Palm Sunday ~ 20110417 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/17 Palm Sunday - John 12:12-33
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. I want to look at the text from John's account of the gospel that is the history behind this day. We find this in John chapter 12. (The events are also recorded in Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19). Jesus is in his final week, the passion week, leading up to his crucifixion. He had raised his friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days, from the dead. Jesus was now back at Lazarus' house in Bethany, the home of his dear friends Martha and Mary. Mary, in an act of devotion and love, broke open a vial of ointment worth about one year's salary, and anointed Jesus. Jesus defended her action, saying that she was anointing him for his burial. Crowds were gathering in Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover celebration, and many were taking the short trip to Bethany to see Jesus and the man he had raised from the dead. So many Jews were believing in Jesus because of this, that the chief priests were plotting to have Lazarus put to death. This is where we'll pick up the story:
This is where we get the name 'Palm Sunday'. This was a hero's welcome; a royal welcome. This was a king's welcome. The newly crowned king would be welcomed in this way by his subjects as he came to take his throne and rule. The people are welcoming Jesus as king. But not just any king. The people are quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm of victory over the enemy, a song of triumphant return from battle. This is the valiant king, commanding that the gates be opened to welcome him. In Psalm 118:22-29, it says:
Verses 25 and 26 say 'Save us we pray, O LORD!... Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!...' This is what the people are quoting as their King rides to Jerusalem. The Hebrew word “Hosanna” means 'save us we pray'. Israel is under Roman occupation. The Jews are looking for their Messiah, the anointed king that would rescue them, that would deliver them from the power of the Romans and give them back their freedom. The people are looking to Jesus to be this victorious king. In John 6, after Jesus had fed the multitudes, the people declared that he was the promised Prophet who was to come, and they wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king, but Jesus withdrew by himself to the wilderness. This time, when the people are crying out 'Save us, King of Israel who comes in the name of the LORD' and giving him a royal welcome, he does not avoid them; in fact, he encourages them.
Here we see Jesus intentionally fulfilling prophecy. The quote is from Zechariah 9:9
In the other three gospel accounts, we are told that Jesus sent disciples ahead to get this donkey so that it would be ready. Typically, the king would come triumphantly riding his war horse. But Jesus is a different kind of king. He comes in humility, riding on a donkey.
The World has Gone After Him!
The Pharisees entirely miss the point. They think they are in a popularity contest and they are losing. Jesus by his actions is teaching the people that he is a different kind of king than what they expect, and his salvation will be different from what they expect. He is indeed coming as King to save them, but in humility, not pride. And he will save the people, not from the Romans, but from themselves. The Pharisees, though, unknowingly make a profound analysis. Look, the world has gone after him. John uses this statement as a connection to some Greeks who were seeking Jesus.
The Greeks Seek Jesus
Greeks were coming to see Jesus. Among the crowds of Jews who came to worship at the Passover feast, were some Greeks, probably God-fearing Greeks, those who were intrigued by the Jewish scriptures and believed that the God of the Jews was the one true God. Possibly proselytes – those who had no Jewish genealogy, but who believed in God and became Jews through circumcision. They would be allowed into the temple's court of the Gentiles to worship. They don't feel they have any access directly to Jesus, so they go through the disciples. Their request is simple yet profound. 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus'. Simple faith! Would that we had this kind of desire, this kind of boldness. The world has gone after Jesus. Now there are Greeks that want to know Jesus. They come to Philip, Philip goes to Andrew, Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. Look how Jesus answers:
The Glory of a Seed
At first read, this seems like a strange answer, if it is even answering the question at all. Greeks want to see you Jesus, and you start talking about being glorified and planting wheat and hating life. How does this answer their question? We need to understand what Jesus means when he says 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified'. Throughout the gospels, Jesus had been saying 'my hour has not yet come'. Now he says 'The hour has come'. The time is now. His whole life was leading up to some focal point, some climax. He uses his favorite title for himself 'the Son of Man', a title that comes from Daniel 7, a title showing his perfect humanity, but a title of the one who is the everlasting King. 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified'. What does he mean 'glorified'? To glorify is to honor, to cause the dignity and worth of someone to be made known. The climactic time has come for Jesus, the perfect human representative, to be put on display and seen for the all the excellencies of who he is. What climactic event is he referring to that would put his glory on display? This royal welcome into Jerusalem where he was hailed as king, with everyone laying down cloaks and palm branches for him to walk on was pretty impressive, but that is already past. What is going to bring him the greatest glory? He tells us clearly in the context. He chooses the metaphor of a seed. A seed is very unimpressive if it is kept on the shelf. To unlock the potential of the seed, it needs to go into the dirt. A seed on a shelf is not seen for what it really is. It might be safe, but its real potential is lost. It remains alone. Jesus talks about the necessity for wheat to fall into the ground and die so it can bear fruit.
