Palm Sunday: Hosanna! (John 12:12-19)

17800151_1398038756886357_4019373646857649329_nToday is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is always the Sunday before Easter and on it the Church celebrates Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. It is called “Palm” Sunday because the crowd “took palm branches and went out to meet Him” as He entered Jerusalem (John 12:13) and “spread their clothes on the road” (Mark 11:8) before Him. It is called the “Triumphal” Entry because it was on this trip to Jerusalem that Jesus entered to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel” (John 12:13). This morning let us reflect on this monumental event in Jesus’ ministry and worship Him with gladness.

Why are they shouting Hosanna?

First, let us consider the shouts of Hosanna. Hosanna is a rare word that is transliterated rather than translated. For example, Hosanna is our English word that comes from the Greek word “Hosanna” which comes from the Hebrew word “Hosanna”. It means “Save now!” (“now” indicates intense emotion).

Literally, it is when a person or group experiences intense emotion and cries out for immediate help/salvation. For example, in Psalm 118:25 we read: “Lord, save us [hosanna]! Lord, please grant us success!” In this context it is a plea for the Lord to help quickly. The crowd is shouting joyfully (Luke 19:37) because they recognize that Jesus is entering Jerusalem as the King prophesied by the prophet Zechariah.

Why is Jesus Riding a Donkey?

About 500 years before Jesus was born the Jewish people were released from exile and returned to the Promised Land. They were in exile because they rebelled against God. Soon after returning, God spoke to His people through the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah’s name means “The Lord remembers” and God remembered His people and called them to “return to me” (Zech 1:3). Zechariah called the people to repentance and prophesied of a time when the Messiah (the King of Israel) would appear. He wrote: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9).

When the crowd saw Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem, they remembered that Zechariah had also prophesied that the coming King shall “proclaim peace to the nations” (9:10), “release your prisoners” (9:11), “defend them” (9:15), and “save them on that day as the flock of His people” (9:16). 500 years after Zechariah prophesied, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people had seen His signs and miracles and were excited that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to save them. This is why they shouted joyfully, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel” (John 12:13).

What Do You Expect Jesus to Do?

How can the crowd shout “Hosanna” with joy on Sunday and “Crucify” with anger on Friday? The problem is that they were thinking physically rather than spiritually. They wanted Jesus to drive out the Romans, but Jesus had come to drive out a far greater enemy (John 12:31) and they missed it. They were not thinking about freedom from spiritual bondage and salvation from sin. They wanted Jesus to restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory. Jesus knew this would happen. In fact, He wept over the city before He entered it saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…because you did not recognize the time when God visited you” (Luke 42,44). The expectation of the people lead to disappointment. Sadly, five days after Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem to joyful shouts of praise, Jesus was forcefully marched out of Jerusalem to angry shouts of scorn.

As we reflect on this monumental event in Jesus’ ministry, let us worship Him with gladness. Jesus lived on this earth with the singular focus of fulfilling the Father’s plan to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Are we committed to this mission? Are we seeking after Jesus and living in faith?