Eight Days of Triumph

Homily 356 – Palm Sunday
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 21, 2019
Epistle: (247) – Philippians 4:4-9
Gospel: (41) – John 12:1-18

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

We have completed the course of the fast. Our preparation is now completed, and we accompany our Lord into Jerusalem for what we know to be the final time.

For the past three years, Jesus, who is called Christ, has created much of a stir around all of us. He has done six great signs, and has caused many of us who follow him to believe he is the promised Messiah, who will redeem Israel.

He has turned water to wine, has healed the sick. He has healed on the Sabbath, has fed the multitude, has walked upon the water, and given sight to the blind.

Jesus was told that one of his friends, a man called Lazarus, has died. The followers were confused at first, because Jesus announced he was asleep – and many of us were relieved, because that could only mean he was getting better. But then, strangely, Jesus told us – No. Lazarus is dead.

Jesus said something strange – that he was glad he wasn’t there, and that somehow because he wasn’t there, we would believe something. But we have all heard Jesus say confusing things before, and followed him anyway.

The man’s sister Martha was furious with Jesus for not being there to heal Lazarus as he had done with others. Jesus apparently wanted to honor his friend, and asked that the stone be rolled back, so that he could offer his lament for the man. We snickered a bit, because Mary reminded us that, well, death doesn’t smell nice.

Yesterday, four days after Lazarus died, an amazing event took place, which to be honest we are still trying to understand.

At the command of Jesus of Nazareth, Lazarus got up and walked out of that tomb, still wearing his grave clothes. A seventh sign. Surely, this is the Messiah. There can no longer be any doubt about that.

Brothers and sisters, followers of Christ, we are witnesses to the most amazing thing. A man who had died is now alive! Before us, today, the man who was dead is now alive!

Our hope is in this man, Jesus. Our hope is in this, God’s anointed one, the Christ.

He has told us already that He loves us as much if not more than his friend, Lazarus.

As we process into Jerusalem with him, we must remember that our Lord, the God-man Jesus Christ whom we follow, has conquered the ultimate enemy – death. As we spend the next week with Christ, we do so not following a meek man, but a conquering God who goes to Jerusalem willingly to die for our sins.

We will see Him in the Garden. He prays for us, for our sake. He asks that the cup He is to drink pass Him by, if it is possible. His own personal request to His Father (and our Father) for a personal Passover.

Then, that oh-so-important word – nevertheless. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done My Father.

Jesus tells us – I don’t want this to happen. Yet, I will allow it to happen, because by experiencing death – even unjustly – I take humanity and restore it.

And Jesus does that – not because He needs to, but because He wants to. Because He loves us. Because His Father loves us.

And that is why we die with Him. We offer our will, our desire, our wants. We voluntarily lay them aside, just as Christ voluntarily laid His life aside.

We lay them aside not because we want to. We lay them aside because of our love for Our Lord. The love that first loved us. So we follow His example, His demonstration of Love.

We aren’t fooled – the Jewish leaders and the Romans may be the instruments of his death, but we know it is our sins, our disappointments, our failings that our Lord will take with him to the Cross.

Our hero, our conqueror, shows us the path for all of us to follow to conquer with him, the heroic path. It is to lay aside one’s authority, one’s dignity, one’s power – and serve those around us, without regard to who they are, ignoring what they can do and actually do to us, even unto our own death.

We conquer with him – by following him. His glorious entrance is our glorious entrance. His betrayal is our betrayal. His cross is our cross. His death is our death.

BUT – his resurrection is our resurrection! His ascension is our ascension! His Glory is our Glory! His Life is our Life! His Joy is our Joy!

As we continue through this next week, these eight days of triumph, let us look to the Cross. Let us look to the grave. Let us look to the Resurrection.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.