Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018
Scripture: John 12:12-16
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival 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 on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, 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 these things had been done to him.
Way back in 1945 (some of you remember 1945) there began a radio program called “Queen for a Day.” In 1956 the show arrived to television on NBC. It moved to ABC in 1960 and finally came to an end in 1964. On the show, the Host, Jack Bailey, would bring out several women contestants and interview them. They would tell all about what they would do if they were Queen for a Day. They would talk about the difficult times in their lives and then Bailey would ask them what they needed the most. Maybe they needed medical care or equipment for a sick child, maybe a hearing aid or a new kitchen appliance. The winner was decided according to the applause of the crowd which, of course, was measured on the applause meter. After the winner was determined, they would play Pomp and Circumstances and drape a red robe on her. They would place a glittering crown on her head, sit her down on an upholstered throne and given a dozen long-stemmed roses while they listed the prizes she had won. Naturally, she would weep uncontrollably at her good fortune. The prizes, donated by their sponsors, attempted to meet her greatest needs along with lots of extras. The host would then give his trademark sign-off: “This is Jack Bailey, wishing we could make every woman queen, for every single day!”
How does that sound to you? Have you ever wished to be queen, or king, for a day? I’m telling you about this show because it’s Palm Sunday. It’s the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on donkey’s colt to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus had, very recently, raised Lazarus from the dead and the crowd was going wild over it. They were ready to give him a crown and make him king. In fact, when they said “king of Israel,” it was a messianic reference. They were calling him Messiah. But it didn’t last. He was king for a day but, by the end of the week, he would be nailed to a cross and abandoned by just about everyone.
Actually, Jesus is King for all eternity. You and I know that already. But the people didn’t expect the Jesus we all have come to know. We understand the messiah as our savior from sin and death; those in Jerusalem were looking for a king to save them from Roman rule. They were looking for an earthly king, not the savior and giver of life for their souls. King for a day and executed soon thereafter. Some king.
They were shouting “Hosanna!” It literally means, “save now.” This whole procession is fascinating for two reasons: first, these shouts were typical for the festival of booths and, second, these shouts were typical of a victory celebration when a conquering leader came home from defeating the enemy. In the festival of booths, this song would be sung to welcome worshippers to Jerusalem. Using the messianic reference here, the crowd is connecting this feast to Jesus and urging him on to victory.
“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 these things had been done to him.” It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t explain all this to the disciples. The Holy Spirit guided them in understanding this later, when they saw more clearly who Jesus really is. Like the disciples, we don’t always understand what is happening, or why it is happening, until later.
Looking around the world it’s plain to see that people still don’t understand King Jesus. They live in the here and now and the future is always in the future. When they see Jesus, they’re hoping for someone who will come and fix their lives – make it easier and give them what they really want in life: riches, comfort – heaven on earth. They want absolution for their sins and permission to live the way they want to live. They’re looking for a god who affirms the way they live and always gives without ever asking for anything. They want the world; not heaven. Many will meet Jesus and see the promised fulfillment of what they most desire. Some will meet Jesus and see the hope of eternity, forgiveness of sins, life breathed into their spirits and fellowship with their Creator.
The branches are waving and the crowd is shouting. Palm Sunday is here. What are you looking for today? Which King will you show the world when you leave this sanctuary? The king they want, or the King they need? King for a day, or King for eternity?