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A Cross or a Crown

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/10) Unless you like Hollywood musicals, you may or may not be familiar with the 1948 Fred Astaire and Judy Garland movie, Easter Parade. Some of you are more familiar with the song than the movie. We had to sing it and march to it in Elementary School. I will let you look it up and see the plot. But as a pastor, I sometimes think of that movie, and song, when I think of this Sunday coming. We call it Palm Sunday, and on the first Palm Sunday, there was a kind of parade. You probably knew that.

Do you know why it is called Palm Sunday? Yep, thatís right. It is a reference to the Sunday, 5 days before Jesus was executed. Itís right here in the text we just read. As He rode a donkey into Jerusalem, people threw down palm branches and coats and shirts for Him to ride on. It was like a red-carpet treatment. And, they shouted, "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." Hosanna, means, "Oh save us now," and comes from Psalm 118:24-26. Know why? (I love this stuff)

There are some writings included in the Catholic Bible that are not in most Protestant Bibles. We call them the Apocrypha. These are writings that most scholars do not believe are part of the God inspired Bible. But even though they are not inspired, some are historical. They fill in the details of the 4 hundred years between Malachi and Matthew. Included in the Apocrypha are the books of the Maccabees.

The Maccabees were folk heroes. They were the Avengers, the Lone Ranger, Zorro, Robin Hood, or William Tellsí of their day. The Greeks, (Alexís, guys) were in control of Jerusalem. The leader called Antiochus Epiphanes was cruel, merciless. He tortured and killed multiple thousands of Jesus, demanding that Jews worship Zeus, and desecrated the Temple. He sacrificed a pig and ordered people to eat pig or be executed. Judas Maccabeus said, "Enough," and he, his sons, and others, led a revolt and beat the larger army and liberated Jerusalem for a while. The feast of Hanukkah was the result. I Macc. 13:51 and repeated in 2 Macc. 10:7 say, Simon Maccabees, entered Jerusalem with Thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees and with harps and cymbals and sang songs because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel."

Itís interesting that inn Revelation 7, This is said about people who were saved yet martyred during the Tribulation, After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

Fast forward 200 years from the Maccabees. A public miracle of Biblical proportions had recently occurred. In front of a lot of people, many un-believers, Jesus brought a man back from the grave, that had been un-deniably, decaying and smelling dead and buried. News spread like a wild fire. Two reactions occurred from the people.

One group, though not denying the miracle, formed a committee for the self -preservation of religion in Israel. First item on the agenda- Kill Jesus. Look at John 11:45-52, 57.

Because everything had to be done on Godís timeline- Jesus went on a retreat to a town called Ephraim, near the wilderness. I am guessing that this was also to prepare His heart and soul for the week ahead. This would be a horrific week, one that His 33 years was created for.

Here is a Life Lesson. Before a game changing decision or Action, it is good to take some time away (11:54). Not as a vacation, but as a retreat, to prepare your heart and mind; a time to pray and seek Godís wisdom, strength, and peace. Job change, House change, School Change, etc. Jesus often got alone. Often spending whole days, or all night in prayer. Good advice and example.

With a week to go, He returns to Bethany and a dinner is given in His honor and Lazarus and His sisters are there. And here is an interesting theory. Itís in the home of the Father of the one who betray Him. Matthew and Mark tell us he is known as Simon the Leper. We can assume, a former leper, perhaps the one that Matthew 8, and Luke 7 refer to has having great leprosy. John 12:4, writing 40 or more years after Matthew and Mark tell us (in the KJV, not NIV, or others) that Simonís son is Judas.

A lot of people were there to see both Jesus and Lazarus. The great Physician and the man who had been dead but is living.

Here is Life Lesson #2 God intends for your life to be a living demonstration of the Gospel (12:9) Francis of Assisi said, "preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words." Being born again, is learning to live life all over again from a new perspective and for a new purpose. We learn that we are not our own, that we belong to Him. We want to honor Him in all we do. We want to live in gratitude for His grace.

