Journey to the Cross- April 5, 2020
Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16 “The Triumphal Entry”
Today is “Palm Sunday”. This is the day we remember Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem amidst the waving of palm branches by an excited crowd. We read about this in all the gospel accounts including John. (He’s the only writer who actually says the crowd used “palm” branches.) The crowd is very enthusiastic but they are all excited for the wrong thing. Religious enthusiasm does not always indicate true spirituality. Because we are sinful human beings sometimes our enthusiasm (and even our sincerity) is aimed at the wrong thing.
In the Palm Sunday story, the crowd’s enthusiasm is aimed at the right person for the wrong reasons. The crowd wants Jesus to be their political Savior. They want to make him the king of their nation and in particular their ethnic group! However, Jesus has come to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God which is God’s reign of grace and peace for the whole world, not just one nation. Because Jesus will not bow to their wishes, the same crowd that cheers him now will jeer him in our next reading. They will turn their fierce anger against the One who comes to bring New Life in a New Creation.
Note: “Hosanna” means “Lord save us!”
Reading: John 18:28 to 19:16 “A Tale of Two Kings”
In this reading we hear the tale of two kings. Jesus is taken to Pilate, the Roman governor who will sentence him to death. This is the way it had to be. Take a look at Q&A 38 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Q. Why did Jesus suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge?
A. So that he, though innocent, might be condemned by an earthly judge, and so free us from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us.
Jesus, who really is a king, is taken to Pilate who is really just a “puppet king” of another king called Caesar! He is taken to Pilate so that he can be sentenced to death. The people who now hate him and want him dead are not allowed to execute someone. They need the government to do their dirty wish. However, in this gospel reading, what the world might see as a miscarriage of justice (an innocent man is sentenced to death!) we know is all part of God’s plan. Jesus will go to the cross, bearing all our sins so that we might be set free from condemnation. The trial of Jesus before the Roman governor named Pilate shows us two “kings”: Jesus and Pilate. One will be glorified, the other will forever be remembered for his initial indecision (John 18:31), cruelty (John 19:1), and eventual injustice (John 19:12, 16).
Do you think Pilate likes Jesus? Does he like the people who brought Jesus to him?
In verse 38 Pilate asks, “What is truth?” What is the answer to this question?
What do they put on Jesus’ head and with what do they clothe him? (Compare this to another vision of Jesus that John gives us in Revelation 1:12-16).
As Jesus stands before Pilate, this is another step on his journey to the cross. In this “Tale of Two Kings” we hear their dialogue which reveals the Truth of God to the world. God has never abandoned this world. From the moment we fell into sin, God has been working all things for the coming of his Son who reveals the grace of God who brings New Life to the world.
Sadly, the enthusiastic crowd that greeted him with waving palm branches is now the angry crowd that calls for his crucifixion. Sin is ugly and destructive. And here is another part of the Truth which Jesus reveals: Apart from grace we will join (with enthusiasm!) the angry crowd who call for the crucifixion of Jesus in John 19. Don’t think too highly of yourself or your ability to live in truth and integrity. Only grace can set us free from a past we cannot change, and open us to a future in which we are changed.
At the cross we will see our Lord glorified. His glory is now our glory. In Jesus Christ God looks upon us with the same love and approval with which he looked upon his Son. This is our joy and comfort today and every day. Amen.