March 16, 2008 – Palm Sunday, John 3:16, Mt. 21:1-11
This Sunday will be the beginning of our 6 week campaign and sermon series on John 3:16. It’s going to be interesting because I’ve never preached 6 sermons in a row on one text. And I’ve never tried to relate John 3:16 to Palm Sunday. Do they relate?
Over the years I’ve tended to see Palm Sunday as a display of people’s misunderstanding of Jesus and what he’s up to. In many churches it’s a Sunday when the “C&E” Christians come to warm up for Easter. They skip Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday – they skip the blood and passion of Christ and go from Palm Sunday hoopla to Easter whoopee. I see that in the Palm Sunday text itself – people expecting a triumphant Messiah, waving palms and singing, only to run when the blood hits the fan.
I’m coming to see Palm Sunday differently now. When I see that Jesus is aware of all this and comes anyway, I realize that my/our misunderstanding of him and his mission is no obstacle to him and his mission. For me that’s the real triumph of Palm Sunday. Jesus accepts our faulty and misguided praises and parades. He does not let them deter him from his purpose. And in doing so it transforms my awareness of what he’s doing. Way too often I put too much pressure on myself to “get it” – to understand, to be right, to be clear. Jesus needed none of that when he rode into Jerusalem. He does not depend on my right understanding, my right praise (that’s what “orthodox” means BTW – right praise), my anything. In seeing that, I’m relieved of the burden of being right and can depend more on His being right. So let the Palms wave. Let the “hosanna’s” ring. No matter how long we study or follow, we will never capture his glory, his goodness, completely. It will always be “in part”. But he can take my partial understanding and work through it to display his power and majesty – that works through “jars of clay” to reveal the true treasure.
This Sunday I’m going to be using John 3:16 as an answer to why Jesus does Palm Sunday. Why does he go through all this – the Palm Sunday pomp & circumstance? The mistaken pretensions of people who think they’re worshiping because they show up? The flogging, the humiliation, the pain, the cross? Why? From what motivation? For what purpose? John 3:16…
For those of you reading this, I’d appreciate your thoughts – on Palm Sunday, on John 3:16, and how they relate.