Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
“Blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,” (John 12:13).
On Palm Sunday, dearly beloved, our Holy Church commemorates the royal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. This entrance, according to Scripture, took place exactly six days prior to the Jewish Passover: “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany…” (John 12:1). The triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem was prophesised 745 years in advance by the Prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). There is not one prophet in the entire Old Testament who does not mention, who does not prophesy, at least one event in the life and/or ministry of our Lord.
Christ comes willingly to Jerusalem, His reason being that stated in His High Priestly Prayer: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify Thee…” (John 17:1). At other times during His public ministry when Jesus had faced death, He had fled. But now He comes to confront His enemies face to face. This should serve as an example for us: let us not cower in fear before the enemies of the Gospel, but stand up to them boldly.
Before the triumphal procession moved towards Jerusalem, Jesus stopped at the home of His friend Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There were two persons at the supper that distinguished themselves by their behaviour: Mary the sister of Lazarus, and Judas, the disciple of Jesus, whose surname was Iscariot. Mary, sensing somehow, that the earthly ministry of Jesus was drawing to a close, takes a pound of pure and expensive alabaster and anoints the feet of Christ, wiping them with her hair. The house was soon permeated by the sweet fragrance of the alabaster.
Judas, however, always acutely conscious of the monetary value of everything, censured the pious act of Mary, charging her with the wanton waste of that which “might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:9). We then see Jesus in His role as Defender of the poor and the oppressed. St John Chrysostom remarks that the piety of Judas here is certainly hypocritical, as is his condemnation of Mary. St Paul tells us that satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14). Judas is unsuccessful at hiding his real motive; he would have liked to have stolen the ointment, and sold it for his own personal profit.
Many of us today are guilty of this sin of Judas, particularly those that would rob the church of its liturgical appointments, condemning them as luxuries. Not that they would steal from the church; but whenever a new chalice is needed for Holy Communion, they will object that the money is being squandered foolishly, and the same with vestments, icons, and even with Bibles for the Sunday school. Any money spent for religious purposes, and especially for bringing others to the saving Faith of Christ, is, according to these people, not necessary. It would be superfluous to comment upon the spiritual condition of these avaricious souls.
During the supper, a crowd of people from Jerusalem was congregating outside the house. They wanted to meet our Lord; they also wished to see Lazarus, whom they heard (and correctly) Jesus had raised from the dead. These people were simple and frank in their words and behaviour. They were also very easily swayed. For these same people, who greeted our Lord with palm branches, and shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David”, would in a few days’ time be screaming for Jesus’ blood, and demanding the release of Barabbas in place of Christ. The audacity; the utter depravity! Exchanging a thief for the Incarnate Son of God, who had healed their sick and raised their dead. Yet history is full of such examples. The good are condemned; the obscene are glorified.
Jesus meekly entered Jerusalem, allowing the crowd to have its way in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. St John Chrysostom contrasts the entry of Christ with that of a conquering military hero, pointing out the supreme humility, the great meekness, of the Son of God. The disciples themselves did not understand these events until they had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost.
Beloved, how will you receive Christ today? To ignore Him is tantamount to rejecting Him. He does not ask you to hail Him with palm branches; He asks only a contrite heart. He seeks entrance today, not into Jerusalem, but into your soul. Accept Him as your Saviour; did He not bear your sins on the Cross? Accept Him as the Victor over death, and reign with Him in everlasting life. “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”. Amen!