By Paul Koch –
When you think of the arrival of our Lord on that first Christmas in the little town of Bethlehem, you have to admit that He arrived with quite a bang. I mean, sure, He was born in a manger and in the poorest of poor conditions, but the fanfare that surrounded this arrival is legendary. Shepherds tending their flocks are greeted by an angel proclaiming good news of a great joy. If that wasn’t enough, all of a sudden a whole multitude of heavenly creatures lit up the sky singing, “Glory to God in the highest!” Though we don’t know it yet, there are some wise men out in the East who are starting to pack their bags and head off to find the arrival of our great King. Yet, when I read about our Lord’s arrival into the city of Jerusalem humble and riding on a donkey, I think this moment is far more impressive than the angels in the night sky.
Think about it, when our Lord makes His grand entrance on Palm Sunday just days before His arrest, trial and crucifixion, we are told that the whole city is stirred up by it. This isn’t just a few shepherds seeing an incredible light show, this is the whole city. Think of the picture that this text paints for us. As our Lord begins to enter the city the crowds going before Him and those following after Him are so excited and so stirred up, that they begin to pave the road with the clothes off their backs. They cover the ground as an impromptu affair that makes even the most lavish red carpet walk seem small by comparison. When they don’t have anything else to lay before Him, we are told that they begin to cut branches off the trees and spread them on the road. All this indicates that something big is happening, something revolutionary, and they cannot wait to be a part of it.
The center of their excitement, the heart of why they are cutting down branches and joining in the grand parade of our Lord entering the city of Jerusalem is found in what they shout out. Their cries give the meaning to their excitement. What do they shout? They shout out, “Hosanna, to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The heart of their cry is “Hosanna!” Now hosanna is the shout we hear from the Psalmist when he says, “Save us, we pray, O Lord!” (Ps 118:25) Hosanna is the shout for a savior, for a deliverer, for one who will intercede on our behalf. The crowds on Palms Sunday cry out, “Save us now, Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Save us now in the highest!”
Now the thing is, if we take a moment to listen, to really listen, we find that this shout has never ceased. Those cries from the streets of Jerusalem still echo throughout the world today. We can hear it when we watch the news coverage of war torn Syria and the mass immigration of refugees seeking safety and asylum in other countries. These desperate souls take huge risks with their lives and the lives of their children to try and find a place in this world where they can get a firm foothold, a place to make a living, or to at least give it a chance. Out of the immense tragedy and sinfulness we can still hear the shouts – if we listen for them. For whether they pray to our God, or to Allah, or to no God at all they are longing for a savior, a deliverer, one who will intercede on their behalf. They still shout “Hosanna!”
But we don’t have to go to the far reaches of a war torn world to hear the shout of Hosanna. Unfortunately, that cry is loud and clear in our own lives and the lives of those all around us. I remember the first time I tried to help a good friend who was struggling with depression. Let’s just say I was ill-equipped to be of much use. I tried to be encouraging and uplifting, but all my words seemed to bounce off his outer shell with little to no effect. Inside he was locked in a deep and dark battle where the light didn’t seem to reach. And so, this battle wasn’t about outside enemies that can be eliminated, but it was a consuming war that I couldn’t even access. Then there are those who have lost someone they’ve loved deeply. Maybe it’s the grief that comes in the wake of the death or the uncomfortable mourning that
follows a divorce. For a while, everyone else is supportive and comforting but they soon move on and go back to their usual rhythms of life. But you’re still left with the pain and confusion and feeling incredibly alone. And so from all around us, and perhaps even from our own lips, we hear that ancient cry once again that shout of “Hosanna!” Save us now!
All around us the chanting of that ancient cry is still heard. Sure, it isn’t voiced with the same words as Palm Sunday, but it is still there. A longing for a savior, a hope that someone will deliver us, a desire for a way out of our difficulty and misery. There is a pleading and craving for a solution that is beyond mankind’s ability to produce. Our world continues to ask questions seeking an answer they can’t provide.
Then we get to the church. The church is the last bastion of hope and clarity and the promise of something more. Surely the church is the place that holds the heart of that great procession of our Lord. If there is anywhere that the shout of Hosanna will be answered, it is in the church. For here we are promised to receive the Savior, to know the one who delivers us from sin, death and the power of the devil. And yet even in the churches, the answer to the cry of Hosanna has often grown cold. Instead of delivering Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins and for the gift of salvation, we are directed to look within ourselves for the answer. Oh sure, they use of a lot of Jesus language to make it sound wonderful and spiritual and all that. But the answer to the shout of Hosanna is still left in our own hands. You need to pray more diligently or give more freely or decide what sacrifice you are willing to make for your Lord.
The great temptation is to always find the strength and the ability to save yourself. This is the hollow answer to the shout of Hosanna the world over. Salvation, we are told, is found in your own diligent work, in your own inspired living, in your own tireless drive for something better. But those answers always fall short. Your decisions to turn over a new leaf and to finally get things on the right track always get derailed along the way. There are always those times when you haven’t loved as you should have, those times when you have hurt others and failed to help when you could. You don’t live your lives in a way that honors God each and every day. You struggle, fail, and fall short over and over again. And when you do, you find yourself shouting out one more time, “Hosanna, save us now!”
The problem, you see, is what you find within. The answer to that ancient cry is found outside of yourself. The answer is found in the one received on the streets of Jerusalem with great fanfare and celebration. The answer is the one who rides in on a donkey, rides in to be betrayed, to suffer and die for each and every one of you. Christ alone is your salvation; He alone is your deliverer and He promises that you will not be left within yourselves. He has called you by name. He has embraced you as His brothers and sisters. He has declared again that you are forgiven, you are free, you are saved even now.
So we should listen to the shouts of the world around us. We should hear the cries of our friends and families and we should do something about it. For in Christ you are given to know the answer to the cry of Hosanna, and so you can hand it over to whoever it is that cries out. You are given a living Word of hope and proclamation of forgiveness and life everlasting and so go and tell them. For in Christ alone we have hope. He is our hosanna in the highest.