Skip to comments."The Word of the Day: 'Hosanna!'" (Sermon for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion)
Posted on 04/04/2009 2:28:30 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
The Word of the Day: Hosanna! (John 12:11-19; Psalm 118:19-29)
Today is Palm Sunday, and if there is a word of the day for this day, I think its the word, Hosanna! How often do we see that word show up in our service today! We started the service by saying, Hosanna to the Son of David. Then we heard the Gospel reading where the crowd cries out, Hosanna! As we processed in, we sang about how the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring. And we concluded the procession by saying, Hosanna in the highest. So before we even sat down today, we heard or said or sang the word, hosanna, nine times! And when we get done singing, Hosanna, Loud Hosanna and Ride On, Ride On in Majesty, you can add four more hosannas to the list. Truly Hosanna! is The Word of the Day.
Now what is the meaning of this word, as we have used it and heard it being used? When the crowd at Jerusalem cried, Hosanna! and when we here today sing, Hosanna! they and we are using it as an acclamation, an ascription of praise. We are welcoming and praising Jesus as the great King. When the crowd shouted, Hosanna! they added, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! And in our hosanna hymns today, we acclaim Jesus with lines like, All glory, laud, and honor to you, Redeemer, King, and For Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heavn our King. To say Hosanna! then is something like saying, Hail the conquering hero! or Hail to our coming King! Clearly Hosanna! is being used as an acclamation, an ascription of praise.
But thats not exactly what the word means, literally, if you translate it from the Hebrew. You see, theres one hosanna that we missed, and we didnt even notice it when we said it. It was back in Psalm 118, verse 25, where we said, Save us, we pray, O Lord! But you say, That doesnt use the word, hosanna. Well, yes, it does, if you say it in the original Hebrew. The word, hosanna, or, as its pronounced, hoshia na, literally means, and is translated there as, Save us, we pray! Save now, deliver now, we pray you, we beseech you! Thats what hoshia na actually is saying. Originally Hosanna! was a prayer for salvation, a plea for deliverance.
The crowd at Jerusalem, then, uses that plea for deliverance as a shout of acclamation. The prayer for salvation becomes an ascription of praise. They are praising Jesus precisely because they believe he is coming to save them, deliver them. They are acclaiming him as the coming Messiah, sent by God to be the new and great king from the line of David, to deliver Israel from all her foes.
Now theyre right and theyre wrong at the same time. Theyre right, in that Jesus is indeed the great Messiah, the deliverer sent by God to save his people. Only it will be a salvation and deliverance much bigger than they realize. And it will happen, it will come about, in a way much stranger than they expect.
Their hosannas sell Jesus a little bit short. He is much more than just a new national king, who will restore Israel to her glory days, peace and prosperity, and get the Romans out of town. Jesus has bigger fish to fry than that.
But, hey, are we any better? Wed be happy with a religion that would validate us as we are, affirm us, make us comfortable, make us feel good about ourselves. We would gladly welcome a king who could pull us out of recession, restore our stock portfolio, reduce our mortgage, and pay for our health care. Oh, and keep the lousy Muslims from attacking us, while youre at it. That kind of a king would get lots of hosannas and look real good in the opinion polls.
But Jesus comes with a bigger and better salvation than that. Hes going to deal with a bigger problem, the underlying problem that produces all the other problems, the ones we see and the ones we dont see or realize or admit. And that big problem is our sin. Oh, not just the sins of those other people, the bad people, the immoral people, the people we look down upon, the Romans and the Muslims. But our sins, the sins of us good and respectable people, Gods people, whether were talking temple-going Israelites or church-going Lutherans. Yes, our sins--thats what we need a deliverer for, a Savior. Save us, we pray, O Lord! Hoshia na!
And heres where Jesus fits the bill. In fact, his very name means, Savior. Remember what the angel said: And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. The name Jesus in Hebrew is Yehoshua, and it comes from the same root as our word of the day, hoshia na. Jesus is Yehoshua, literally, The Lord saves. He is the answer to our prayer, Save us, we pray, O Lord!
Thats why Jesus rides into Jerusalem, to do just that. But how he does it--there is the great surprise. If the word of the day on Palm Sunday is Hosanna! the word of the day on Friday will be Crucify! Another day, another crowd, a quite different mood and a quite different reception. Instead of an enthusiastic Hosanna to the Son of David, a mocking Hail, King of the Jews! Instead of palm branches, a crown of thorns and a wooden cross. No longer is the prayer and the praise, Save us, we pray, O Lord! Hosanna! Now it is mockery and insult: Save yourself, and come down from the cross! He saved others; he cannot save himself.
No, he cannot save himself. Because that is, ironically, exactly how he will save others. That is how he saves you and me. Jesus is our Savior, our Yehoshua, precisely by not saving himself from this death he most assuredly does not deserve. Jesus saves us from our sins by dying for them, in our place. This is the bigger and better salvation that he brings. We needed a Savior to deliver us from ourselves, to deliver us from the death and judgment we earned by our sins against God. God sends that deliverer, his only Son come from heaven, the only one who can do the job, the only one whose sinless life and holy blood are sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world.
That is the strange way, the surprising way, our conquering hero has conquered death for us. By his all-atoning death, Christ has won for us forgiveness for all our sins, and, with that forgiveness, life that comes out of the tomb--next Sunday at Easter, when he comes out of his own tomb, and at the Last Day, when he comes again and empties out our tombs and raises us up to life everlasting. So dont sell Jesus short! His salvation is even bigger than we can possibly imagine! Our hosannas now are just not big enough! But well have a whole eternity to sing them to their fullest!
That reminds me, theres one set of hosannas we havent mentioned yet. And thats the hosannas we will sing in the Sanctus in just a few minutes: Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! We sing these hosannas right as Jesus rides into this temple today, to give us his body and blood in the Sacrament. Again he comes in humble, lowly fashion. But as of old he comes now having salvation to bestow. In the Blessed Sacrament, our blessed Lord gifts us with the sign and seal of salvation in his body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Hosanna! Save us, we pray, O Lord! The Lord does, in this humble king riding into Jerusalem and coming to us now in this service. If Hosanna! is the word of the day for Palm Sunday, then so is Jesus. Yehoshua is Gods answer to our Hoshia na! And so our prayer for salvation becomes also our song of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkeys colt! His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.
Psalm 118:19-29 (ESV)
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORDs doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Hosanna! God Save us all!
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