Text: John 12:12-19
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
People like to shout things. Maybe not everyone and maybe not all the time, but people like to yell. I’m not much of a shouter myself, but my family can tell you that when I am watching sports on TV in our basement and things aren’t going the way I’d like them to go everyone in the house will know about it sooner rather than later. I get fired up about things and I start shouting at the TV thinking that someway, somehow, they will hear me wherever they are even on the other side of the country, if I just yell loud enough.
It’s not just me either. Lots of people like to shout. I can’t tell you how many video clips I’ve seen on the news lately with people yelling. People go out to protest or something and they yell. Other people protest against the people who are protesting and they yell things back. A conversation of shouting breaks out. For many of us all the shouting in the world today is probably quite off putting, especially in the current political landscape. But, it can be a useful thing to take some time to listen to the shouting, we might not agree with any of the ideas and we might not like what people have to say, but when people shout like that they tell you what they really think. People don’t shout things that they do not believe are true. You find out what people really think when you listen to them shout.
That’s why it is worthwhile, I think, to listen to what people are shouting in our Gospel reading today because in those shouts, in the yelling and screaming, we see what people really think. Jesus is coming up to Jerusalem from Bethany, the place where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus live. Not long before, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead so there was quite a bit of hype around Jesus. As He left Bethany a crowd started to form. The folks from Bethany remembered what Jesus did and they were going to head up into Jerusalem with Jesus. As they make their way into town another crowd, this one from inside Jerusalem, hears that Jesus is coming. They pour out of the city and join with the crowd that has come out from Bethany to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. Along the way this massive combined crowd is shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
In their shouting we find out what these people really think about Jesus. First, they shout “Hosanna!” Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means “save us now” or “save us please.” These crowds believe that Jesus is someone who can save them, they believe that this is the reason Jesus has come. He has come to save them. They have seen and heard about how He gave sight to a blind man and how He gave life to a dead man. Clearly He has some kind of power to save and they shout at Him, “Save us now!”
Then they shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Their shouting here tells us that they believe that Jesus comes in the name of the Lord. The Pharisees, after Jesus gave sight to the blind man, said that they do not know where Jesus comes from and, therefore, they cannot believe in Him. The crowds on Palm Sunday don’t have that problem, they believe that Jesus comes from God.
These first two parts of their shouting (“hosanna” and “blessed is he…”) are quoted directly from the Old Testament, from the book of Psalms, from Psalm 118. These are Bible words from the people of Israel, words that talk about the coming Messiah. God promised to send a Messiah and the people had been waiting for that Messiah for a long, long time. And here, when they see Jesus coming into town they pull out these words and shout them on the top of their lungs. This is the Messiah, they say, this is the one.
And, if there was still any doubt about what they think about Jesus, they finish it off with these words, “Even the King of Israel.” He is our king, they say. These people look at Jesus and see their saviour and their king and they rejoice because He is coming to them riding on a donkey.
The shouting we hear on Palm Sunday tells us what these people really think about Jesus. They couldn’t be much clearer than they are. They believe that Jesus is their Saviour, their Messiah, and their King. And they are right, He is all of those things. But the truly astounding thing is that there will be much more shouting still to come.
When Jesus gets arrested and put on trial the shouting is going to start all over again. But they aren’t going to be shouting for their King, Messiah, or Saviour to be set free, they will be shouting for Him to die. They will be shouting for a murderer named Barabbas to be released to them instead of Jesus. They will be shouting “We have no king but Caesar!” They will be shouting “Crucify Him!”
Why the change? Why do these people go so quickly from shouting to Jesus as their Saviour, Messiah and King to shouting for Him to die? It’s safe to assume that they believed what they shouted on that Sunday as He rode into town, so what changed?
There is no simple answer to that question, but it seems to me that these people realized some time during that week in Jerusalem that Jesus was not going to be the kind of saviour that they wanted. He was not about to overthrow the powers that be and give them their own country again like they wanted. Instead He went into the temple and started chasing out money changers and flipped over tables of people selling stuff. He wasn’t going to turn Jerusalem into the bustling, independent capital city it once was. Instead He told them that this city would be torn down to the ground one day. He wasn’t going to give them the glorious life that they were hoping for. He wasn’t going to give them what they wanted. They didn’t want the real Jesus, they wanted a Jesus who gave them what they wanted. Jesus was not that kind of saviour. Jesus still isn’t that kind of saviour.
For us on Palm Sunday, on the verge of Holy Week with Good Friday in view not far down the road, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves what kind of saviour we are looking for. What kind of saviour do we want?
Do we want a saviour like Jesus or do we want a saviour who meets our expectations for what a saviour should be? Do we want a saviour who gives us the best possible life with health, wealth, and happiness right now or one who promises us a better life beyond this world? Do we want a saviour who pats us on the back and tells us we are doing a good job on our own or who points out our sin so that we see that we need Him to die for us? Do we want a saviour who will fix the problems in our lives right now so that we can be happy or one who promises eternal happiness? Do we want a saviour who will take our suffering away right now or do we want a saviour who will suffer for on the cross and invite us to take up our cross and follow Him?
If we want a saviour who will fix this world or our lives or make us feel good about ourselves right now and not a Saviour whose sole purpose is to take away the sin of the world, then we will be disappointed on Good Friday just like the people in Jerusalem were disappointed after Jesus rode into their town triumphantly. If we want that kind of saviour then Good Friday isn’t going to make any sense. It won’t be good at all.
Jesus has come to be our Saviour from sin. This is what Jesus is about, this is what Jesus does, this is the kind of Saviour Jesus is. He is not a political hero, He is not the world’s greatest life coach, He is not our genie in a bottle who gives us what we wish for. He is our Saviour from sin who will die on a cross for us. This is what we really need. We feel like we need a lot of other things, but this one thing is what we really need.
If we want a Saviour who saves us from sin and death, who will rescue us from the power of devil and even save us from our own sinful selves, then we will never be disappointed in Jesus because this is what Jesus always does for us. This is the reason that Jesus bled and died on the cross for us. This is the kind of Saviour that Jesus is and always will be. He is our Saviour from sin, our Messiah, and our King, just like the people on Palm Sunday said.
The remarkable thing about the shouting on Palm Sunday and Good Friday is that when the people start shouting “Crucify Him!” They really are saying the same thing that they said on Palm Sunday, “Hosanna, save us now!” When they crucify Jesus (when we crucify Jesus with them!) that is exactly what He is doing, saving us now. Saving us from sin, saving us from death, saving us from the devil. So yes, crucify him, save us now, because that is the kind of Saviour He is. In Jesus name. Amen.