Sermon ~ Sunday ~ March 25 ~ Pastor Neil Wilson
Just You Wait
John 12: 12-19
Like his recounting of the evening of the Last Supper, in John’s account of Jesus’ “triumphal” entry in to Jerusalem John seems to take a different vantage point than those of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In his version of the Last Supper John focuses on Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples (last week’s message) and says little of the actual meal. In fact, all he says is, “The evening meal was being served. . . “
In today’s reading of what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, while the others seem to devote a great deal of words to the subplot of how the disciples found a suitable animal and how they were to locate the place they were to gather, for John it is all about the celebratory character of Jesus’ procession into the holy city. There are also a couple of other little notes of interest. We call this day Palm Sunday but it is only in John’s account that palms are mentioned. In the other three, people cut generic “branches” and throw them and their cloaks on the road before Jesus. The palm branches in John perhaps carry a political meaning more obvious to John’s readers than to us. They would know well the two passages found in the Apocryphal books 1 and 2 Maccabees describing the victory of the Maccabees over their gentile overlords. Palm fronds are used then as symbols of celebration and the victory over their oppressors.
Matthew and Luke tell of the procession that leads straight to the temple where the surprising and troubling depiction of an angry Jesus clearing the money-changers and their tables out of his Father’s house. Mark’s account tells of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem with great fanfare, but then simply looks around, decides its late and heads back out of town! It is the following day that Jesus returns and clears the temple.
John on the other hand focuses squarely on the entry into Jerusalem and adds details that serve only to make sure the reader understands just how momentous an occasion this is. It is a sign of Jesus’ sovereignty and a foreshadowing of how his final victory would take place. And for added twist, tells how there were those looking for Jesus because they were there when this little incident took place in Bethany with this fellow Lazarus.
Its Passover, festival time, imagine the Fourth of July with a little Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day thrown in for good measure! There are crowds of happy people. Then there are the antagonists, a bunch of despondent Pharisees. And while the group of disciples may not understand what is happening in the moment, John assures us that they will soon realize the significance of this grand, heroic entry.
This account (for that matter all the gospels) but especially John’s, is written to people several decades after the events in the story happened. In other words they were written to people who know the story. They’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends! And just like any of us who’ve seen a movie before and are watching it with someone who hasn’t, we might be tempted to say, “But just you wait!”
Just you wait!
You heard about what Jesus did with Lazarus? I know you did, you are going around spreading the news about It. Just you wait!
You think this parade with Jesus on a donkey is something to celebrate (Which it is!) Just you wait!
Like those who first heard these words of John, we are both reassured of where the story is going and invited to be join the victor’s side. We can enter Holy Week with our heads high, with the foreknowledge that the one riding in on that donkey is without doubt the king of Israel, the promised Messiah, and the conqueror of death.
Yes, our problems are real, and our sins many, tomorrows news feeds will be filled with bad news and often things still get worse before they improve. None of this is denied here, but just you wait! The final victory is assured.
This assurance encourages you and I to become part of the Palm Sunday crowd, and not just the one that recognizes the king of Israel and waves branches in the air. The crowd that shouts “Hosanna!” continues to give witness about Jesus’ resurrecting power, even after the events of this day. For those who are convinced of Jesus’ victory over death, anything less than exuberance and full commitment to the cause seem lacking.
John knows all too well that there will be another crowd shouting just as loudly, “Crucify! Crucify!” But as one biblical commentator points out, John’s final depiction of a large crowd with palms is found in his writing called the Apokalypsis of John or as it is more commonly known Revelation. In chapter seven John describes the vision he has been given,
“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all the tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”
These are the ones who see with their very eyes the victorious lamb who was slain.
Just you wait!
Just you wait you Herods of the world, who want to maintain control through corrupt political power!
Just you wait all you Caiaphases who abuse and misuse your religious authority!
Just you wait you Pontius Pilots, who want to wash your hands of the problems of others. Not my problem! Not in my back yard.
Just you wait all you scribes and Pharisees who with self-righteous sight see only the speck of sawdust in the eyes of others and not the logs in your own!
John’s triumphal entry begins Holy Week with great pomp, and in doing so previews the joyous day that is still to come. As an Easter people, we look back on that first Palm Sunday already knowing the outcome. We can therefore not only fully participate in a festive procession of palms; we can also give up our spot on the sidelines and join Jesus’ side with confidence.
Christ has won. Death has found its match.
True, the worst is yet to occur as far as Holy Week is concerned, but in the end, well,
just you wait!
If even the Pharisees could recognize way back then that “the world has gone after him,” then what are we still waiting for today?
With our palm branches in hand, let us join the procession and go forth into our world and be the difference Christ calls us to be.
Enjoy the Audio version by selecting “Download File” and then opening on your desktop. Easter Week Blessings to each who read and listen.