A Palm Sunday Hosanna
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."
Intro: Palm Sunday was first observed by certain Christians within about 300 years of the birth of the Church. Other churches have picked it up along the way as the first day of Passion Week, leading to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Palm Sunday was really all about Passover, because that is when people would bring their Passover lambs to the temple for inspection by the priests. It was a day when many Jewish pilgrims would just be arriving into Jerusalem in preparation for Passover, which would begin four days later. There was a lot of excitement in the air, as people renewed friendships and welcomed one another to the feast. This was what Jesus rode into when He entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
-When the people waved palm branches and cried, “Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” they were looking for a leader who would save them from the oppression of the Roman govt. Jesus had already shown His power to heal and work miracles – He could even feed an army! Apparently, Passover was a time when Jews became very passionate about their national identity. One scholar said that waving a palm branch wasn’t a sign of peace; rather, it was like us waving an American Flag! They were a very patriotic people and it was common for someone to come forward during Passover and start an uprising against Rome. As Passover drew near, the population of Jerusalem increased from around half a million to over 2 million within a day or two. Every Jewish home was to be open to pilgrims who would travel for days to be there for the feast. The streets would be packed, the marketplace teeming with people preparing for Passover.
-So when Jesus fulfilled Zechariah 9:9 by riding into town on the colt of a donkey, the crowds went wild. They were ready to overthrow Rome. But Jesus had a different plan in mind. Isn’t that like God? Just when we think we’ve got things figured out and are sure we know what is needed, God comes along and says, “No, I’ve got a different plan.”
-See, Jesus didn’t come to save you from your circumstances. He came to save you from your sins. That doesn’t mean He can’t or won’t help you with whatever you are facing. But His primary mission was not what people thought it was. Even His disciples were pretty sure He was going to establish His physical kingdom on earth when He came the first time. Acts 1:6-7 6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
-So, even though the people were looking for a Lion King to come save them from the Romans, Jesus came as a lamb to the slaughter so he could really save them.
-I’d like to take some time to dig a little deeper into this. Let’s look at a few thoughts….
I. Hosanna defined
-Our English word "hosanna" comes from a Greek word "hosanna" which comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na.
-And that Hebrew phrase is found in only one place in the entire Old Testament, Psalm 118:25, where it means, "Save, please!" It is a cry to God for help. Like when somebody pushes you off the diving board before you can swim and you come up hollering: "Help, save me" … "Hoshiya na!"
-But something happened to that phrase, hoshiya na. The meaning changed over the years. In the Psalm it was immediately followed by the exclamation: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" The cry for help, hoshiya na, was answered almost before it came out of the Psalmist's mouth. And over the centuries the phrase hoshiya na stopped being a cry for help in the ordinary language of the Jews. Instead it became a shout of hope and celebration. It used to mean, "Save, please!" But gradually it came to mean, "Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!" It used to be what you would say when you fell off the diving board. But it came to be what you would say when you see the lifeguard coming to save you! It is the bubbling over of a heart that sees hope and joy and salvation on the way and can't keep it in.
-So "Hosanna!" means, "Yea for salvation! It's coming! It's here! Salvation! Salvation!"
And "Hosanna to the Son of David!" means, "The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!"
And "Hosanna in the highest!" means, "Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!"
[Above borrowed from John Piper, http://www.soundofgrace.com/piper83/032783e.htm]
-I believe the crowds who welcomed Jesus truly believed that He was the One who would come and save them. They believed He was the Messiah, so they had a lot to get excited about!
II. Help is on the way
-Four days before Passover, the people of Israel were required to present their lambs to the priest for inspection. This was known as Inspection Day. The law of Moses prohibited Israelites from bringing a lamb from very far away, because an unblemished lamb was required. They were to buy one in Jerusalem to commemorate the Passover.
-In Jesus’ day, the priesthood was very corrupt. People would buy their lambs from markets in Jerusalem and bring them to the priests for inspection. Quite often, the priests would pretend to find something wrong with the lamb, which would require them to sell it for a fraction of its value, (since it was deemed unfit for sacrifice), and buy an approved one from the temple authorities at double the price. It was extortion, and Jesus was not happy about it. That appears to be the main reason He turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple. They were the ones who were robbing the people in this highly dishonest way.
-Also on this day in the first century, a lamb was chosen by the high priest outside of Jerusalem on the tenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, (This was Inspection Day or Palm Sunday as we know it). Then the priest would lead this lamb into the city while crowds of worshippers lined the streets waving palm branches and singing Psalm 118, "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord."
-Jesus our Messiah entered Jerusalem this same day, on a donkey, possibly right behind the High Priest's procession. The crowds that had just heralded the entrance of the sacrificial lamb also heralded the entrance of the Lamb of God - Jesus. Jesus identified himself with the Passover sacrifice by being led into Jerusalem, like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53).
