28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Procession into Jerusalem
29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If someone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it.36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.
37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said,
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”
40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
Thoughts on the passage:
(Editor’s Note: The origin of the last name Ozanne is in fact Hosanna so I am obligated each year to work Hosanna into the Palm Sunday sermon as a tribute to my heritage.)
Hosanna is a joyful exclamation of praise. It is thought to mean either a celebration of deliverance or speaks to a hoped for deliverance. It is often used in conjunction with Jewish festivals such as the Passover. It has subsequently been used as well to celebrate Palm Sunday. While it is not used specifically in our passage today, it is thought that this would have been one of the things shouted as Jesus entered into Jerusalem.
Our passage has a tension built into it between the energy of the crowd and the reaction of the Pharisees. As loud as the one side cries out the other side wants to keep silent. Jesus points out however that there is nothing that can be done. Even if the crowd itself was silent the stones themselves would cry out.
Hosanna! I love that this is described as both as a celebration of deliverance in the past but also a cry for a still hoped for deliverance. That tension between the past and the future is so fitting both of the circumstances of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and also the human condition. We exist both in a state of gratitude for all that God has done for us but also living in a state of hoped for deliverance from the challenges that remain before us.
When we think about the crowd it is easy to imagine them also being caught between gratitude for what has been done and a desire for what still remains undone. As I think about this crowd gathered to celebrate Jesus’ entry, I can almost imagine him picking out faces in the crowd: a man healed from leprosy, the Syro-Phoenician woman, the soldier and his daughter who was brought back from the dead. Each one crying out with joy for all that Christ has done for them. At the same time, they remain under Roman rule, a visible sign of the oppression that still exists in their lives. They cry “hosanna” for what God has done for them and they cry “hosanna” for what they hope God can still do.
Then we have the Pharisees, scrambling to quiet the crowds. For them the cries for deliverance challenge the peace they have brokered between themselves and the Roman occupiers. They have been granted the space to quietly practice their faith as along as it does not pose a threat to the Empire. People crying out for a savior do not fit with the image they want to present to the authorities. They are fine with Jesus as a teacher, but Jesus as a political figure or revolutionary is a whole different issue. They need to keep things quiet.
While the role we re-enact on Palm Sunday is that of the crowd, I think we also play the part of the Pharisees in our own lives as well. We have brokered a peace between the church and the state. We have reached a peaceful settlement between our faith and our culture. Everything goes along fine as long as we keep our faith in check and don’t cross over certain lines or cry out too loudly in the marketplaces. As long as our faith is not a threat to the other powers of the world, then we are free to do whatever we want.
I think we need to try and reclaim our role in this story, not as Pharisees who are attempting to police faith, but instead as members of the crowd who are responding to the ways that God is at work in our lives. When we cry “hosanna” what are we saying? Is it meant as a cry of thanks for what God has done in your life? Is it meant as a cry of longing for the deliverance you still need? What emotions are we giving voice to as we wave our palm branches and raises our cries?
I sometimes wonder if I have not spent too long around the Pharisees in my life that I find it hard to cry out with a full voice. Over and over in my life I have learned the lessons of blending in, not making a big deal of things (including my faith) and finding ways to quietly get along with everyone. The public nature of Palm Sunday and the idea of so forcefully giving voice to my faith is daunting. Yet if I am honest, the need to shout “Hosanna!” is there. I need to cry out because of the ways that over and over in my life, God has been there for me. I need to shout “Hosanna!” for the fact that when I have been down, when I have struggled, God has been there to pick me up. Not only that but I need to shout “Hosanna!” because as I look at my life and I look at the world I still need God’s deliverance, not just for myself but for all those I know and love who are struggling, with illness, with sin, with grief, with loneliness, with pain. We need God’s deliverance.
Last week I talked about our role in bringing about God’s kingdom. I believe that we do have a part ot play in doing God’s work on earth. The good news is, however, that God is solely dependent on us. There are times that God works in so powerful a way nothing we can do to stop it. That moment on Palm Sunday was one such time. As Christ enters into Jerusalem there is nothing that anyone could do to stop what God was doing in that moment. Even if all the crowds would have stayed silent, the stones themselves would have taken up the cry. Christ was entering into Jerusalem and no longer was he going to stay silent and keep the peace. The world was crying out for deliverance, and God was bringing about the world’s salvation.
I hope we find those moments in our own lives where God is so powerfully at work that we just have to stop and shout “Hosanna!” I hope that we can find the courage to give thanks out loud for what God has done for us and to cry out as well for what we hope God will do for us. We can choose our role in this story. We can be like the Pharisees, many of whom might have supported Jesus, but who set aside their personal feelings to try and maintain the status quo, or we can be like the crowds, who join with all creation in giving praise to the great things that God is doing in the world. Hosanna!
Questions to Ponder:
Who is someone you know who is good at sharing what God does in their life?
When is a time you experienced God’s deliverance?
What is something you currently long to be delivered from?
Prayer: Spirit, stir in our hearts this Lenten journey. Help us to till the soil of our lives and plant seeds of faith. Water us with your grace that we might flourish in your name. AMEN