Remember, this is all in response to the Greeks who want an audience with him. How is this answering their request? 'We want to see Jesus.' It is time for the Son of Man to die so that he can produce much fruit and be seen for who he really is. Jesus is the Jewish King, coming to save, but he will save not just the Jews, but also the Greeks, and he will save, not by military might from political oppression, for that would be no help to the Greeks; but he will save us from our sins by dying for us. King Jesus marches in to Jerusalem to take his throne, but his throne is in the shape of a cross. He will be nailed to this throne and lifted up for all to see. The hour has now come for the Son of Man, the representative of all men not just Jews, to be exalted by dying in order to bear the fruit of salvation for anyone that will follow him, including these Greeks. The whole world has gone after him! 'Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me he must follow me, he will be with me, and my Father will honor him'. Jesus is pointing the Greeks to his death as the event that will open up to all men the way of salvation. Are we on the right track in understanding what Jesus is saying? Let's keep reading:
The Troubled Soul of Jesus
Jesus' soul is troubled? What would trouble the soul of the Prince of Peace? What would cause anxiety in the heart of the one who taught us not to be anxious? What would incline him to desire to be rescued by his Father out of this hour? What would the Savior want to be saved from? If we ask why he came, we get some indication of what is troubling his soul. In John 10, Jesus said 'I lay down my life for the sheep' (v.15, 17). 'I give [my sheep] eternal life and they will never perish' (v.28). In John 6, Jesus said 'the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh' (v.51). In Mark 10, Jesus said:
What troubled the soul of Jesus to the point that he would desire escape is the prospect of bearing my sins. For the holy God who abhors sin to bear my sin, to take my sin upon himself, for the spotless lamb of God to become sin, for the innocent guiltless one to have my iniquity laid to his account would be unthinkable. For the first time in eternity the Father would look on his beloved Son not with love, affection and approval but disgust, anger, and judgment. Yet Jesus says 'But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name'. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on flesh, entered history and became human, with the sole purpose of being executed as a sin-bearing substitute for guilty mankind. Jesus looked at the prospect of being forsaken by his Father and it sent his soul into turmoil. 'Nevertheless,' he prayed, 'not my will, but yours, be done' (Lk.22:42)
So here we are explicitly told that he is talking about his crucifixion - the death of being lifted up. The deepest expression of love and obedience – 'Father save me'? No, but 'Father, glorify your name'. His Father answered him from heaven. The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son is seen in the crucifixion. God's character and nature is displayed for all to see. Absolute in holiness, perfect in righteousness and exacting justice, impossible to let sin slide, yet abounding in mercy and grace, eager to forgive offending sinners, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. Satisfying the demands of justice and righteousness while extending undeserved mercy to wicked sinners by absorbing in his own person the weight of the injury. 'Now is the judgment of this world'. God's holy wrath against all our sin is poured out now – absorbed in the perfect Lamb that God himself provided. 'Now the ruler of this world is cast out' -because the rightful ruler has taken his throne. Jesus the King, lifted up on a cross, enthroned in glory dying for the sins of the world, now draws people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation to himself.
Jesus wants to draw you today. Jesus is a different kind of King and offers a different kind of salvation. He comes to conquer, but to conquer by dying. He comes to conquer, not our enemies, but us. He comes to conquer our hard hearts by loving us, by entering our pain and bearing our guilt before his Father. Do you see him as glorious? Do you recognize the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son revealed on the cross? Do you see the point at which absolute holy justice and free and undeserved mercy meet? We would see Jesus! We would see Jesus! We would see Jesus!