Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sir, we want to see Jesus, some Greeks said to Philip. A lot of people wanted to see Jesus. There was a huge crowd in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. And they went out to welcome Him with songs from Psalm 118 and Zechariah 9. Many of those people had heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and were curious about Him.
Among the crowd were some Greeks, probably Greek-speaking Jews. And they get close enough to the disciples to tell Philip that they would like to see Jesus. Philip tells Andrew, and they both go to tell Jesus. But, apparently, those Greeks did not get to see or speak with Jesus. He doesn’t say, Okay, just a minute. He doesn’t say, Okay, let them come in. Because this is the counterpart to what Jesus said to Mary in Cana, when she told Jesus that they didn’t have any more wine for the wedding.
Jesus says to Mary, My hour has not yet come. But though it is not His hour to bring to completion His work, He does the beginning of His signs, and changes a lot of water into a lot of wine. He demonstrates that He has come to fulfill all the hopes of Israel. He is the King from David’s line who will put an end to whatever is lacking in this creation because of sin and death. Where Jesus is, there is no lack. There is only endless rejoicing.
Jesus said to Mary, My hour has not yet come. But now, to Philip and Andrew, in response to the Greeks, Jesus says His hour has come. The preparation is over. He’s done doing signs that point to what He has come to do. Now He’s going to do it. Jesus doesn’t completely deny the Greeks, though, just as He didn’t completely deny Mary. But He does tell them where they are going to have to look if they want to see Him. No more mere observation of this teacher; no more mere looking at Jesus, or trying to satisfy some personal curiosity. Now, in this hour, there is only one place to see Jesus as He is in this world; the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
And it wasn’t until Jesus was glorified that the disciples could finally see Jesus as King and see how He would rule His creation in this world. Because this world is not the way God made it. That should be obvious to us. Does the world and everything in it look like God’s good creation? Does it look like Jesus is Lord of this world? Does it look like He reigns as King? Have things gotten better since Jesus was walking around on the earth? To ask the question is to answer it.
But the hour came for Jesus to be glorified, and for the Father to glorify His Name. It was there for anyone to see. But where? In the empty tomb? If so, that would mean that His un-triumphal entry, the opposition of Israel’s leaders, Jesus’ betrayal, His suffering, mockery, and death, were simply an unfortunate interlude between Jesus’ words about glory here and His resurrection—as if resurrection were the real thing, and the cross is just a bad thing that happened along the way.
But the empty tomb is not where Jesus says that He will be glorified. He says that He will be glorified in death. He will be glorified when He is lifted up and enthroned, which does not happen in the resurrection or in heaven. Jesus said these things to show what kind of death He was about to die. When He is lifted up on the cross, He will draw all people to Himself. When He is lifted up on the cross, the Father’s Name is glorified. When He is lifted up on the cross, He is enthroned as King.
The events of Palm Sunday are not events of a different kind from the events on Thursday and Friday. In fact, John tells us, Palm Sunday literally cannot be understood apart from Jesus’ glorification on the cross. It was only when Jesus was glorified that the disciples remembered and understood the things that had been written about Him and the things that were done to Him. If you don’t look at the crucifixion, you will misunderstand Jesus riding on a donkey. If you don’t look at the crucifixion, you will misunderstand Jesus’ words. If you don’t look at the crucifixion, you will miss the entire point.
And the reason for that lies in the nature of this world. Jesus Himself says that there is another ruler of this world. It’s not God. It’s the evil one, who believes—and, let’s be honest, it looks as if—he has an iron grip on what people do and what happens here. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and that’s exactly what we see in this world. He lies, and the world is full of falsehood. But Jesus’ hour means that the hour has come for the judgment of this world, and for the casting out of the ruler of this world. The crucifixion is the crucifying of the world in the body of its Creator. It means that the Truth has come to put an end to falsehood. It means that the Giver of all good things has come to give back what has been stolen. The Life has come to put an end to death in His death. And the One through whom all things were made has come to destroy the destroyer in what appears to be His destruction.
The King rides in, the King of Israel. Look, daughter of Zion! Your King comes riding on a donkey. And He is the King not only of Israel, but of everyone through Israel. The Pharisees say that the world has gone after Jesus, but they are wrong. The world as it was and as it is will never go after Jesus. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, but the world did not know Him. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but the world likes its sin just fine, thank you. The Light has come into the world, but the world loved darkness more than the light, because their works were evil.
Even so, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but because He is the Love of God for the world, that the world might be saved through Him. This is how God loved the world: the Son of Man is lifted up just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. The crucifixion is the glory of God because that is the one place in this world where the Love of God is on full and open display. And Jesus says, The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.
Once we belonged to this world. We were not only in the world, but of it. We thought its thoughts; we spoke its words; we did its evil deeds. The ruler of this world ruled over us, even if only for the short time between our birth into this world and our baptismal rebirth into the new creation of God. But we have a new King now. And His servants follow Him. We hate our lives in this world, because our sinful flesh cannot be separated from this world. We hate lives lived in constant struggle against sin and death and the short-lived ruler of this world. We hate our lives that are not yet conformed to the life of Christ. We hate our lives that do not yet look like eternal life.
But those who hate their life in this world will guard it until eternal life. And their cry is always, “We want to see Jesus.” The servant of Jesus follows Him and where He is, His servant will be. If anyone serves Jesus, the Father will honor that one. Where Jesus is, His servants will be. We want to see Jesus. And so we follow Jesus our King as He rides on in majesty, rides on in lowly pomp to die. He enters Jerusalem and it is but the beginning of His triumphs over captive death and conquered sin. He is enthroned in that Kingly glory, covered in the crimson garments of royalty.
And today our King keeps again His promise: the bread that He gave for the life of the whole world, He gives to each of us to eat. His flesh is that bread, and as we follow in the way of His suffering, dying, rising triumph, we see that this is our life in this world too. Death’s doors are broken open, so we will walk through in the triumph of Jesus. Hell’s gates are broken down, so hell has no fury at all. When we die and Jesus raises us from the dead, we will finally see the glory that Jesus has prepared for us in His own glorification.
We want to see Jesus. So until that day, we continue to walk this way from the gates of Jerusalem with palms and hosannas, to the upper room where the glorious meal of Jesus’ flesh and blood is anticipated, to the cross where that new covenant is put into effect, and the victory is won, to the new Garden, where death is no more and tombs are empty. We want to see Jesus, so this week we continue to learn the hatred of our lives in this world. But we also learn again the victory and feasting and joy of which our eternal life will consist. Jesus reigns! He is King. The judgment of this world has come. The ruler of this world has been cast outside the new creation. And, eventually, the whole world will indeed go after Him, into her glorious restoration. And then there will be nothing lacking, only endless rejoicing.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/12/19