Summary: Theme: Celebration of Christ
Title: Celebration Sunday
Theme: Celebration of Christ
Text: John 12:12-19
Opening Scripture: John 12:12-15
Zechariah 9:9-10 O, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
John 12:13 Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.
Would Jesus come to Jerusalem?
All week long, Jerusalem had been ablaze with rumors and questions. Would Jesus come this year for the Passover? One could hardly blame Him if He decided to stay up north in Galilee. There were threats against His life. The chief priests and the Pharisees had put out the word. Anyone who saw Jesus was ordered to report it, so that they could have Him arrested.
The day before, Jesus had been spotted in Bethany eating the Sabbath with His friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. Remember Mary she had anointed Jesus’ head and feet with costly ointment. It was a preparation for His burial, Jesus said. Death was on his mind. A big crowd came out to see Him, and Lazarus, too. Lazarus had become something of a celebrity figure. It’s not every day that you get to see someone who’s been dead for four days. There even was a death threat out against him. Poor Lazarus, all he did was get up from the grave when Jesus called out his name, and for that the religious leaders were plotting to kill him too, because people were believing in Jesus on account of Lazarus.
He came as a king
He came as a King. A humble King. A victorious King. A King of peace. A beggar-king on a borrowed donkey. That is the Jesus of Palm Sunday. This King enters His capitol city, Jerusalem, for the Passover, the last Passover of the old covenant. In a few days, He would make the Passover something new - the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. In a few days He would give His life as God’s Lamb, the Passover sacrifice. In a few days the King would claim His kingdom by dying and rising from the dead.
He came openly.
Once the word went out that Jesus was in town, there really was no way to stop the crowds and the attention. The media was out in force. So when Jesus went to Jerusalem the following day, which would have been the first day of the week, He did it openly and publicly. He had his disciples borrow a donkey from someone, and sitting atop the borrowed donkey, Jesus rode into Jerusalem like a king. John tells us that the people took palm branches and formed a welcome procession along the road. They waved their palm branches in the air and chanted verses from Psalm 118: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel." And so the stage was set. Holy Week had begun. Jesus, King David’s promised Son, the messiah-King had come to His city, and His city welcomed Him.
This was more than a mere spontaneous show of support
To the casual onlooker, this may have looked more like a spontaneous show of support than a planned parade, but Jesus’ ride on a donkey had been in the works for centuries. Some five hundred years before, the prophet Zechariah had prepared the people for a coming King: "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." The plans for this procession had been in the works for a long time. It was imbedded in Israel’s history and in the reflexes of the people, just like saluting the flag and bowing to a cross. People knew the prophesy, and they knew psalm 118. They knew the liturgy and the rubrics for welcoming a king with palm branches and hosannas. All the big messianic buttons were being pushed. The religious leaders didn’t miss a beat. A parade like this could get you nailed to a cross.
Every detail was important
Every detail of this parade was important - the donkey, the palms, the hosannas. The donkey was an animal of peace, humble compared to the horse, which was what you rode when going to war. David rode donkeys. It’s a bit like the difference between a chief of state riding in a Humvee or a borrowed, open-top Volkswagen convertible. Jesus came in peace and humility. He was going to Jerusalem for war, not against the city but against death and the devil. This was not the kind of war fought with the standard issue weapons of this world. He would soon tell Peter to put his sword away. He was going to fight the devil, and our sin, and the Law that condemned us to hell. His only weapon was His humble obedience to His Father’s will. "He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross."