Shout to the Lord

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John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday)

INTRODUCTION: Today is Palm Sunday. (Encourage congregation to shout: “Hosanna! Praise the Lord! He is worthy!”) Doesn’t that feel good? It should! Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy of all praise, and it is good and right to lift up his name in praise. “Hosanna! Hosanna! Jesus is Lord!” Amen! Now we are ready to begin. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word. (Read John 12:12-19)

One of the great lessons of Palm Sunday is that Jesus is a great Savior, and he is worthy of great praise. The people who lined the roads that day didn’t care what anybody else thought. They were exited! They were thrilled that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. Now we know that not all of them were truly committed to Christ, that many of them would even turn against him before the week was through, but we have got to admit, that day they got it right. Jesus did not rebuke them for their exuberant praise. Rather he welcomed it, he accepted it, he even encouraged it! When the religious leaders saw all the people shouting to Jesus, they told Jesus to rebuke his followers. Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40). Jesus is a great Savior, and he is worthy of great praise.

When we praise Jesus greatly, three things happen as a result. 1) We show that he is worthy of great praise. 2) We display emotions appropriate to his greatness. And 3) We draw other people to praise him as well.

I. When we praise Jesus greatly, we show that he is worthy of great praise. (12-15)

First of all, when we praise Jesus greatly, we show that he is worthy of great praise. Let me set the context of this passage for you.

It was the Sunday before the Passover. A great crowd had assembled in Jerusalem for the feast. The people were looking for Jesus and wondering where he was, but Jesus had been keeping his distance because of the Jewish leaders who were plotting to take his life. Some heard that he was just a few miles away in Bethany, and a large crowd went out to see him there. But when the news came that Jesus was finally on his way to Jerusalem, the great crowd that had come for the feast took palm branches in hand and went out to meet him. They shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

The palm branches were the national symbol for Israel (cf. pineapple symbol for city of Plantation), and so the waving of the branches signified the people’s hope that Jesus was coming to deliver the nation of Israel from the Romans.

The praises that the people shouted come from Psalm 118, which was one of the psalms associated with the Passover and other Jewish feasts. We find the specific words in Psalm 118:25-27:

“O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.… With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118:25-27)

The word “Hosanna” is the phrase “Save us!” in verse 25. And although “Hosanna” literally means “Save us,” it was also used as an expression of praise. Here in the context of Psalm 118 it is an expression of praise directed to the Lord who alone can save.

The next phrase they shouted was, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Although this phrase was also used to welcome the various pilgrims coming to the Jerusalem for the feast, its primary meaning was Messianic. In the context of Psalm 118 it is the Messiah who comes in the name of the Lord, and the people were clearly welcoming Jesus not as any ordinary pilgrim to the feast, but as the Promised Messiah who had come for his people.

This becomes even clearer with the next phrase they shouted: “Blessed is the King of Israel!” The Messiah is the one who would come in the line of David and take the throne as the King of Israel forever and ever. And so the people recognized Jesus as Messiah and were praising him as Savior, Lord and King.

And notice Jesus did not rebuke them! Jesus accepted and welcomed their praise. Verse 14 tells us that “Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, ‘Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’” (John 12:14-15) Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 which John quotes here. A king could enter the city on either a war horse or a donkey. The war horse meant he was coming to conquer, while the donkey meant he was coming in peace. Jesus chose a young donkey and humbly entered Jerusalem as the King who would bring peace to all nations through his death on the cross.

The people of Israel did not fully understand Jesus’ mission that day, and yet they rightly recognized him as the Messiah and they rightly praised him as Savior, Lord and King. They held nothing back. They ran to meet him; they waved palm branches in the air; they shouted with great enthusiasm; they offered great praise. Palm Sunday sets a wonderful example of worship for us. When we praise Jesus greatly, we show that he is worthy of great praise.

II. When we praise Jesus greatly, we display emotions appropriate to his greatness. (16)

Secondly, when we praise Jesus greatly, we display emotions appropriate to his greatness. Psalm 48:1 says “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised!” (NAS) Our emotions in worship should reflect the greatness of the Lord.

Christian worship is more than just emotion, but it is certainly not less. I don’t think we should be whipping crowds into an emotional frenzy or manipulating people’s emotions in worship, but too often our emotions in worship do not reflect the greatness of our Lord. If we gather on a Sunday morning, and read Scriptures teaching truth about God, and sing songs expressing truth about God, and hear a message proclaiming truth about God, and yet we leave unmoved in our emotions, something is wrong.

Even if we don’t fully understand the glory of all that goes on in worship, we should still offer up great praise to our great God and King. The disciples did not understand all that happened that first Palm Sunday. We read in verse 16: “At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.” (John 12:16) They didn’t understand Jesus’ true greatness until later – after Jesus was glorified, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. But the one thing everyone knew that day was the Messiah had come! The King was here with power to save! And so they rejoiced, and they lifted up their voices to shout his praises.

Don’t be afraid of emotion in worship. Lift up your hands and your voices in praise! Clap your hands with the music! If you need to, get out of your seat and dance a little jig! Rejoice in God your Savior! Our God is a great God. And when we praise Jesus greatly, we display emotions appropriate to his greatness.

III. When we praise Jesus greatly, we draw other people to praise him as well. (17-19)

And then finally, when we praise Jesus greatly, we draw other people to praise him as well. Look at verses 17-18:

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. (John 12:17-18)

There were actually two crowds there that day. First, there was the crowd that was with Jesus when he raised Lazarus from the dead. And what did they do? They spread the word! They kept telling everyone, “This is Jesus, and this is what he has done!” And it was because of the witness of the first crowd that the second crowd came.

That’s the way praise works. When you praise Jesus greatly, you will draw other people to praise him as well. Why? Because they will see his greatness through your praise.

I love the frustration of the Pharisees in verse 19. Here they are trying to keep Jesus down, and instead the situation is spiraling out of control. And so they say to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19) Now of course, they were exaggerating when they said the whole world had gone after him, but it must have felt that way to them.

There is an unintended irony in their statement, too, for Jesus had indeed come for the world, to save all those who will put their faith and trust in him. Jesus is a great Savior, and he comes to save people from every tribe, language, people and nation. Psalm 98 says, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, … shout for joy before the LORD, the King.” (Psalm 98:4-6) Praise is contagious, and when we praise Jesus greatly, we draw other people to praise him as well.

CONCLUSION: Palm Sunday reminds us that how we praise Jesus matters. When we praise Jesus greatly, we show that he is worthy of great praise. When we praise Jesus greatly, we display emotions appropriate to his greatness. And when we praise Jesus greatly, we draw other people to praise him as well. Let me give you the Palm Sunday challenge today: praise Jesus greatly, and proclaim him boldly to others. Don’t be afraid to make some noise for Jesus. Jesus is a great Savior, and he is worthy of great praise.

© Ray Fowler

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