Hosanna is a unique word in Aramaic, found only these gospel accounts given by Matthew, Mark, and John. It is a shout of praise, but literally means “save (or help), I pray.” It is a phrase that would have been familiar to the Jews as a part of their worship practices. This cry is familiar to us now, in a time in which we are even more aware of the many places in our lives that need saving. We shout Hosanna: for all that we personally need to be saved from in this world. For the mistakes we have made, the things we have left undone, all the ways we have failed to be the disciples we claim to be. We shout Hosanna: for the common suffering and fear being inflicted on us all by this virus that is attacking us. For the sins of the world that need divine presence. For the ways we have exploited our natural resources and have caused harm to the earth. For conflicts that have escalated to talks of war. For the ways in which we have failed to care for our neighbors and have abandoned the least of these. We shout Hosanna: For all of this and more. Our cries turn into shouts and deep longing for something to change. Palm Sunday is no ordinary parade. It is the culmination of who God’s people are and a cry out for what they need, both in the first century and today. “Save us” is a powerful thing to shout. It points to a deep truth about the crowd. It was an urgent plea for their very lives. This is what Palm Sunday is all about. A people’s deep longing for something more. We share in the hope of the people gathered that day long ago, because we are those people.
Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Elizabeth Lovell Milford
Hosanna to the Son of David!
What changes do you long for personally, nationally, in the world? What could make it happen? How can you begin?
When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this man?” And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.
But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.
The tragedy of this event was the fickleness of the people. At this point they are acclaiming the Lord Jesus as the long expected Messiah – within a few days they were crying for His death!
Practically everyone has known the taste of Palm Sunday, the sweetness of success and popularity, and nearly all of us have tasted the bitterness of Good Friday, of failure and rejection. What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs, what frees us from the tyranny of events over which we have no control is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God -it is trust in God’s love to bring about Easter morning, – knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God,- and in sharing that knowledge and love with those who accompany us on the way.
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
Remember finally, that the ashes that were on your forehead are created from the burnt palms of last Palm Sunday. New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.