Matthew 21:1-11 New International Version (NIV) Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King 21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a] 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c] “Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Today is traditionally the start of Passion Week, where we as the church together remember and celebrate the final week of Jesus’ life; that leads up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday!
I love Easter as it is the tradition that enables us to communally reconnect and together go through the most important reality of the Christian message; the gospel itself, the good news that God came to earth to save sinners; of which I am the worst! And it kicks off a week before the resurrection of Christ with this passage of Jesus coming into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. And wrapped up in this story is a beautiful mix of the expressed hope of Easter, but also the exposure of our own hearts – and the hearts of every person on earth – to completely miss the wonder of what God is doing.
The main aspect of what I want to focus on today is the cry of the crowd drawn from their own Messianic expectation and the cries of Psalm 118, the crowd whipped up into a celebration of Messianic expectation cry out in Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c] “Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
And so today I want to show you the beauty of this cry and desperation of this cry, and how our own circumstances can make us miss the glory of this cry.
So, we will look at this morning the praise of hosanna, the desperation of hosanna and the hope of hosanna.
Let’s dive in;
1. The praise of hosanna
The word that they cry out as Jesus walks into the city is in fact a beautiful word to study. It is a Greek transliteration of two Hebrew words, which when put together are a cry of praise a celebration! We will get into what kind of celebration this is in the next point; however, it is a celebration of relief; the best way I could illustrate this; is have you ever been waiting terrible news, and the news comes in that you are clear, or your family member is clear; that is the celebration that is being communicated here. I have to use my family here, but when Nat’s sister got the news that her cancer was all clear after recent tests; that is the celebration here! It is a cry of yes our hope has at last arrived.
For the people in the crowd here in this passage it was the cry of “yes our hope is hear; God has heard us, our salvation is here. The Messiah has come!”Everything about what the people were doing was a declaration that they were expecting Messiah; the coming saviour, the one who would rescue them! And they were crying out is praise; Hosanna! It was a celebration of absolute relief; South Africa has had a couple of these lately – have we not? But the problem is that the crowds hope of salvation was misplace; like many of us their present circumstances had overshadowed their actual crisis and therefore their praise was misplaced, and the hope that they were clinging to; that Christ would come to overthrow the Romans (their oppressors) and establish the Nation of Israel to her previous glory would be dashed by the end of that week as they will see their coming saviour crucified (and by all appearances; defeated).
Which leads me to the;
2. The desperation of hosanna
The word itself is made up to two root Hebrew words yasha (“deliver, save”) and anna (“beg, beseech”), which is literally what Psalm 118:25-26 says;
Psalm 118:24 in the Hebrew it says; Save Now, I beg you O Lord, O Lord Send prosperity… then. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
This is the desperation of the praise cry of hosanna, it is a begging for saving. Now, most of you are Christians, so you know exactly what kind of salvation the bible is talking about here. But for a second, and to indulge me, imagine yourself for a second in this crowd (this shouldn’t be too hard to do).
You find yourself in an economic oppression, with actually brutality in which you feel like you are being ripped off (your hard work is being stolen by the corrupt) you are oppressed by a government that only cares for itself and the fat cats in a country that you have never seen. You are struggling to make ends meet, and worse that that you are fearing for your safety and the safety of your children due to this occupying force in your home country. So, totally un-relatable hey? When talk comes of Messiah your hope goes right to your immediate need; He is coming to free us from the oppressor! And church; I want to warn you today; we treat Jesus the same today as they did on that Palm Sunday. Our hope is misplaced and so is our despair; we come to Jesus for the wrong kind of saving and so we miss Him and His hope completely!
I want to make this clear, there are great problems out in the world; there always will be, and I don’t mean to belittle or undermine them in any regard, but the problem about these pressing problems, is that fixing them doesn’t really change anything. So many of us complain about the government, social issues, financial issues etc. We set these up as the great enemy and generally lambaste the incompetence, ignorance, or evil of those people who are affecting these things.
Our hope of salvation comes from escaping our immediate problem, or a saviour in the guise of a political revival, or a new political problem. And this would give us temporary relief from your pain, but wouldn’t fix what is really wrong.
The desperation of the cry of hosanna should be seen for what it is; a cry for personal salvation. The great, and truly terrifying problems of our lives are not out there, they are in our heart. It is the fact that we don’t even live up to our own ideals.
I am often struck how some old people act in ways that we would not tolerate in a child, but because they are older we fear it rather than call it out. Now, don’t think of that other person you know who has done that; When last did you (by all definitions) throw a tantrum because things didn’t go your way; when last did you bend the truth to get what you want; when last did you hate someone deeply; when last did you lust after something you didn’t have, and scheme and plot on how to get it… you get the picture.
Church the problem with all of us; even us Christians; is we need saving; and that is not saving from our circumstance – your life wont make sense if you would just get rid of the things that make it difficult; we need inward salvations that gives us the hope and courage to actually face difficult situations with hope and serenity. We like the crowd are convinced that the problems of the world are external; and we cry to God for help for salvation from them. Now don’t hear what I am not saying these external realities are real, and God wants to help us in them. But often God is using them to reform and heal and save us from an internal reality that is far more dangerous, far more toxic. Where we differ from the crowd 2000 years ago, is that they had no understanding of what God was about to do!
Which leads us to…
3. The hope of hosanna
As the crowd was crying save us we plead with you! God was at work! Not to amass an army to overthrow the Roman oppressors; and yet when His followers grasped what He did became through sacrificial love, the very instrument that would cause Rome’s downfall and the true freedom of the oppressed. God was not working to restore Israel fortunes and yet, His followers would soon discover treasure that nothing in this world could come close to. As the crowd was crying out Lord save us; we beg you, so God was at work saving them from the real danger; the evil that dwells within the heart of man. And here is the lesson of this morning; church we are not the people we want to be, at our core, we have a brokenness that we need saving from; we see this manifest in a multitude of ways. But the great problems of the world church are not so much out there as they are in here!
And we are hopeless to change and because of that we find ourselves in great trouble. C.S. Lewis puts it as such in Mere Christianity when he says;
"If there does exist an absolute moral goodness it must hate most of what we do. That is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we must need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies."
We sit here with the desperate state we are in; desperate for good world, with injustice dwelling in our hearts! We, through our actions, have made ourselves the enemy of our only hope and so Like Paul in Roman 7 we must cry; who will save us from this body of death?
Hosanna! I beg you save me!
There is hope, church! Romans 7:25 "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
This is not some arbitrary doing away with that which is disagreeable inside of us. Jesus, as He rode into Jerusalem 2000 years ago, He rode in save us; and the only way to save us was to deal with once and for all what was wrong in every single one of us to allow justice to be fully poured out.
This means, as Jesus rode into that city with the crowd crying out Hosanna – save us we beg you; he didn’t hear the political or economic connotation of that cry; he heard the hearts of those people; where they themselves could not hear it; and not only that but he heard your heart when you in the secret place wept over your inability to do right; to hold your life together; to be the person you know you should. Jesus heard all of that and rode on into the city to deal with it!
We will see (as the crowd saw) on Friday that dealing with our salvation; in gruesome and horrific detail.
Church, if we are honest with ourselves we know we are broken people in desperate need of putting together; and this is the hope of Palm Sunday. There is hope; in Christ because he paid fully for every one of our sins – EVERY LAST ONE – there is now, no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Hosanna has been answered; there is hope for the lost and we can find hope for the real problems of our lives, the problems that are rooted deep in the problems that dwell in our very heart; when we cry out Hosanna – we cry out in praise – because Jesus paid it all!