Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sermon - Palm Sunday - John 12:12-19

Palm Sunday
John 12:12-19
“Christ Comes to Save Us Now”

Jesus came to His city. The city of His temple. The city of His people. Here is an event packed with significance in the saving work of Christ for us all. It had to happen. Isaiah had forseen it – the king is coming, riding on a donkey.

The people - they honored Him. And if they didn't, the stones would have cried out. They showed a foretaste of heaven, where John pictures the church in glory also waving palm branches, and singing praises to Christ. They shouted “Hosanna”. Which means, “Save us, now”.

Save us from what? The Romans, first of all. The ones who oppressed Israel and crucified any troublemakers. If Jesus can even raise Lazarus from the dead, then He can certainly lead the charge in saving His people from the Romans.

Save us from our troubles? Give us plenty to eat, all the comforts of life. Make our name great in the earth. We'll ride your coattail. Like the disciples who wanted thrones on His left and right. Glorify us, your people, for we surely deserve it.... but no. God will glorify Jesus, but not the way they thought. He's not the kind of Savior.

Save us from sin and death. Ah, yes, Lord. That's what you came to do. For no matter what wealth we accumulate in this life, we'll one day die and leave it behind. No matter what fame and glory before men, the grave is the great leveler of all. And no matter what other problems in life come and go – no matter how happy or fulfilled we think we are – there stands the grave. Its hungry mouth ready to devour us. It's inevitable. It's the wages of our sin. And they will come due.

Who can save us? Only Jesus can do it. Only Jesus is the Savior. These people got the words right, even if they got the interpretation wrong. “Save us, now, Hosanna” is the prayerful cry of all the people who trust in Christ for saving. Save us, now, today, it is urgent! Death breathes down our neck. Our sins weigh upon us. We can't stand it anymore. Save us. Take us from the trash heap, the wasteland, the sewer of stench where we wallow. And save, remake, reconcile, restore, renew us. Hosanna, Lord. Save us.

You and I are not Jesus Christ. We are not the Savior. Oh but we get to thinking we are.

We like to think we are the Savior. As if we can save someone. Do we think our contribution adds something to God's work when it doesn't? Do we think our good deeds or our sacrifice make it easier for Him in some way, though they don't? He will save whom He saves, quite without your help. God doesn't need you. You need Him. You need Christ.

We like to make other little saviors, to think we can save ourselves. That our own supposed good works earn some kind of credit in the heavenly ledger. “Oh look what I'm giving up for you, Lord. Oh, look at how hard I try. And especially compared to that fellow over there, I simply must be one of your favorites.” But no. Here again, only Christ can save. Your good works are filthy rags. They aren't bright and shiny, they stink to high heaven. You're not the savior. No, you can't even save yourself.

Only Jesus can save us now. And He does. He would soon hear those words from another crowd – the onlookers of his crucifixion. “If you are the Christ, save yourself! Come down from the cross!” And while bearing the inconceivable weight of the wrath of God for all sin of all time – what must that temptation have been like – to end his own suffering. To save himself, instead of us.

But Christ is our savior. And at the cross all “Hosannas” are fulfilled. All debts of sin from all time and place are paid. All God's righteous wrath at every murderous, theiving, betraying, corrupt and deviant little sinner – all that well deserved anger and justice is satisfied. The blood of Christ is sufficent. And when it is finished... we are saved.

And though that was then, and this is now, Christ still saves us now. What was done at the cross matters here and now, it is for us, here and now. In this little apartment, in a land far away from our home, the Christ answers our cry of “Hosanna!”. For he comes to save us – to save us from our sins – by giving us His own body and blood to eat and drink.

And Christ would, Himself, be saved from death – only after passing through it. He would rise – but not for himself, but for us all. To pave the way out of the grave for us all – to save us, for all eternity.

And while God doesn't need you, and is quite capable of saving all He wishes to save without you – joy of joy – He calls you anyway. He calls you to serve Him by serving your neighbor. He gives you opportunities to share His love in word and deed. To tell others about the only One who can save us. To join with others who know this salvation, and offer our own songs of thanks and praise. And to love our neighbor, even as He has loved us, and given Himself for us.

You're not the Savior. But you, Christian, know His salvation. And He calls you to share it. Just like the crowds who witnessed the raising of Lazarus – they told what they had seen. So do we.

May the words of the Pharisees also continue to find an ironic fulfillment through the work that the Lord gives us here, in this place, in this time. That the whole world, even Singapore, would “go after Him”. That the people here would know Him, who answers all “Hosannas” with His cross. God grant it, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

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