Palm Sunday: The Rest of the Story
“Now the crowd that was with him when He called Lazarus from his tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him.’ John 12:17-19
In just a few days we celebrate the renowned entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, reenacted for centuries all over the world with the waving of palm branches and recounting the fulfillment of Psalm 118. John alone of the four Gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry tells “the rest of the story. Neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke records the miracle of Jesus calling a man four days in the grave back to life. John reveals the subsequent plotting by the Chief Priests and Pharisees to kill both Lazarus and Jesus in an attempt to bury the “threatening facts of both the unforgettable miracle and the “whole world crowd drawn to the Miracle Worker. The three Synoptic Gospels were written while Lazarus still lived his resurrected life and these disciples apparently did not want to put Lazarus in greater danger by drawing attention to him in publicizing the miracle. John, though, wrote his gospel after Lazarus’ second death and most likely after his vision on the Isle of Patmos in the last decade of the first century. Many of the uniqueness’ found in John’s Gospel are brought into greater clarity for him (cf. John 12:16) by the spectacular vision of the Revelation (Marriage Feast of the Lamb-unique recounting of the wedding at Cana, for one example out of many).
Response to this miracle enormously swelled the crowd accompanying Jesus’ grand entrance into the city, so even His enemies described its size with the description “all the world has gone after Him. Even foreigner travelers just arriving for the Passover Feast were asking His disciples to see this Jesus who had publicly displayed a unique power defying the natural laws of life and death. Yet even irrefutable evidence of power not seen from any man since the beginning of history could convince the hearts and minds of observers. The results were “mixed, as John described in his Gospel, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him. (John 12:37) Then, a few verses later, “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43)
Miracles sure get people’s attention, but do they always remove the scales of dumbfounded unbelief? Jesus knew they didn’t. He said, “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago….And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. Wow! Do Jesus’ miracles get YOUR attention? Or was it the Holy Spirit who opened your eyes to see who He is, that the words He speaks are true, and your recognized need for Him is as great as Lazarus if you are going to see life beyond the grave? The Spirit introduces you to the joy of forgiveness and fellowship with Him here and now, just as Lazarus shared dinner with Him after answering Jesus’ call and walking out of his tomb.
You know your own susceptibility to preferring the praise of men over the praise of God, even as your sanctification as a believer is being sharpened in the world, a world which as Jesus said praying for “His own in John 17, hates you. There is a fearful tension with the world in your affiliation to it: do you seek peace with the world by minimizing Jesus’ words and commandments in order, as many say, to nurture an opportunity for future witness and mitigate the world’s hatred toward you? This was a question which Jesus addressed on the first Palm Sunday and the week which followed. It was a question which touched His closest friends, His disciples; it touched His larger group of family and followers; it touched the “whole world crowd; and it touches you and professing believers today. The only answer I can offer to this dilemma is to accept and practice Jesus’ command, “Follow me! Observe His example, learn His words, and address the world as He did. Anything less disowns Him.
Now you have “the rest of the story concerning Palm Sunday.
“Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb, and shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?
(1st verse of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?, 1724)
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly devotional