Today is Palm Sunday.
This is the day thay marks Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
The story is found in Matthew 21:7-9:
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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 heaven!”
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
Palm Sunday is typified by churches across America lining children along the sanctuary’s center aisle waving palm leaves cut out of green construction paper and shouting “Hosanna!” to a bearded man walking between them dressed in a white robe and a purple sash.
There always has to be a purple sash.
I have fond memories of those Palm Sunday performances. My acting debut was as one of those kids lining the aisle waving my paper leaf so hard it tore before Jesus could reach the pulpit. I played one of the branch wavers for many years.
Unfortunately, I never got the lead. I never got to play Jesus.
Surely, it had nothing to do with my acting skills. Perhaps it was because I didn’t sport a beard. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact I was five years old.
However, true to the performing arts, I as a budding child actor was having trouble trying to figure out my character’s motivation. I only had one line that needed to be shouted over and over again: Hosanna.
What does this even mean? It seems like a pretty important word.
Hosanna only appears twice in the New Testament: once in Matthew and once in Mark. It is a Greek translation from the Hebrew word Hoshi’a na. The root word hoshi’a serves as a basis for such names as Elisha (the name given to my great nephew), Hosea, Joshua, and others.
Hoshi’a simply means “salvation.” Those names listed above mean “God is my salvation.”
Salvation. Salvation in the highest.
The children lining the church aisle, the people lining the streets in Jerusalem that day were all crying out for salvation.
But it goes even deeper. At the end of the word hoshi’a, is attached the tiny word na.
That seems relatively insignificant.
I assure you, it is not.
Together, those words mean “Save us please.”
But It is not just a monotone liturgical chant, but a cry of absolute desperation: “Please! save us!”
The Jews at the time were violently oppressed by Rome. The religious leaders did little more than try to make a tense peace with them. The Jews had little hope. God was the only one who could save them from the world’s superpower.
This is exactly what he came to do.
It’s odd to think that, in a manner of days, those very same people would be yelling, “Crucify!”
How quickly things change.
We want to put to death the very one who could save us.
This last week has been a very hard week as a nation. Following a horrible massacre at Covenant Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee, in which woman who identified as trans murdered six individuals, three of whom were only nine years old, the nation reeled.
We saw pure brokenness, evil unleashed on the innocent. We cried at the mayhem and loss.
Hosanna, Lord! Please save us!
Then, within hours, we rejected the Savior and shouted: “We reject prayers. We reject his power and salvation. If God was good he would have stopped this. We need action! Only government legislative action can stop the murders.”
As if any government policy can actually change the human heart.
Honestly, I have troubling trusting a government that bends reality back so far that it makes the shooter the victim. Instead of helping the nation grieve and supporting the Nashville community, the president declares Friday National Trans Awareness Day.
The government don’t have our best interests at heart, only their agenda. And they are not beyond pushing its own citizens out of the way. Government will not and cannot fix human nature. Government is essentially broken human nature on steroids. Given the choice between prayer and policy, I’ll take prayer any time.
So what is Jesus saving us from? When Zechariah prophesied Israel’s king coming to them on a donkey, he also mentioned all that this king will do:
“He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” (Zechariah 9:9b-12)
The solution to evil is Jesus, the only source of peace. It is not “Jesus and…” and we’re arrogant to assume it is. Human solutions to sin sound more like what Satan told Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Jesus is the only constant. And only Jesus can save us, from oppression and even from ourselves.
This Holy Week, like those people lining the streets of Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna!” to the God-man on the donkey, we must shout “Hosanna!” once again. We must pay heed to God’s word to Solomon:
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The tragic event of this last week and the entrance into Holy Week has to result in a call to prayer.
We have to believe only our God can save us. There is no Plan B.