The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.” 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Beth-saida in Galilee, and said to him,“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. (Revised Standard Version)
See also: Matthew 21:4-9, Mark 11:7-10, Luke 19:35-38
Based on the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Seventh Sunday of Zadeeg, Second Palm Sunday), the following are suggested themes for sermon topics:
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem declared the establishment of the Kingdom of God; not an earthly kingdom with a political Messiah, as was expected by many during the time of Jesus, but God’s eternal kingdom revealed through the humble servant, Jesus Christ. Christ is not the earthly king they demanded and he is not the king or ruler we often demand him to be today. But he is the perfect, heavenly King who leads us to his Kingdom with a crown of thorns, a purple robe of mockery, and the Cross as his throne.
Humility and love is what marks the Kingdom of God, and sets it apart from the “kingdoms” we create with all of their earthly values, paradigms, and institutions. Today, our humble king comes to us through the Church, and he calls us to follow him on the road of suffering and persecution, one that he promises brings blessing (երանութիւն) and the Kingdom of Heaven. And today his followers, the Church, join the voices of those who sang on that day in Jerusalem, “Hosanna in the highest!” because the one who humbly rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was put to death on a cross reigns triumphant and victorious. Death could not hold our King.
For the Whole World
The eyewitness and news of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead caused many to follow and believe in him, and it is this crowd who welcomes Jesus as he enters Jerusalem on an unused donkey, a foreshadowing of him being buried in an unused tomb. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the last of the signs Jesus performed in his public ministry. It was also perhaps the most dramatic, telling, and pertinent to his ministry. This one miracle summed up who Jesus was and what He had come to do: to save, unite, and draw the world to himself (See John 3:16, 11:52, 12:32). John, who frames Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem within the story of Lazarus, sets his readers up to witness Jesus’ mission in the world: to set us free from the vilest of enemies, death, to give us resurrection life, to raise and renew the created order. As Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Her response was one of belief and confessing that he has come to do this work in the world: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
Like the crowd who was propelled to action at the news of the resurrection life, we too gather as followers of Jesus to dine at his sacred table because his Body and Blood, as the priest prays, “is life, hope, resurrection, purification, and remission of sins.” But our gathering around the sacred meal is not just for our own benefit. It is for the peace of the whole world; not the “world peace” about which we often idealistically dream, but peace that is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and finds its source in forgiveness and unites us with God no matter the circumstances. The choir sings,
We thank you, Lord, for you have fed us at your immortal table, serving your Body and Blood for the salvation of the world and as life for ourselves. (Գոհանամք զքէն Տէր, որ կերակրեցեր զմեզ յանմահական սեղանոյ քո. բաշխելով զմարմին եւ զարիւն ի փրկութիւն աշխարհի եւ կեանք անձանց մերոց։)
John continues his motif of resurrection as Jesus gives the image of the grain of wheat dying in order to bear fruit, signifying that Christ’s death will give life to the world (12:24). It was the third-century theologian and Church Father, Irenaeus, who wrote,
[The dying grain] becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way, our bodies being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time.
And so today, we cry out to Jesus, “Hosanna,” which is “save us, be our helper now,” but save whom from what? From earlier in John’s Gospel, we read,
For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (3:17)
And it was St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans who wrote,
Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (8:21-24)
He came to save the world, the whole of creation, from death, from sin, to heal our fear and anxiety. He saves us from temptation, unforgiveness, sickness, suffering, from anything which draws us away from the Source of Life, Jesus Christ. Through his resurrection, Jesus came to renew and set right that which is corrupt.
How is our parish community a means by which his message goes out to the world? Are we too narrow in our scope? How can we further think outside of ourselves in order to bring healing to others? The mission of the Church is to evangelize the world for Jesus Christ, but is that the mission we have chosen to carry on? Do we think of ourselves as part of that mission, just as St. Gregory of Narek composed his Book of Prayers for the whole world:
Let the perfume, the bouquet of this book of confessions
be redoubled and affect multitudes.
Let its memory be told everywhere and fill the world
like the fragrant oil in the house of Lazarus. (33 B)
Are we compelled to action by the news of Lazarus’ resurrection, by Jesus’ resurrection? Install yourself in the dialogue between Jesus and Martha. Jesus says to each one of us, and he is saying, today, to the Armenian Church:
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?