In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I always loved Palm Sunday as a child. I liked the palms, the processions, the idea of praising Jesus, of His coronation as our King, of all the people seeing Him as king. But I did not realize the significance of His coronation: that He came to die. (John 12:33) That His coronation procession was the first step in His being enthroned on the cross.
The Palm Sunday procession reading ends with the Pharisees saying, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:19) As in, we’re losing ground. Hard won ground. It is our ground. We are losing it. Something must be done! We are gaining nothing, the whole world goes after Him. And right after that some Jews—Hellenists, Jews who’ve become so worldly they don’t speak Hebrew anymore, only Greek and they love the culture of Greece, etc.—they are the example of the world going after Him. And they say, “We want to see Jesus." (John 12:20-21) And in usual Jesus fashion He doesn’t answer the question directly. Instead He says, “The hour has come for Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23) To be lifted up for all to see. (John 12:32) Lifted up from the earth. On a cross. (John 12:33) That is His high throne. That is how anyone sees Jesus. That’s how you know the way in which God loved the world (John 3:14-16) by seeing His only Son perish lifted up on the cross. For that is how He will draw all men to Himself. (John 12:32) Not by power. Not by human glory. But by glory of self-sacrifice. By death. So that many may be born of that sacrifice. (John 12:23-24) So that many may believe in Him and have life in His name. (John 20:31)
Because it is true, that if you love your life you will lose it. (John 12:25) It seems counter intuitive. We want to hang onto the things we value, the things we love and care about. But when you hang on too tight, you end up losing them. When you cling to a friend too close that you crash over the normal healthy boundaries between you and them, it ends up destroying both of you. Or if you overprotect a young child so that you are overbearing and even tyrannical in your attachments to them, you often lose them when they grow up and rebel against that smothering. Because this kind of “love” which clings so tightly is idolatry. Thats what the Lord means when He says, “If you love your own life, you will lose it.” (John 12:25) For when you idolize your own life; when your good, and your benefit become your “god”; when it is the thing you fear to lose, the thing you love above all else, the thing you look to and trust in for meaning—that’s idolatry. And all false gods will fall. They will fail you. You will lose them. All of us die. So if you love your life you will lose it. Not only eventually, but loving and worshiping your own life demeans and robs your life of purpose. It robs it of the love and care for others that you were made to give.
The key to keeping your life is not to love your life—not to obsess over it at every turn—but to follow Jesus. (John 12:25-26) To see Him. To serve Him. Which means to follow His example. - To take up your cross. (Matt. 16:24-26) Take up the crosses God gives you to bear. Be a mother, sister, father, husband, or friend you were meant to be. Lay yourself down in service to those whom God has given you to serve. Carry your burden. Take up the responsibility of caring for those God has given you. Then you will find your life. There is the meaning in life. Not in serving yourself, but in serving God through those God gives you to take care of.
This is where the Father’s honour (John 12:26)—the Father’s good pleasure—is found: in your taking up your cross. Following His Son. Following His example of carrying the burdens of others. For carrying your cross that the Lord fashions specifically for you casts out Satan. (John 12:31-32) It casts him out in a couple ways. Firstly, carrying your cross can only be done in love for your Lord and in love for others. (John 12:24-26; Matt. 16:24-26; Luke 9:23-26) Shouldering the burdens of others, taking their problems on as your own, as your responsibility to solve—just as you do for your young children, just as you help carry the burdens of a spouse or family member, maybe even of friend or neighbour—this gives you something to pour yourself into. Something to lay yourself down for. When you are lovingly engaged in suffering on behalf of others there is little room for Satan to work. For you are laying down your life for a friend. And greater love has no one than this that a man lay down his life for a friend. (John 15:12-13) But, even more importantly than that, our Lord says His cross, the hour of His death is the moment at which the power of sin and death—thus power and threat of Satan—is broken. (John 12:31-32) When Christ dies and is buried in the earth, like a seed; and when He comes up like the new life of a green blade poking through the earth He bears much fruit! (John 12:24) He does this not for Himself, but for you. He does it so that you may have new life in Him. A life free from the power and fear of death. (Heb. 2:14-15; Isa. 25:7-8) Life free from the power of Satan, by His death.
Satan torments us with the fear of death. He tempted Adam and Eve in the beginning and has pulled our strings ever since, fanning into flame our sinful desires, and rules us by them. So that he is rules the world as prince (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)—not as king—but as the power behind throne. The one usurping the authority given to Adam and Eve over the world. (Gen. 1:28) His power is broken. He is cast out—as in exorcized—at the cross. (John 12:31) The place you see Jesus—the crucifixion—is the world’s exoticism. That Hollywood image of holding a cross of Jesus before the eyes of a demon possessed person is not wrong. For in the Christ suffering on the cross we see Jesus. For you. In grace and mercy. Exalted in power and glory. For in His cross is our victory over Satan. In His cross Satan has been cast out. His power broken. Jesus is raised up, enthroned, so that those who were in thrall to Satan are now drawn to Jesus. (John 12:32) By His cross.
This is the strangest thing amongst all the religions of the world. A God who dies. Willing. For His own creatures whom He made. For you. The cross. The simple symbol of all that. The place to see our God. (John 12:21)
So if you would see Jesus look to Him on the cross. Remember Him this week. If you would be free of sin and the power of Satan look to His cross. For it was for this hour He came. The glorious excitement of Palm Sunday, is nothing compared to His glory accomplished on that day of deep darkness when the sun was darkened and God forsook His Son, His beloved Son. And as a Christian, as a one marked by His cross, rejoice. For your King has come to you. (Zech. 9:9) Humble, riding a beast of burden. (John 12:14-15) For He bore your burdens to the cross. In His flesh. He has put them to death and this Easter Sunday again, all things are new. For He humbled Himself unto death, even death upon a cross. (Phil. 2:8) So God has given the name that is above all names. (Phil. 2:9) He has exalted Him on the cross and will exalt Him at the end of time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to glory of our God and Father. (Phil. 2:10-11)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.