1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”Matthew 21:1-11
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.Revelation 3:20
It’s Palm Sunday – the anniversary of what is known as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This is how Jesus’ last week on earth began, with people shouting “Hosanna!” and praising Him while celebrating His entrance into Jerusalem. The city streets were packed and overwhelmed with crowds of people waiting for His arrival.
This is usually the way that Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter) goes for the Church. For most of my lifetime and many years prior to it, it has been the busiest time for churches – Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday, in a typical year, would see crowds cheerfully gathering in church buildings, dressed in bright, pastel colors, and joyfully singing and celebrating the Resurrection. But this past year has been anything but typical.
2020 saw church buildings empty or nearly empty on Easter Sunday. At Christ Community, we gathered in the rain with services led under the front porch and people praising through cracked windows or huddled under umbrellas; it was the best we could do to gather (separately) at the beginning of the pandemic. We then hurried home in fearful anticipation of the coming storms that knocked out power for many and damaged homes for others. It did not feel like Easter. But, maybe, that was what we needed to truly grasp what it means to cry “hosanna” to the King Jesus as we await His second coming!
This may seem overly simplistic, but we have had a unique opportunity to truly grasp the need for Easter, and, specifically on this Palm Sunday, to live out this out. “Hosanna” is an Aramaic cry/shout of praise. It means “Help! I pray!” or “Save! I pray!”. Somewhere through the passage of time, that cry for help or salvation became a cry that meant “praise be to God!” Think about it: God’s people cried out to Him for help and salvation, He helped/saved them time and again, and they praised Him out of a spirit of thanksgiving. This happened enough in their history that it formed part of their culture so that their cries for help transformed into shouts of praise.
That is what we needed for Easter 2020 and every other day, week, and year of our lives. It is what we need today.
If we have learned anything this past year, it is that life is precious, and that time spent together is too. We cannot look to Capital Hill for salvation or trust in a stimulus. We need to look to the hill called Golgotha – the place of the skull where the celebrated King died for in our place. We need to trust in the Savior who answered the cries of “Help us, we pray! Save us!” in the form of “Hosanna!”, even when the people knew not what they were saying. After all, He knows what we need, and only He can carry us through because He has been through it Himself.
God is clear in His Word that He has made a Way for us (John 14:6) so that we can be saved from our sins. If we trust in Him as Savior, He takes our sins and trades it for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is quite a trade off!
There is perhaps no greater image for God inviting us to Himself than that of Him standing at a door and knocking (Revelation 3:20), especially coming out of a year when many of us have neither visited others nor received visitors ourselves. But, our whole lives have been interrupted by a virus, we need to rejoice in the fact that Christ is, in fact, immune – it cannot kill Him because He has already died and risen from the grave!
So, on this Palm Sunday, I invite you to look toward the coming of the King. This time, He will not be riding a donkey into a crowded street. No, this time, He will come in all His glory and resurrected divine splendor and bring His people home. But there is good news for us even while we wait: He has promised that He is with us “always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:24).
Cry out to Him – “Hosanna!” Call upon His name and pour out your heart saying “Help me, I pray! Save me!” And know that He hears you and will save all who cry out to Him (Romans 10:13).