Phillipians 4:4-9; John 12:1-18

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem today follows immediately on the heels of His raising Lazarus from the dead. Yesterday, with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, Christ fulfilled the final and most astonishing of the Messianic prophecies. He showed that He indeed is who He’s claimed to be—the Son of God, the Messiah from heaven sent for the people of God. The word of Lazarus’ death and resurrection four days later spread throughout Jerusalem with incredible speed. There were many witnesses who saw what Jesus had done (yesterday’s Gospel reading specifically said that many of the Jews had come from Jerusalem to comfort Mary and Martha). All of these people saw a man four days dead, called forth from the tomb, and restored to life.

In today’s Gospel, we hear that many had gathered at the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus to see Jesus, and to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. Jesus had become the focal point for many of the people of Jerusalem. By the time Jesus enters Jerusalem this morning, the city is buzzing with the word that He had raised a man from the dead. Many had witnessed it, and many had seen both Christ and Lazarus even after the miracle had been done. This is why the crowds meet Him as He enters the city, the Gospel reading very clearly says in two places that the people have come to see Christ because of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

They meet Him as a King, they greeted Him as their Messiah, throwing palm branches on the ground before Him and singing, “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The people recognize in Christ their promised Messiah. They know that He has done things that only God could do, things that only the anointed chosen one of Israel could do. The people have accepted Him today as the Messiah. We’ll see this acceptance change to rejection in just a few short days. (We’ll soon clearly see that this acceptance of Christ is shallow, they accept Him because of the miracle, which is something He had discouraged throughout His ministry, because the people who accept Christ for a sensational miracle, will reject Him in hard times just as quickly.) But for today, the people of the Holy City receive the King of Glory as a King.

The hymns of the Church for Palm Sunday give us a wonderful look into what the Saints of our Faith have seen revealed in today’s Feast. To begin with the Troparion that we sang just a few moments ago: we sing that the raising of Lazarus is confirmation of the fact that death has been overthrown; we sing Hosanna with the children of Jerusalem today to the Vanquisher of Death; because our King and our God is now known. Virtually all of the hymns for Palm Sunday are in the context of the raising of Lazarus. Almost everything we sing for this feast begins with a mention of the trip to Bethany and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. That Messianic miracle set the tone for today—no one would have showed up for Christ’s entry today, it would have been just another man entering Jerusalem, if it weren’t for the miracle in Bethany yesterday.

Many of the stichera that we sing at Vespers and at Matins also point out the fact that Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey foal. He’s received like royalty, with palm branches thrown on the ground for His animal to walk on. But He comes like anything but royalty—not riding on a beautiful horse or drawn in a chariot, but riding a donkey, and a borrowed donkey, not even one He owns Himself. In every action, Christ is constantly revealing to us the humility of God. “He is meek, and bearing salvation,” we sang at Vespers last night. This line is very reminiscent of a scene from the life of the Prophet Elias, when He hears the word of God in the still, small, voice—not in the spectacular or the wonderful, but in the simple and meek sound of the gentle breeze. God has no need to draw attention to Himself; He comes to offer us salvation, not to get us to join some group or fan club.

The donkey foal is also seen as an image of the conversion of the Gentiles.
We sing, in various hymns, phrases like: “O new Israel, Church of the Gentiles…behold, your king is coming to you…he rides on the colt of an ass….” “Thou hast raised Lazarus…foretelling Thy holy resurrection for us…Today, thou dost mount the untamed colt as thy chariot, foretelling the conversion of the Gentiles.” “By riding an untamed colt, Thou hast prefigured the salvation of the Gentiles, those wild beasts, who will be brought from unbelief to belief.”

As a Jew, as King, and as the Messiah, Christ does things differently. He doesn’t do what we might expect an earthly king or ruler to do. In fact, His whole ministry is never grasped by many of the religious leaders of the day because it wasn’t what they were expecting. Christ came in humility. He came in meekness. He came to offer us all salvation (not just a select few). He didn’t want riches or earthly glory or fame or recognition. He pointed people to the Father—He came to offer life to those who were dying.

Over the course of this week, if we’re attentive in the services, we’ll hear the things that Christ came to reveal, and what He freely chose to endure and to suffer for us. And the giant question it leaves with each of us (with Christians of every generation)—what is our response? On Pascha night we’ll hear these words of St. John Chrysostom’s homily, “If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour [even until the last minute], let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of His honor, will accept the last even as the first; He gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour. And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.” No matter how we’ve struggled, or failed, this Great Lent, Christ still awaits the conversion of us all. We have this one final week to prepare ourselves to greet His Holy Resurrection. Let’s prepare ourselves with faith, with longing, and with love, so that we can cry out with the children of Jerusalem: Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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