Blog / Book of the Month / The Triumphal Entry / John 12:12-19 / Rev. Lowell Dennis, Emeritus / Sunday March 24th 2024 / Lent – Palm Sunday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Triumphal Entry / John 12:12-19 / Rev. Lowell Dennis, Emeritus / Sunday March 24th 2024 / Lent – Palm Sunday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Triumphal Entry / John 12:12-19 / Rev. Lowell Dennis, Emeritus / Sunday March 24th 2024 / Lent – Palm Sunday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

“The Triumphal Entry” John 12:12-19 [Processional Gospel] – Three-Year Series B, Palm Sunday / Sunday Of The Passion: March 24, 2024


Dear Saints, this Sunday really has two main emphasis: Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion. Without getting into the historical reasons for this, it is safe to say that it presents the preacher with a bit of a challenge, especially when it comes to where to focus the sermon. Looking back, most years, I seem to have leaned more on the passion account. So this year, I’d like to focus our attention especially on the Palm Sunday Gospel reading from John 12.  

Our Lord Jesus Christ does not do things by accident. His actions and words are always under His control, always to fulfill His purpose, and His Father’s will. So, too, with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

He had entered Jerusalem many times before. We first hear of Him visiting there as an infant, along with Mary and Joseph. Bethlehem wasn’t far from Jerusalem, after all. And there in the temple the baby Jesus met Simeon and Anna. They sang His praises. We still sing Simeon’s song today in the Communion liturgy.

Then we hear about Jesus in Jerusalem again as a boy of 12, staying behind in the temple. The scribes and teachers of the law sang His praises in a different way – amazed with His answers and understanding. His zeal for His Father’s house would never fade, and His love for Jerusalem was ever evident. He would visit many more times, to worship, to pray, to teach and preach.

Here, on Palm Sunday, the crowds gather to sing His praises in perhaps His moment of peak popularity. He comes to Jerusalem once more, now in triumph. Having raised Lazarus from the dead – and word of it spread like wildfire among the people. The crowds swelling to Jerusalem to 10 times the population during these days of the Feast of Passover, who knows what the makeup was of this gathering. Perhaps pilgrims from all over the world joined that welcome wagon, waved their palms, adding their hosannas. A hint of the great throng that would one day come to call Him Savior – from every tribe, nation, people, and language. A representative slice of the Church, His body, His people.

Which might bring us a question – do we welcome Him with the same joy, even today? Do we recognize Him and rejoice at His arrival in our midst by His Word, and in His Sacrament? Or do we pilgrims, gathered here, take His presence for granted? Do we act as if He isn’t really here? Or does our faith join the throng of hosannas and palm-wavers, recognizing our King is in our midst, triumphant, victorious, to save us?

He rides a donkey. The symbolic value of this is strong. The donkey is what David rode. Jesus is claiming, in a not so subtle way, His rightful place as the Son of David (which they also name Him in the other parallel accounts). He is the heir to David’s everlasting throne, the One come to restore the stump of Jesse, the booth of David that had fallen. In Christ, and only in Christ, the house of David, the throne of David will endure forever. “Even the king of Israel”, they hail Him. The king indeed!

He also thus fulfills the prophet’s word, as He does in so many ways, every last detail of this seems choreographed from eternity. He couldn’t have checked all these boxes if He were not the Son of God, the Son of David, the Savior. But He has done all things well. He fulfills His purpose fully. He runs His course to the cross without even a small misstep, never looking back.

The crowd also cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus comes in the name of His Father, that same name which He also bears - Yahweh. He comes with the commission and blessing of His Father – to do the Father’s will, to drink the cup and not let it pass. To lay down His life as a ransom for many. To shed His blood to spare us from blood guilt. To die for the sins of the world, and then to rise and proclaim His victory over death for all. He comes to do exactly what the Father sent Him to do, in His name, with His blessing.

And they shout, “Hosanna!” Save us, now! Save us from our enemies. Save us from all that would harm us. Save us, for You are our savior, with the power to save. Now, of course, they probably had in mind a different kind of saving – a worldly saving from Roman oppression and a restoration of world honor and glory for their people. But Jesus comes to save from much more than any of that. He saves us now from sin, death, devil, and hell. He saves them in their time as He saves us in our time, and all who call on His name in all times and places. Now is the day of salvation, whenever now is that sinners hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David”.

Now we are also told that the disciples didn’t understand these things at the time, but later on, after Jesus was glorified, they remembered and understood. And here is a lesson for us as well.

Often times, when it comes to the Word of God, we are like those disciples. We don’t understand at first. This can be for many reasons. We may not yet be mature enough in our faith. We may be laboring under false ideas or assumptions. It may even be that the darkness of our own sinful mind and heart hinders us from listening and receiving the Word – indeed, Jesus often says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”, thus acknowledging that not everyone has ears to hear, and not everyone will listen.

But later, when the time was right, the disciples did remember, understand, and believe. This can be attributed to several factors – one, that Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Also, that, as He promised, the Holy Spirit came and brought to remembrance all that he taught and preached.

So does the Spirit enlighten us, Christians, even today. As you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Word of God, the Holy Spirit works to deepen your faith and understanding of Christ and the Gospel. If even the disciples needed time and help to understand the gravity of something like Palm Sunday, or many of the other events in Jesus’ ministry – then we can’t claim to be any better. So we learn humility before God’s Word, and continue to learn – not just intellectually – but spiritually – from the Spirit’s teaching, as we grow to greater heights and deeper appreciation of all that God teaches us.

And one more Palm Sunday connection we can make. The Palm Sunday account is also the appointed reading for the First Sunday in Advent. And while it might seem rather strange to hearken to Holy Week in December (sort of like, Christmas in July), it makes great sense. Advent is the season of coming, and Jesus coming into Jerusalem is one of His most important arrivals. Of course He also comes as a babe in Bethlehem. And furthermore, He will come again in glory – to judge the living and the dead. Palm Sunday gives us a hint of that second, glorious, triumphal entry – though His final coming will be riding the clouds not a donkey, and He will be seen by all, not just a crowd of Jewish pilgrims. And He will come not to die, but to judge, to bring victory, and to usher us, His people, into our eternal home – the heavenly Jerusalem.

Until then, He comes to us in humble form – in yet different ways. Today He comes, not riding a donkey, but in the word of proclamation. Today He comes, also in His body and blood, given and shed for you, coming to us in His Holy Sacrament. He comes with salvation, He comes to save us now. He comes to bring us what we need the most – Himself – and the forgiveness of sins that He brings.

And so our prayers of “hosanna” are answered. They were already answered when He went to the cross and died for us all. And they continue to be answered as He delivers us His blessings in His Gospel, and at His Table. Thanks be to God for the triumphal entry of Christ, the sacramental presence of Christ, and the promised return in glory of Christ, our Savior, the Son of David, even the King of Israel. Amen.

And now may the peacef God which passes all human understanding,  guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ our Savior – now and always. AMEN.

Sermon preached at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, SK

Sunday, March 24, 2024 Rev. Lowell Dennis, Emeritus

Photo Credit: modified and tinted detail of Albrecht Durer, Jesus' Entry Into Jerusalem, City Gate from picryl