy who thinks Hes the Messiah.

Few, if any, of the people who witnessed the palm procession knew that this figure riding into Jerusalem on a donkey actually is the Messiah Gods anointed warrior prince the very Son of God in the flesh on His way to do battle for the souls of mankind.  Few understood that eternity hung in the balance as this humble figure rode into Jerusalem and up to the temple.  Few understood the battle that waited for Jesus in Jerusalem.

In todays Gospel, we heard Jesus teach about the battle that waited for Him.  Jesus answered them, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:2324) This is Jesus teaching us that He must die in order to win.  He, like the seed, must lie in the ground in order to bear fruit.

This is a totally different kind of glory.  The Passover Pilgrims think glory would be for Jesus to usher in a new age of prosperity for Jerusalem and Israel.  Jesus enemies think that they can destroy Jesus glory by killing Him.  Jesus states that it is His death that will glorify Him.  It is His death that will bear much fruit.

How strange it is that both Jesus and His enemies see death as the eventual outcome.  The enemies see Jesus death as a way to put an end to this troublemaker.  Jesus knows that His death will be a victory over sin, death, and the devil.

This is where Satan, the great deceiver, deceived himself.  Jesus regularly and plainly said that He was to suffer, die, and rise on the third day.  The prophets were clear as well.  When Jesus encountered demons and cast them out, they knew He was the Son of God.  In spite of all this, Satan still saw death as the solution for getting rid of Jesus for putting an end to Gods mission to save mankind from sin.  Somehow, the devil did not see that his plans to put Jesus to death would backfire so that Jesus would use death itself to defeat Satan.

Jesus knew that everything was in place for His sacrifice.  Before He rode that donkey into Jerusalem, He had always said, My hour has not yet come, but afterward, He said, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He also said, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. The final events that would lead to His death had begun.  The climax of his mission was mere days away.

One more time, Jesus told them how He would accomplish His role as Christ.  I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. Here John the Evangelist added an editorial comment so that we could understand Jesus just as the people in the temple understood Him: He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.  Here Jesus is saying that His death on the cross will invite all people to follow Him.

This plan of salvation is alien to the sinful human mind.  The idea of salvation coming from one who suffered the shame of death on a cross just doesnt make sense.  The Jesus who dies for your sins is an uncomfortable Jesus.  We dont like to admit that we have sins for which someone must die.  We dont want to look at the reality of the cross and realize that that should be us up there.  We dont much care for the Jesus who tells us that we are born spiritually dead in trespasses and sins and that we need His forgiveness in order to come to life.

Never the less, God still loves us and sent his Son to ride into Jerusalem to offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice.  This one who rode into Jerusalem is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) The donkey carried Jesus and Jesus carried the sins of the world for the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

The one who entered Jerusalem in majesty on Sunday would carry a cross out of Jerusalem on Friday.  Just as surely as He carried that cross, He also carried the sin of the world.  His death on that cross would earn forgiveness, life, and salvation for all people.  His death on the cross is life for all who believe in Him.  The cross becomes the visible reminder of the victory He won over the sin that He carried.

From a worldly standpoint, the procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday seemed a lot more victorious than the procession out of Jerusalem on Good Friday.  Never the less, the true victory took place on that Friday.  There on the cross, the King who rode in majesty will battle sin and defeat it with His own death.  The victory that He won with His death will enable a new procession, a procession that began three days later and has not yet ended.  This is a procession up out of the grave and into eternal life.  Jesus led the way with His resurrection from the dead and all those who believe in Him will follow Him into eternal joy.  Amen

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