Palm Sunday :: Modern Day Lazarus

At Gateway Church in Austin, we celebrated Palm Sunday by looking hearing form two modern day Lazaruses.

In times of crisis, those of us who believe in God turn to Him for rescue, asking Him to save us from our suffering. Sometimes, Jesus swoops in and changes everything, delivering us and displaying His great power. Other times, He makes us wait, or even tells us no. Can we trust in a Savior who doesn’t always save us from our circumstances? Can we live our lives by faith instead of by sight?

So now, how do we put our faith in action? How do we write a new song for our lives and for others?

Next Steps

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.



Well, it’s Palm Sunday today–when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey and people laid palm branches down before him.  But why? It’s actually a very interesting backstory as to why. Jesus had been going throughout Israel for 3-1/2 years, teaching, healing, doing miraculous signs.  Many believed He was the long awaited Messiah foretold for 2000 years by many Jewish prophets—the King of Kings—God revealed in a form we could relate to. About 2-3 weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary and Martha sent a messenger to tell Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was deathly ill and come quickly. When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…. John 11:4-6 Say what? Jesus loved Lazarus, and Mary and Martha so he delays?—they were in his company of disciples or followers. He loves them—so he waits. He waits two more days, then starts heading to Bethany outside Jerusalem–over a days journey. He goes through Jericho, sees Zachaeus, and stays one more day.  By the time he gets there, He’s too late–Lazarus has been dead for 4 days. Bethany is 2 miles outside of Jerusalem, up at the top of the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemene is at the bottom. It says a huge crowd had come to mourn with Martha and Mary. They hear that Jesus has arrived, and Martha runs out to meet Jesus, but Mary is too hurt and disappointed—Jesus didn’t answer her prayer.  

We’ve all felt that way—right? “God, Why? You could have…but you didn’t.” In fact that’s exactly what Martha says: Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died…23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:22-27

Jesus says “Go get Mary and show me where Lazarus is buried.” Mary and big group of mourners come, all of them weeping—overcome with grief.  Now, Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the dead—this horrible moment is about to turn into the most spectacular moment of their lives. Yet it says, seeing them… Jesus wept.  It’s the shortest verse in the Bible—but so profound.  All our human struggle and suffering, though God is going to one day turn it into something glorious, doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. He feels our sorrows, he is in it with us, Jesus wept.  

And then…He resuscitates Lazarus—He calls Lazarus back from death.  Now, it wasn’t the first time his closest disciples had seen this—Matthew, Mark, and Luke record times Jesus brought Jairus daughter and the widow’s son back from death. Those times Jesus said “Keep it quiet.” But not this time. Word spread quickly, and more and more people in Jerusalem started saying “He’s got to be the Messiah.”

But then word reached the Pharisees, the Religious Leaders who had shouldered up to the Romans because it preserved their power and wealth and elite status. They could not deny Jesus doing miraculous signs, but Jesus confronted them about their self-centered motives, greed, and power abuse—they despised Jesus and found reasons to reject that he could be the messiah. So they hear Lazarus was raised from the dead, their response was: If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nationSo from that day on they plotted to take his life.” John 11:48, 53

Religion, politics, power—like a molotov cocktail–it’s never a good combination. It’s why we don’t take political stances as a church. But it’s not just religious leaders, many people look for reasons to deny God—because they don’t want anything messing with their control, money, or power or the “life I’ve planned for myself”.

So Jesus goes to a village of Ephraim a little ways from Jerusalem, but meanwhile word was spreading.  Probably the next week, 6 days before Jesus will be crucified, he goes back to Bethany where Mary and Martha hold a celebration in his honor, Mary anoints him with expensive oil, the next day, he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey–on Palm Sunday: Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him. John 12:9-11

It’s Passover week in Jerusalem, people from all over the world are in Jerusalem for it. More and more people were going and talking to Lazarus and Mary and Martha—he was dead—Jesus brought him back to life. Jesus must be the Messiah—the King of Kings, Lord of Lords the prophets foretold. Because of Lazarus coming back from death when the people hear Jesus is coming—they’re ready for their King to liberate them. When Kings would ride in, the people would pave the road with cloaks and palm branches. 12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” [save us] “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:12-13

But Jesus starts riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, he comes humbly just as the prophet Zechariah writing in 520 BC said Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey…your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.  Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death…. Zechariah 9:9-11 (520 B.C.)  They wanted him to free them from Roman captivity (make things feel better now. Heal Lazarus before he dies. Answer my prayers now). Sometimes he does, ultimately he will—but first he headed to the cross to shed his own blood, a New Covenant, a new agreement God was making to set us free from the fear of death. That God will pay for our sins, our wrongs, if we will simply turn back to him in trust, in love.  That’s what he wants. But he’s humble–he doesn’t force us…he lets us choose. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Jesus wept with Mary and Martha’s suffering, then he wept one more time that week—it wasn’t on the cross—it was on Palm Sunday. People are laying palm branches shouting Hosanna, Savior, King—but in just one week, they’re gonna stay silent as they crucify him. So he gets off the donkey, looks over the city and “he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44  It happened in real history—they crucified Jesus one week after this. 40 years later the Romans leveled Jerusalem, Israel was not a nation for 2000 years, until 1948 – Jesus and the prophets also foretold the rebirth of Israel).

Friends, this is real History and a real God—who longs to protect us from evil, bring peace to our souls, but we have to let Him in. We have to lay down our Palm Branches and declare him, Our King. King of my life. The One who gets to rule in my heart.  Have you done that? Is there anything you’re holding back—are you still playing King, ignoring God’s will and calling the shots? Lay it down like a palm branch before him today.


Modern-Day Lazarus – Palm Sunday from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

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