Here is life Lesson #3, You will be hated because your life is a living demonstration of the Gospel (12:9-11). Itís as simple as that. Our Lord said this, many times, and will repeat it in John 15:18ff. Because the world hates Him, it will also hate us. A contract was put out on Lazarusí life because Jesus used him to demonstrate His power over death. Welcome back Lazarus, and, by the way, people are going to want to kill you now, because of what Jesus has done in your life.

Life lesson #4, Some will not believe even if they see (11:45-47). You have heard it said, "If I see it then I will believe it." The truth is, not everyone will believe even if they see. Pharaoh of Mosesís day is an example as are these Pharisees of Jesusí day; as are the evolutionists of our day. The evidence says no way, but the only other option is God. Everyone in the world must decide one of two options. Either God or gas is eternal. Before we even name God, we must believe one of these two is eternal. Though Einstein was not a Christian, he believed that there is an intelligent designer. The Movie, Godís Not Dead gives a good portrayal of this.

Back to John 12. Word is spreading fast, Jesus may be the Messiah, He must be. Isaiah 35:3-6, speaking of when Messiah will come says this, Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. 4 Say to those with anxious heart, "take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.

In their minds, people were thinking of a deliverer, a liberator, a hero like Moses, or the Maccabees, who will free Israel from the Romans. There were freedom fighters call Zealots who ready to fight, and in fact probably tried an attack this week leading to Passover. Some Romans were killed, and 3 zealots were captured and sentenced to die by crucifixion. One is named Barabbas. Believing that Jesus could be this Messiah, the people came and watched and threw down the palm branches and cloths, and singing from Psalm 118.19-29.

Hosanna, means, "Oh save us now," They were thinking of liberation, the golden age; the end of health care, welfare, hospitals, armies, wars, funeral homes and cemeteries. It is what we refer to as the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus returns. They were not thinking about Him being the Lamb of God that would have to die for our sins; that is, the Passover Lamb whose blood would be applied to our hearts. They were not thinking of the forgiveness of sins, or the power to conquer our sins, and the eternal life that Jesus came to give now. Liberate us now. We are ready to follow you, to crown you as our King now.

Life Lesson #5, Some want to follow Jesus because of what they expect Him to do for them now (vv.12-15) Fix my marriage, heal my body, give me more money, give me stuff, change my husband or child, get me out of jail, change my life now, stop abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, transgender bathroom bills, etc. Grace, forgiveness, eternal life, a new heart is not the heart of their faith.

Life Lesson #6, Hind sight is usually 20/20 (vv. 16-18). The Apostles didnít put any of this together until later. I really donít know what they were thinking at this point. Jesus had told them that when they got to Jerusalem bad things were going to happen (Matthew 16:21). Just a few weeks earlier, they thought that going near there to help Lazarus was suicide (John 11:7-16).

We often will quote or will have quoted to us the words of Paul from Romans 8:28, when we go through difficult times. But it may be years before we see what God is doing. I know it has been for Debbie and me. The question when I go through difficulties is, "Will I trust that God has a good plan even if I donít understand?" John could look back even on the High Priestís decision to kill Jesus as part of Godís good plan (John 11:49-53). How about you? Do you trust in Godís good plan when life makes no sense to you; when God doesnít do what you ask or expect Him to?

Life Lesson #7, Godís Way is the Broken Way. (vv. 23-24)

Some Greeks, maybe tourists, maybe worshipers of the one true God, maybe had heard of Lazarus and Jesus and wanted an interview, an autograph, or a sign that He was the one promised to come. We donít know if they were ignored if they got their audience. But Jesus began a time of intense teaching to the 12 and perhaps others, that would be recorded the rest of 12 and through chapter 17. If your Bible has Jesusís words in red, you will see that there are not many words in black in these 6 chapters. He includes life lessons they needed to remember and hang on to as well as His own anguish as His last days approached.

v. 23, - The hour has come. Prior to this point, He would refer to His hour as future. It was the point of His life and ministry on earth-this hour. This hour was the time of His death and resurrection. It was time. But here was one of the most important life lessons we need to learn. Godís way is the broken way. At Christmas, my wife was gifted with a book of that title by Ann Voscamp. It is a wordy book that requires a good bit of pause and contemplation, but it is laced throughout with tremendous reminders of this point. Godís way is the broken way. This is from page 25.

