What Kind of Savior Are You Looking For? A Palm Sunday Sermon from John 12

Jesus went to the cross and sacrificed His life for us so that we could be transformed.

Jesus could end war, poverty, and homelessness. He could eliminate stress (financial, marital, work, emotional), family conflict, and fear. But He went to the cross and sacrificed His life for us so that we could be transformed.

Sermon series: Foundations of Our Faith

  1. What Kind of Savior Are You Looking For? - John 12
  2. Feelings You Never Forget - Matthew 28
  3. Created to Bear Fruit - John 15
  4. Caesarea Philippi - Confronting Reality - Matthew 16
  5. The Lamb Who Became a Shepherd - Revelation 7

Note: When I preached this sermon, I used a clip from The Nativity Story DVD. I feel this clip was very effective in helping our church family understand the political pressure cooker that Palestine was when Jesus entered history.

During my introduction I introduced a time-travel theme to invite people to travel back to the time of Jesus. I wanted them to imagine the political upheaval and understand the expectations of the common person - who was looking for a savior to rescue them from Rome, Herod, and a corrupt religious system. I used titles from familiar time-travel movies. Decide which titles are appropriate to mention in your situation.

Scriptures: John 12:9-12

I love time-travel movies. They don't even have to make sense.

  • Back to the Future
  • Frequency
  • Somewhere in Time
  • The Time Machine
  • Minority Report
  • The Philadelphia Experiment
  • The Terminator
  • Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure or Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
  • Meet the Robinsons

Would you get in a time machine with me? I promise we'll be back by end of this service.

I want us to go back to the years that Jesus walked the earth. Because our calendar is measured by His appearance, it's not that hard. B.C. stands for Before Christ and A.D. stands for Anno Domini (The Year of our Lord). But what was going on in those days?

Palestine during the time of Jesus was a pressure cooker. Herod the Great was the King of Judea. He served as a puppet for Caesar Augustus because all Israel was under the dominion of the Roman Empire. From 700 years before Christ, Israel had been split up - part of the nation being conquered by Assyria, and the rest being conquered by Babylon. The final prophet, Malachi, spoke 400 years before Christ.

Here's a three-minute clip from The Nativity Story.

(Chapter 4 King Herod's Collection. Stop at 12:30.)

So the clip we saw was 33 years before the Scripture we are reading today. The pressure in the pressure cooker had gotten worse. Herod Antipas was the Jewish Ruler (the only person that Jesus didn't speak to when He was addressed). Pilate was the Roman Governor. There were corrupt priests and oppressive religious leaders - the Pharisees.

John 12:12: "The next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet Him."

"The next day..." It's Sunday, six days before Jesus is crucified.

"When the large crowd that had come to the festival" The festival is Passover. Jews came from the ends of the earth to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Today when Jews in foreign lands observe the Passover, they say: "This year here; next year in Jerusalem."

The Bible says: "they took palm branches and went out to meet Him." vs. 13.

The "palm branches" two centuries earlier had become a national symbol that indicated the fervent hope that a messianic liberator would arrive on the scene.

Let's take our time machine and go back 170 years Before Christ.

Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king who had attacked and destroyed Jerusalem  and put many of its inhabitants to death — mostly in cruel ways. He ordered soldiers to enter the Jewish Temple and slaughter a pig - considered "unclean" by the Jews - on the Altar of the Lord. They set the pig ablaze, and then tried to make some Jewish men eat some of the meat. The men refused and he cut their tongues out, scalped them, cut off their hands and feet, and burned them on the Altar of the Lord. After this, the Jews began the war of independence under their Maccabean leaders, defeating the armies that Antiochus sent against them.

When, under the might of the Maccabees, Jerusalem was freed from the pollutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, the people entered in with palm branches and psalms of praise. The Jewish accounts are in the Books of the Maccabees, and holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the successful revolt.

They kept shouting: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord — the King of Israel!" - John 12:13

"Hosanna" - the Hebrew expression literally means "Save now." They wanted Jesus to save them.

"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (verse 13). When someone speaks kind words about the deceased at a funeral, what do you call that? A eulogy. That's the same word John uses here for "blessed." Blessed means to speak well of, to praise.

The people are quoting from Psalm 118:25-26. "LORD, save us! LORD, please grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you."

They are calling for him to be their earthly king. But look at the next verse (14): "Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it."

There is significance here. If he was coming in as a military or political leader, he would come in on a horse. In fact, when they traveled from town to town, people only rode donkeys if they were traveling in peace.

Verse 15: "Just as it is written." When you see that, the writer is going to quote from the Old Testament. Jesus is fulfilling another prophecy. "Fear no more, Daughter Zion; look! your King is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt" (Zech. 9:9).

People were looking for a messiah — searching for a savior — and they expected Jesus to come in to Jerusalem and clean house. They thought they had the solution. He had fed the people. He had healed the sick. He had raised the dead. He came to dwell in the hearts of men and women - to recreate them in God's image. Jesus came to change people's hearts.

We've been in Jesus' time, and I want us to come back to present time.

If Jesus showed up today I think we might expect the same things. Jesus could end war, poverty, and homelessness. He could eliminate stress - financial stress, marital stress, work stress, emotional stress, family conflict, fear. But what He did back then was go to the cross and sacrifice His life for us so that we could be transformed.

Our core purpose as a church family: spiritual transformation of individuals, families, our community, and the world for the glory of Jesus Christ. Let Him change you. Then He will change your situation, then He will change your family, then He will change this church, then He will change this community, then He will change this world.

Through his death on the cross, He makes a way for you to have a relationship with God.

Through his resurrection, He gives you the hope of resurrection from the dead and eternal life.

Through his Holy Spirit, He wants to change your life.

Craig Webb is assistant executive director at Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention and a contract content editor for LifeWay's Deacon magazine.