[John 12:12-19] The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!”
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
You’ve Found the One Who Saves from Death
Why did the crowds come out to see Jesus? They heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, so they gathered together where He was coming. They waved palm branches to greet Him. But why? Why gather where Jesus is?
Maybe they thought Jesus would conquer the Roman politicians. Maybe they thought Jesus would save their nation. How quickly does our mind turn to politics. We are so focused on the kingdoms of this world, which will not last.
Why did they gather? Our Gospel text today tells us why this crowd gathered. What had Jesus done just shortly before this? (Just one chapter before this, back in chapter eleven)
Jesus had done what? Jesus had raised the man Lazarus from the tomb. Remember. Lazarus was four days dead. His sisters, Mary and Martha, were grieving. Jesus wept. And one sister said to Jesus, “I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give it to you.”
Jesus told that sister, “Your brother will rise again.”In fact, Jesus then said to that sister about Himself –“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”A big claim.
Jesus proved that claim to the crowds and to Lazarus. Jesus said, with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”Lazarus, who had been dead four days, lived again. He stood. He walked out of the tomb. He departed alive from the grave.
How? Jesus is the Son of God. He is almighty with God His Father. He is the Lord of life. He is the one able – the only one able – to conquer death. No one else can. He has.
The crowd standing around Lazarus’ tomb that day saw it and believed. And today’s Gospel says that they went around telling everyone about it.
“The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.”They had been telling people around them that this Jesus conquers death. They saw it.
The result of their witness: “The reason why the crowd went to meet him– the Palm Sunday crowd that met Him waving palm branches – was that they heard he had done this sign.”
That crowd hadn’t all seen it. But they heard about it. They believed what they had not seen. As Jesus would later say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus was riding in on a donkey – not a war horse – but a donkey, an animal which was a symbol of peace. And a symbol that He is our king, because of what the Old Testament says, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, riding on a donkey” [Zechariah 9:9].
That Palm Sunday crowd gathered shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” Which means what? “Save us, now! Save us, please!” And they believed He would. Because they knew by faith that He had conquering-power over death.
That crowd waved palm branches – which their ancestors had done when some of their victorious kings rode into Jerusalem to defeat an earthly enemy, to save a nation. But this crowd had found the One who could save them from the grave. Who could bring forth life out of the tomb. “Hosanna!” Save us!” And He would.
A few short days later, this same man, Jesus, would walk out of Jerusalem, not riding a donkey, but carrying the cross. He rode in on a beast of burden. He came out as the burden-bearer, carrying the sins of the world.
Outside the walls of Jerusalem, He died. He died for you. He died your death for all of your sin. He suffered hell in your place for your sins. By His death for your sin, He has forgiven you. For His sake, you have received pardon from God.
He died for you. He was buried for you. And on the third day, Easter Sunday, He brought life out of His grave for you. Because He lives you will live also. You have found the One who saves from death.
Jesus road into your life in Baptism. Jesus rides into your life continuously through God’s Word and Sacrament. You gather where He comes to you. You can tell others to come and to meet the One who has conquered their true and worst enemy. Death is dead. The grave is empty. He has given you life.
Wave palms of victory – victory won by a cross – and sing praise to the One who is to return, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”, even Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.