The story of Palm Sunday encompasses a great deal of activity on the part of the Lord, the disciples, the Jewish leaders and many people who were preparing for the passover feast in Jerusalem.
In Matthews account we read of the selection of the donkey and the colt, the greetings of the people with their palm branches and Jesus entering the temple and clearing out the money changers. Jesus follows this with healing the blind and the lame and then returns to Bethany to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
Mark sees it as a shorter series of events with Jesus going to the temple but not taking any action. He leaves and goes to Bethany with the twelve.
Luke also covers the detail of the colt and the triumphant entry but he adds a short piece about Jesus crying over Jersualem. Jesus also enters the temple and drives out the sellers, but then the account ends with no return to Bethany.
In John’s gospel the account is different again. No emphasis is given to the donkey or colt and the story starts with the entry itself. There is no mention, as in the synoptic gospels, of the cleansing of the temple. Instead John gives us a picture of Jesus teaching his followers and answering some important questions.
We should not be concerned by these differing stories, as they are simply the accounts of a critical event in our Lords life viewed from different perspectives, just as we would re-count a common experience in several ways.
John’s gospel places a great deal of emphasis on the life and death struggle going on in Jesus’ humanity. It is no co-incidence that John chapter 11 focuses on the death and raising to life of Lazarus. And John chapter 12 starts with Jesus at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and washes them with her hair.
This incident at their home in Bethany shows Jesus briefly at rest before the week ahead when he knew that his temptations would be almost unbearable. But in looking at this life and death struggle, which to a much lesser extent we must all undertake, I would like to concentrate on John chapter 12 verses 24 and 25 because in these verse Jesus summarises the whole purpose of his life, death and resurrection.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
[John 12:24-25 ESV]
From time to time I plant a variety of seeds in my garden. They are all different shapes and sizes and all take varying times to germinate but one thing they all have in common is an outer seed coat and an inner embryo or kernal, which is the future young plant in a dormant state. As the seed grows to maturity on the parent plant the outer seed coat protects the inner kernal. Only when the seed coat has softened and cracked and fallen away does the new life growing from the kernal within establish itself.
Put very simply the outside of the seed has to die so that the inside can come to new life.
We can see this in ourselves. Our real self, our soul, is the kernal within, the outside is our physical body. Whilst we live in the world our body provides for and protects the soul within as hopefully we develop spiritually. When our physical bodies die then we can become truly alive in the spiritual world.
Or we can look at the seed as a picture of our outward natural selves, always prone to selfish thinking and actions and our inner spiritual being. Only when our selfishness dies can we really develop spiritually.
When God came into the world he took on human form with all its weakness. For Jesus as he grew up the ‘kernal’ within was the Divine itself and the outside seed coat, the humanity received from his mother Mary.
It was this humanity that was tempted and faced a life and death struggle so that the power of the hells could be overcome.
The Lord could not be tempted as to the Divine, because the hells cannot assault the Divine, wherefore He assumed a human from the mother, such as could be tempted. His last temptation and victory, by which He fully subjugated the hells, and made His Human Divine, was in Gethsemane and on the cross.Â Â
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For the Lord this was a gradual process completed only by his physical death at the crucifiction. Only when his finite human body had been completely put off could his Divine Humanity exercise its full power.Â Because he lives we also live.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem he knew that this final struggle was upon him. He had made the decision to go forward to the very end. He knew that ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’
If we recognise the Lord as the true King in our lives then he will enter into our hearts and minds just as he entered Jerusalem 2000 years ago. But the moment we receive him, a real life and death struggle for us will begin. We will face a conflict, a conflict to the death, the death of the heavenly life or the death of our worldly selfish life.
And in this conflict we have to choose, although even then we can be certain that the Lord is with us in his saving power.