How can we honour Jesus this Easter?
Many will be wondering how we can celebrate Easter and honour our Saviour at this time. Most church buildings in the UK are closed – so what can we do? John 12:12-19 is a passage which reminds us how we best honour Jesus at any time, but it will also help us in the special circumstances in which we now live as followers of Jesus.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last days of his life we find great crowds shouting praise to God. They greet him in a way which shows they identify him as the promised Christ (see v13). Yet there is something wrong with their welcome. In 12:9 we are told that many of the Jews were believing in Jesus. Yet, like so often in John’s gospel, we find that this belief is not real belief. In 12:37 we are told that even after Jesus had performed so many signs, they still would not believe in him.
Furthermore, it would appear that Jesus’ action in finding a young donkey on which to ride into Jerusalem (v14) is deliberately designed to contradict the crowd’s expectations. It is not difficult to imagine those expectations. Back in chapter 6 people had sought to make Jesus King by force but he had made himself scarce. However, in John 12 Jesus does not react like that. Here he is content to accept the crowd’s welcome. He does this because he knows that his hour has now come, and it is God’s plan for him to be glorified in his death on the cross.
Very significantly in v16 we are told that Jesus’ disciples at that time did not understand what was going on as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Nevertheless, after Jesus was glorified, they did realise how Jesus was fulfilling God’s purposes. There are important lessons for us in this.
Neither the crowd nor the disciples then understood what they were doing. They assumed they were honouring Jesus when in fact they were not. It was only later when the disciples came to recognise God’s plans in Jesus’ death and resurrection that they understood what was going on as Jesus entered Jerusalem in the way he did. The crowds of people welcoming Jesus at that time assumed they were honouring Jesus but in reality, they were imposing their own agendas on him. In a time of anxiety and crisis this Easter it is all too easy for us to do the same.
We can only truly honour Jesus by listening carefully to his words and recognising the significance of his actions. We honour Jesus when we see his unique place in God’s plans for our world. Jesus rode in on a donkey in deliberate fulfilment of the words of Zechariah 9:9. He is not a cavalry commander but one who comes in humility and apparent weakness. Yet the context of Zechariah tells us that this is the way that he will bring peace to the nations and how his rule will extend to the ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:10). And the means of him accomplishing this is indicated in Zechariah 9:11 as being through the blood of God’s covenant which will set people free.
Even though we cannot meet in our church buildings this Easter there is no hindrance to our honouring the Lord Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection we celebrate. At this time, instead of imposing our personal agendas on Jesus, we honour him by listening carefully to the words of Scripture which tell us how his death is the hour of his glory.
The accounts of Easter will tell us clearly who Jesus is, what he came to do and how he accomplished that. When we get these matters clear then we will be led to true belief. We will thus find personal joy and what is more, Christ will be honoured as our Lord and Saviour.
Revd. Mark Burkill is the Chairman of the Latimer Trust and Vicar of Christ Church Leyton. He has published various books with the Latimer Trust including Dearly Beloved: Building God's people Morning and Evening Prayer (2012).