Summary: Palm Sunday reveals King Jesus Power and Purpose.
“Behold! Your King Rides” John 12:1-19
We have been looking at the events of the Upper Room over the past three weeks during the day before Jesus’ crucifixion. Today, we back up in time several days to what we call “Palm Sunday” and remember Christ’s ride into Jerusalem among shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
John 12:1: 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages. " 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
The crowd following Jesus had grown significantly on account of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus the previous week. Who raises people from the dead, especially after they’d been dead for three days? The chief priests had plans in motion to put Lazarus to death as well as Jesus: They thought, “If we destroy the testimony, we’ll destroy all the evidence along with Jesus!” Among the many political and religious factions within Israel while under the Roman political rule, the addition of Jesus on the scene had caused much concern among the Jewish religious elite. It looked as if the crowds were throwing their support to Jesus as their leader!
Look at John 12:12: “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, (he is making His appearance) seated on a donkey's colt."
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 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. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
The King Rides Publicly
I don’t know about you, but I think for the most part, I have underestimated what actually happened on Palm Sunday: The crowd that was gathering for the Passover celebration in Jerusalem could have ranged anywhere between 250,000 to 2.5 million. Most of the pictures I have in my head about Jesus’ Kingly ride into Jerusalem displays a handful of people, but not thousands, or maybe 10’s of thousands. The crowd had been gathering and growing for about a week in order to celebrate the Passover, but also because of the miracle-worker, Jesus. People were shocked: “He raises people from the dead, too!”
All four Gospel writers record the Good News-CHEERS from the crowds: Listen to the cheers! “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest !"
Very few people had recognized Jesus for who He really was, in fact, as predicted, Jesus “came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11) When Jesus called Nathanael to follow Him in John 1:49, he responded, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel," yet he did not realize the entire truth of what he had confessed. So on Palm Sunday, Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the final presentation of Himself to the nation of Israel.