Her Husband-the Farmer speaks to her, "You know Ė everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right? He waits till I let him look me on the eye, let him look into me and all this fracturing. "The seed breaks to give us wheat, the soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us rain, the wheat breaks to give us bread, and the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster box that was broken to give him all the glory." He looks right through the cracks of meÖ. he says it slowly, like he means it, "Never be afraid of being a broken thing."

From page 40, speaking of communion, "What in Godís good and Holy name are we doing her? We ingest the broken, we become the broken. The wheat was crushed. Every kernel shattered for this bread. Every grape was crushed. The sweetness ran in the brokenness. In shattered places with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ and find our whole selves through the mystery of death and resurrection, through the mystery of brokenness and abundance."

The noted preacher A.W. Tozer wrote, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply."

Jesus was undoubtedly trying to help these men understand what was going to happen to Him. Abundant life must be preceded by death. We understand this now. He had to die so we could live. He had to die to pay for our sins. He had to die, before He could prove that Himself was more powerful than death. He had to die to be glorified as God with us. Jesus was broken so that life could pour out and onto us.

Likewise, God will break us so that he might use us to manifest His grace to the world around us. Godís way is the broken way.

Life Lesson #8, We have to make Lifeís most important choice (vv. 25-26)

Our Lord now turns the attention to us. You and I and we are confronted with the greatest decision we can ever make. The decision to marry, to go to school, start a business, raise children, run for office, etc. all together cannot come close to the importance of this decision. It is the decision to live the life that the world and my flesh and Satan says I should live; that is, a life based on the temporary pleasures, and accomplishments of today, or the life of sacrifice, service to God and the reward of eternal glory with Jesus. A life of selfish ambition now, or a life of the selfless giving of my life for Him. A Life of unfulfilled craving, or a life of forgiveness, peace, and confidence. A life of eternal glory, or a life of eternal emptiness.

Making no choice is, really, making a choice.

Life Lesson #9, Christianity is not a religion, itís a life choice (v.26 cp. Matt. 16:24-27). You are only fooling yourself, if you think this is simply about just praying a prayer, taking communion, being baptized, attending church, etc. Your decision to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord is the decision to walk the road with Jesus, to give of yourself, to exchange your life for His, to love what He loves and in the manner that He loves. I know that the Bible refers to Godís grace as a free gift, but itís part of the great exchange. His riches, His home, His forgiveness, His peace, for your guilt, your sin, your emptiness, etc. Itís like taking off your rags for His tailor-made clothing. But it with the understanding that just as the Son of man came to serve and give His life a ransom, your life is His and he intends for you to do the same thing. You will love what he loves, and you will be hated as He was hated. Like our Lord Jesus you will be misunderstood, accused for doing good, and crucified for loving people.

Life Lesson #10, Many Believers will not serve him because they love the praise of people more than the praise of God (v. 42). We wonít testify on his behalf, we wonít speak up, we wonít take a stand, we wonít pray in public, because we are afraid of the consequences. For me this is one of the most convicting verses in the Bible. There have been plenty of times I have been silent, when I was faced with the opportunity to testify, because what would people think if they found that Iím a Jesus freak, what would people do if they found it was true?

This Palm Sunday 2017, review these life lessons and God help us to make 2017 the year that we stop living in the past or for the temporary hopes of this world, and decide to go all in for the one who loved us and gave Himself for us. Amen? Amen!

Letís pray about it.

If this article has spoken to your heart, would you write to me at and let me know or if you have any questions about following Jesus, I would be glad to try to answer them for you. May God bless you as you seek to do His will.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman