I. It is a cry to a King
II. It is a motto for a kingdom
Matthew 21:1-11 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, tell him 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 the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 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 to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” 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.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, our King who has brought us into his kingdom of grace through saving faith and wants us in his kingdom of glory for eternity, dear Christian friends,
Does the name “Jesus” sound like the word “Hosanna” to you? It would be a real stretch to say those two English words sound alike. But when you hear them in the original language of Hebrew there is an audible connection: Yeshua which literally means “the Lord saves” and Hoshianna, which literally means “save us now!”
Hoshianna was a fitting shout to Yeshua! Hoshianna was I. A cry to a king and II. A motto for a kingdom. Hoshianna, one Hebrew word; “Hosanna”, translated into three English words: SAVE US NOW! summarize what our King Jesus came into this world to do and why we came here this morning!
It was on a Sunday in early spring, 30 AD, when Jesus set out with his disciples from Bethany, a little village only about 3 miles from Jerusalem. How strange that he was going to a city named Jerusalem, which means “house of peace” because by the end of this Passover festival week, the “house of peace” would be shaking with hatred and violence, the crowds nearly rioting and not stopping until this prophet from Nazareth in Galilee was captured, tortured, and executed.
That’s what lay at the end of this Palm Sunday road winding through Jerusalem, at the end of what we now call Holy Week. No matter how lovely and joyful the procession was—with colorful capes and pungent palms paving the way—at the end lay darkness and death.
While Jesus knew it, these crowds and his disciples did not! Their heads were filled with happy, patriotic thoughts of celebrating the Passover. Their hands were busy spreading cloaks and cutting branches. Their voices were filled with singing at Jesus— from Psalm 118: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.
By the end of the week, however, the celebratory mood will have changed to condemnatory, the hands will have raised in fury and the voices will have sounded “crucify” rather than “glorify”. The sad reality is that most in the crowd probably cried “Hosanna” with their voices, but not with the voice of saving faith.
How many today still put forth that outward show of discipleship and worship, yet their hearts are far from following and praising Jesus? Maybe you have found yourself falling into that trap!
Someone will tell you that he is spiritual, but not religious, probably meaning he has faith in something but doesn’t attend a certain denomination or practice his faith according to a certain set of rules. Someone else might tell you that she is religious, but not spiritual, probably meaning that she wants to live life right, but doesn’t spend much time in prayer or praise.
You are both spiritual— devoting your mind and heart to learning what God teaches us in his Word— and religious— wanting to live your life in a way that pleases the one who gave up his life for you! You don’t just wave palm branches because it is traditional. You don’t just sing praises ignorantly asking, “Who is this?”
The faith the Holy Spirit has given you through your baptism—a Christian faith— is different because it has Jesus as its object. You don’t just believe, you don’t just believe in something, you believe in Jesus— Son of God and Son of Man, your substitute in life, gaining your required perfection and your substitute in death, giving up his life so you can have eternal life.
Come to God’s house every week to shout “Hosanna” to the King, not at the King. There’s a difference. To cry “Hosanna” to the King means to confess that he is your only hope of salvation and that without him you are eternally lost. To cry “Hosanna” to the King means to confess your sins and recognize the punishment they deserve, to abandon all hope of saving yourselves or finding some assurance of heaven in your good behavior. To cry “Hosanna” to the King in true faith means to plead, “Save us now!”
And our glorious and gracious King hears and answers our cry! From the manger bed where he came to live as one of us, from the cross where he gave his life for us, from heaven where he rules over all things for us, he answers our cries of repentance with his forgiveness, our cries of doubt with his clear Word, our cries for safety with his protection, our cries for help with his aid.
“Hosanna!” It’s a cry to the King, but it’s also a motto for his kingdom. People and nations choose mottoes to reflect who they are and what they stand for. Think of America’s motto: E pluribus unum, “Out of many, one.” It reflects the truth that America welcomes all; it is the great “melting pot” of the world.
“Hosanna!”— save us now!— is a fitting motto for the kingdom of Christ because his kingdom is about one thing: salvation—eternal release from the bondage of sin, eternal reception in indescribable bliss and joy. This is the reason he is King and the reason he has brought us into his kingdom.
Many in the Jerusalem streets that day were probably ignorant of this truth. They were more interested in this donkey-riding, miracle-making, praise-receiving Jesus as a peace-making, political dynasty-securing, prosperity-providing king. But Jesus’ words to Pilate still ring loud and clear in our ears, “My kingdom is from another place” (Jn 18:36).
Jesus’ kingdom is about eternal salvation and not international peace treaties. His kingdom wasn’t about winning against Rome, but about winning over Romans—and Greeks—and Jews—and Gentiles all over the world. His kingdom is in our hearts through Christian faith.
Don’t be confused about why Jesus came. It is easy to fall into the trap that if I am not rich, then I must not be loved by Jesus or if I am not healthy, then he has not done his work properly. He came to win for us heavenly riches, not earthly treasures. He came to make our soul secure rather than our heart healthy. He came to forgive and to save.
As a member of his kingdom through your baptismal faith, he has done his work perfectly. You are forgiven. You are saved.
Now, you are called on to trust. Now you are called on to teach. Now you are called on to serve.
Shout “Hosanna” to Jesus! It redounds the praises of him who did exactly that— saved you! It reflects your kingdom membership. It reaches out to those who are presently outside the kingdom, but whom God wants inside. It recounts a beautiful and powerful motto that gives true hope, true joy, true peace to a world that so desperately needs these things.
“Hoshianna! Hosanna! Save us now!” Our cry to our King has been answered! That is why he was riding into Jerusalem that day. That is what the cross outside of Jerusalem was all about. That is what the empty Easter tomb guarantees he will also come back to do. The motto for his kingdom has been fulfilled.
You and I can today and every day shout and sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”