Our Narrative Lectionary provides this week’s passage as John 19:16b-22 with an option for 12:12-27...for those who want to preach on the Palm Sunday theme. I’ve decided to follow the more traditional route—Palm Sunday, but I’m trimming the passage a bit by focusing on John 12:12-19. Let’s see where John takes us this week...
v.12-15 – These verses are the reason for this day of celebration. Jesus enters Jerusalem amidst the shouts of the people and waving palm branches. We can focus here on the joy of the day, the people caught up in hope and expectation. We can remember the prophecies fulfilled in the person of Jesus.
v.16 – We find here one John’s ‘asides’—a bit of commentary that guides us to make connections even as Jesus’ disciples later made connections.
v.17-18 – We do get a better understanding of who this crowd is: these are folks who had seen and heard about the Lazarus affair, the resurrection of Jesus’ friend. In fact, if we read the verses just prior to this passage (v.1-12), we see that the narrative begins at Mary & Martha’s B&B. Many of the people there for supper have been hanging out with Jesus, Lazarus, and Mary & Martha—these are the same folks who now make up much of the crowd coming to Jerusalem.
v.19 – And, here we see the Pharisees’ disdain. “Look how the whole world has gone after him.”
Thoughts and Observations—
While this is about Jesus’ grand entry, I can’t help think of some folks I know—those who like to make a grand entrance. I’ve even visited a few churches in which the pastor likes to enter this way—oh, not with donkeys, palms and shouts of ‘Hosanna!’, but amid the cheers of their members. Oh, did I fail to mention that I’ve had those moments myself? Yep, riding the crest of the wave is heady stuff. But, only one person really merited this entry—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Only Jesus really deserves this kind of praise...so we may want to think twice before handing out this kind of praise in any other direction, and we may want to check ourselves if that praise is coming towards us (I’m reminded of the chorus of “The Ballad of John and Yoko”....)
My focus for this week will be vs. 17-18:
17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him.
These folks had something to shout about! They had seen or just heard about the amazing thing that had taken place back the Mary and Martha’s B&B—the resurrection of Lazarus. Here was someone who had reversed death! Here was someone who could potentially save sons and daughters, parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters...and their own selves from the finality of death. Surely this was Messiah...and if this was the work of Messiah, oh, how things would change! They had seen and experienced something that had turned their world on its head. They experienced a worldview shift—from one that posited death as final and forever to one that recognized that even death is not the end. Their experience changed their lives—they had something to shout about.
What about us? Has our Christian experience changed our lives? Is the Christian faith something that has changed our worldview? Does Jesus change the way we see the world? Has the Christian faith permeated all areas of our lives? In short, has our faith in Jesus changed us?
If not, then what is this we’re doing? Is the faith a compartmentalized, intellectual assent that provides a bit ‘fire insurance’ just in case all of “this” is true? Is our Christianity something we don on Sunday mornings with a smile and a gentle attitude...just something we do one day a week? Are we simply hanging on to something that was important to Mom or Grandma? Is the Church just one social outlet among many, perhaps one where I’ve been asked to be on or chair a committee...a place that gives me nothing more than another outlet for social connection and perhaps a bit of power or prestige? If any or all of these are the case, there is probably not much to shout about.
But, if Jesus—his life, teachings, death and resurrection—have so impacted our lives that we are now different people; if the Christian faith has turned or is turning our broken, fractured lives and families into something whole and healed; if God’s Word—the Scriptures—has provided wisdom for living, hope for living, promises for living; if the community of faith has rescued us from a life of loneliness; if the social ministries of the church have filled our lives with purpose; if this faith has permeated our lives, shaped our worldview, provided us with a deep sense of connection to God and neighbor; if Jesus—as with Lazarus and those standing around watching—has brought us back to life and has shown us that death is not the end; well, we have something to shout about. Hosanna!! Blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!
When we find a sale at the local grocery store, when hear that there’s a new ethnic restaurant opening, when we hear that government is giving us a tax break (has that ever really happened? 😊 )—when we hear good news, we share it. What about the Good News? Are we sharing that as well? When Jesus has truly impacted our lives, changed our lives, it’s easier to share that Good News.
If you have not truly experienced Jesus, may today, this week, soon!, be the time that you allow this person—his life, teachings, death and resurrection—touch, fill and change every part of your life. If we have had that life-changing Jesus-experience, what are we waiting for? We have something to shout about! And, we may just find that because of our ‘shouting,’ because of our testimony, because we’re willing to tell others of the change we have found in Jesus, lives may be changed and the church may grow and our influence can impact home, business, school and community. Then, those standing on the outside may say again, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
(Closing song—“Shout to the Lord.”)
And, that’s where I think I’m going this week—a call for people to examine their lives, to examine their faith: is it a faith of ‘going through the motions,’ of is it a faith that works like leaven throughout their lives? ‘Cause if this faith has truly changed us, we do have something to shout about—whether it’s Jesus coming through the gates of Jerusalem or through the gates of our lives.
(Go HERE to read my intro to this series.)