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The Lamb of God

April 14, 2019
By Rev. David French

John 12:12-19

Perspective matters. The way you see things all depends on where you’re at … that is physically, or emotionally, or financially, or spiritually. Perspective matters, which means it’s certainly possible for two people to see the same thing differently and both be “right.”

In our lesson there are two groups that make up this great crowd: the group that came for the Passover who were at Jerusalem, and the group that was with Jesus when He raised Lazarus from the dead and followed Him to Jerusalem. John gives us his perspective, which as you would expect, is a little different from Luke’s; and that difference, it turns out, is also very instructive.

Luke tells us that the crowd along that road leading into Jerusalem was shouting their loud hosannas and waving palm branches and covering the street with their cloaks … because of the mighty works they had seen; that is, the feedings and healings they had witnessed. But after those miracles, people often looked at Jesus as an amazing earthly king, one who could keep them fed and heathy with just a word. But Luke, with those final words, does seem to cast a bit of a selfish shadow over this entire Palm Sunday crowd.

John, however, makes a distinction between the two groups that make up that crowd by saying that those who had either witnessed or heard about the great miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, as opposed to the ones who saw the feeding and healings, were raising loud hosannas and waving the palm branches. 

Certainly, they were also rejoicing because they had seen or heard about the many other things Jesus had done, but this rejoicing is different than the rejoicing we hear about in Luke. This is, if you will, “good” rejoicing because this is rejoicing over the great reversal with Lazarus going from death to life. This rejoicing is recognizing that God’s Promise of redemption, renewal, and resurrection was, at that moment, being fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. So, we have good rejoicing and selfish rejoicing. But does this difference in perspective change anything?

Actually, no. It didn’t matter if they were rejoicing for the right reasons or selfish and self-serving reasons. No one on that day, except Jesus, saw the cross coming at the end of that week. Not a single person saw that parade as the long-prophesied procession leading to Calvary where the Messiah would pay for the sins of all humanity; a debt so great that it could only be paid by the shedding of blood and the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the One without blemish.

It didn’t matter if you were crying “hosanna” for the right reasons or not. Everyone in that crowd would see their hopes hanging on a cross in just six days. They all would see the arrest, the abuse, the mockery, the shame, the crucifixion as a sign that Jesus was just another pretender. Not one of those rejoicing saw God’s Word and promise being fulfilled amidst all the darkness and blood and mockery. None saw the serpent’s head being crushed. None heard Jesus, before bowing His head and commending His spirit into His Father’s loving hands, declare victoriously, “It is finished.”  

Even the very faithful ones that we get a glimpse of are dumbfounded when Jesus took an unexpected turn towards Golgotha. Just think of the faithful women, who were undoubtedly part of that Palm Sunday procession, who were also hurrying out to the tomb three days later, not to be the first ones to greet their resurrected Lord and Savior, but to anoint a corpse. Or the apostles, guys who just spent three years as part of Jesus’s inner-circle. They’re back hiding behind locked doors. Mark tells us that later that evening, Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.

And we are no different. There are times that we look around at all the goodness and abundance in our lives, and we give thanks to God for all the wrong reasons, wanting to believe that all this goodness comes with God’s love for us. There are also those times when we are forced to see life from a different perspective, from the perspective of suffering and shame and heartache and loss. At those times we remember the many things that would give cause for God to be angry with us.

But does an abundance of health, wealth, and earthly “stuff” mean that God loves you and is pleased with you? Of course not, and yet how often do we fall into the trap of confusing God’s patience with us as His approval? Do you think pain or sickness or poverty or any other cross we must bear is God’s anger? If that’s the case, then hospitals, orphanages, and homeless shelters are filled with people that God is angry with. Again, you know the right answer. But still, all too often the fruits we bear tell a different story.

You see, admit it or not, we’re all guilty of having doubts. We don’t always trust what God says because we don’t always see the results we want or expect or feel entitled to see. We’re all guilty of looking to Jesus for the wrong things, and that happens anytime we look to Him for more than salvation. At times, we’re all guilty of looking to the world for our wisdom and guidance rather than looking to Christ.

We may not think it that way, but that’s how it is. If things are good, God must be pleased with us. If things aren’t going so well, then we need to change to get right with Jesus. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you’re either not listening or you’re in denial. And I can say that with absolute certainty because every single one of us was born of the flesh of Old Adam, and this kind of works-righteousness and self-assurance is our Old Adam’s default setting. It’s what comes naturally and feels normal to everyone who is born of sinful flesh.

The good news is, your perspective doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not. It doesn’t matter if things couldn’t be better or things couldn’t possibly get any worse. God loves you just as you are. The proof is not found in your bank accounts or your clean bill of health. The proof is not found in an absence of pain or sorrow or despair. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The proof is found in the lowest, most God-forsaken place of all time—the cross of Jesus Christ.

Here is God’s full wrath and punishment against all sin. Here is what Jesus was processing towards on that first Palm Sunday. Jesus was processing to the cross. Jesus’s whole mission and purpose was to live a sinless life in our place and then offer Himself as the payment for our sins. That is why Jesus was conceived and born. That’s why He set aside His glory. It was all so He could be punished for all sin, the debt of which He paid in full with His Holy and precious blood for you. 

You see, God’s Word and Sacrament are your reason to rejoice. They are God’s answer to the prayerful cry of “hosanna” which means “save us now.” Here is where your victorious Lord and Savior continues to come to you triumphantly yet veiled under the simple elements of Word, water, bread, and wine. He comes to you again this very day to bring you His free and unmerited gifts of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and peace.

From God’s perspective, a perspective only recognized on this side of eternity through faith, the Divine service is where heaven and earth meet; where His gifts are offered; where angels, archangels, all the company of heaven gather around His Heavenly Throne at the same time that we do, joining their voices with ours in praise and adoration of our Lord and our Savior, the very Lamb of God.