Homily 455 – Palm Sunday
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 25, 2021
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 today we accompany our Lord into Jerusalem for what we know to be the final time.
For the three years leading up to this day, Jesus, who is called Christ, has created much of a stir. 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.
Today, 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.
But yesterday morning, four days after Lazarus died, at the command of Jesus of Nazareth, Lazarus got up and walked out of that tomb, still wearing his graveclothes. A seventh sign. Surely, this is the Messiah.
Brothers and sisters, followers of Christ, we are witnesses to the most amazing thing. A man who had died is now alive! Here with us in Jerusalem, today, the man who was dead is now alive!
The crowds gather around. They too have heard that one who was four days dead is now living.
The shouts resonate through the city walls – Hosannah! The Hebrew cry – save us! Bring salvation to us!
Raise us from our death to life. Raise us from our fallen-ness to union with you! Raise us from where we are to where we are to be!
He doesn’t stand aloof and call us to better things like the Pharisees. He doesn’t seek political power and influence like the Sadusees.
He told us plainly – His kingdom is not of this world. We aren’t quite sure what that means yet. But we have to know now that the overthrow of the Roman oppressors probably isn’t going to happen.
What will happen we don’t yet know. It will take the rest of our lives, maybe longer, to process this.
And, lest we forget – Jesus is not above all this. He is in the muck of our lives with us, beside us.
He is in the filth with us, this holy being. He is with us, as we are, oppressed, suffering.
Like the children of Israel in Egypt. Or the people of God in Babylonian captivity. He is with us. Working beside us. Suffering with us. Crying with us, as he did before the tomb of Lazarus.
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 today, 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 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, one’s very self – and serve those around 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 frightening 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. Glory to Jesus Christ!