-Enthusiasm filled the air on this day. All Israel knew that it would be in Jerusalem where Messiah would be enthroned as their King. One scholar (Edersheim) writes, “Everyone in Israel was thinking about the Feast, Everyone was going to Jerusalem, or had those near and dear to them there, or at least watched the festive processions to the Metropolis of Judaism. It was a gathering of universal Israel, that of the memorial of the birth-night of the nation, and of its Exodus, when friends from afar would meet, and new friends be made; when offerings would be brought, and purification would be obtained and all would worship in that grand and glorious Temple.”
-The High Priest would then take the lamb to the Temple, where it would be tied in public view so that it could be inspected for blemish. In the same way, Jesus sat and taught in the Temple courtyard, and was inspected and questioned as the Sadducees, Pharisees, and teachers of the law, who sought to trip him up in His words and entrap Him. They could not, because He was perfect and without blemish (Lancaster, 1996).
-Jesus presented Himself to the people and priests that day as the Passover Lamb – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He made the crooked religious leaders angry, but the common people honored Him as their King – even if they seemed to miss the fact that He had not come to conquer Rome.
III. Passover Protection
-The book of Exodus, the 2nd book in the OT, tells us about the first Passover, when God delivered His people. The 10th and final plague of judgment against Egypt was to be the death of the firstborn in every household. However, God told Israel (Ex.12) to kill a lamb with no defects or blemishes, and to dip hyssop in the blood, and brush some of the blood on the doorposts of their houses. When the destroyer moved throughout Egypt to strike down every firstborn, He could not destroy anyone who had the lamb’s blood on their door. Why? Because they were protected by God Himself.
-Jesus showed Himself as our Passover Lamb. He was killed, and His lifeblood became our protection against the destroyer. But you’ve got to put it on! Are you ready for Passover? Is God’s judgment going to pass over you? The death of God’s lamb, Jesus, gives us life, and will save us from judgment – if we receive Jesus by faith and turn from a life of sin to a new life of obedience.
-The word Passover carries the idea of being a shield over someone. This gives more meaning to what Jesus said when He wept over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-39: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
-Jesus was saying that Jerusalem needed a real Passover – a real shielding or protection from the destroyer, and that He was that Shield. However, they were not willing to come close enough to Him to be protected from destruction.
-How about you? Are you willing to get close enough to Jesus to let Him help you? Are you willing to let Him be your Passover – your protection from the destroyer? How often he has longed to gather you in close to Himself, but you would not let Him. Will you let Him draw you close to Himself? He loves you and can help you.
-The people of Israel lived with a high messianic expectation, believing that God would send a Messiah to deliver them. Jesus seemed to fit the profile of a Messiah to them. Passover was a celebration of God’s miraculous deliverance from the oppression of Egypt some 1500 years earlier. God raised up Moses to deliver Israel. He was a kind of messiah (anointed one). Now, as the feast of Passover was nearing, many Jews began to think, “Maybe the Lord will send us another Messiah to deliver us from the Romans, just like He did at the first Passover.” What better time for a Messiah to come and deliver them from the Romans? During the very feast which commemorated Israel’s liberation under Moses! God said He would raise up another prophet like Moses who would save the people from their sins.
-So, having this expectancy in their spirits, these devout Jews encountered Jesus, the One who had been healing sick people, raising dead people, casting out demons, and teaching and preaching about the kingdom of God. They saw this same Jesus come riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey. Most Jews knew the OT thoroughly. When they saw Jesus on the donkey colt, immediately, their minds went to Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
-These people were welcoming their King, the One who had salvation for them. Only later would they realize what it really meant that Jesus was their Passover Lamb. They could not understand the price He would pay for their salvation. As they cried out, “Hosanna,” they did not know that He would give up His own life so they could be saved from the bondage of sin. Again, Hosanna had become more of a celebration than a cry for help. However, help was on the way, and it would come by the death of the very King they were hoping would lead them to victory against the Romans.
Conclusion: As we close today, please know that Jesus didn’t come just to make your life better. He came to give you life- His life, real life. As we face the pain and difficulty of this life, we are often brought to a place where we cry out, “Hosanna! Help, Lord! Save me from my problems.” And God often does help us, just as Jesus helped and healed all who came to Him. But until we cry out, “Hosanna! Save me from my sins,” we haven’t really dealt with our problem. When we do that and experience God’s grace and forgiveness, then our Hosanna becomes a true celebration. It becomes praise because the Lamb of God has taken away our sin and given us a new heart and a new beginning. Where are you today? Hosanna… problems? Hosanna… sins? Hosanna… praise You, Lord for delivering me and helping me? Where do you want to be? Where do you need to be? What will your Hosanna be today?