Hosanna in the Highest Heaven – March 25, 2018
Hosanna in the Highest Heaven
March 25, 2018
Main Idea: Jesus saves us.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Every year thousands of pilgrims streamed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. “The entire Jewish nation converged on Jerusalem from all corners of the ancient world to celebrate Passover in the Holy City.” (templeinstitute.org) Young, old, men and women, wealthy, or poor, all traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the great freedom festival which commemorated the Israelites’ liberation from the Egyptians. Ancient Jewish writers such as Josephus and Philo of Alexandria record the vast number of people, the incredible organization and infrastructure, and the general sense of joy and merrymaking experienced each year when the Jewish community gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. Think of it as the ultimate family reunion where everyone comes together for remembrance and celebration.
Every year, as the people approached Jerusalem they would sing songs of thanksgiving, known as the Hallel prayers: Psalms 113-118. ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ (Mark 11:9-10)
Every year the celebration in Jerusalem contained elements of resistance and revolt against whichever foreign power held sway because the Passover celebrates liberation from oppression. In Jesus’ day that meant resistance to Rome. Every year there was talk of a Messiah who would defeat the oppressors and bring back King David’s line.
Every year the people traveled to Jerusalem. Every year they yearned for freedom. Every year they celebrated their past liberation. Every year they sang “Hosanna!”; Save us now!
One year, Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. When they got near the city, they stopped and Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead to borrow a young colt. They put their cloaks on the colt and Jesus sat on it. He and his disciples entered into the throng of people heading toward the city. He rode among the people as they sang ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’. Those who saw him may have wondered just who was the guy on the donkey. Some may have remembered words from the prophet Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem; and the battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations.” (Zech 9:9-10). Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem on a donkey or a young horse, bringing peace through non-violent means. Some of these folks thought this was a good idea. Some thought it was impractical and naive. In the midst of all these pilgrims, in the midst of his disciples, in the midst of the merry makers and the revolutionaries, Jesus entered the city.
When he got to the temple, he went in and looked around. He looked around at EVERYTHING, the scripture says. And then he turned around and left. Seriously, this is how Palm Sunday ends in the Gospel of Mark! He looks around and then goes home! Bye! See ya!
What made this year different from all the years of Passover in Jerusalem? What was different about this year? These people? This person, Jesus?
For years and years, the people yearned for freedom. We still yearn for freedom! For years and years they turned to this leader or that who promised to make life better; who promised to end corruption and bring peace. For years and years the people sang Hosanna, Save us now!
What made this year different from all others was that the people’s salvation walked among them and most did not recognize him. They were looking for a mighty warrior who could defeat Rome. Jesus was a poor man riding an untrained horse! They were looking for a leader who would enforce their laws and their customs. Jesus held love of God and love of neighbor as the only law. They were looking for a judge who would damn the heathen and bless the holy. Jesus ate with sinners and cared for the outcast.
What made this year different was that God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s self (2 Corinthians 5:19). For God so loved the world that God lived among the people, teaching, healing, and empowering them to lives of love and peace. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was just the beginning of a Holy Week filled with sorrow, suffering, and love. Palm Sunday was the happy, hopeful beginning to a difficult but still hopeful reality, that God so loved the world that God would go to the cross.
Every year we celebrate Palm Sunday. Every year we wave the palms and sing the Palms. Every year we gather to hear the story and to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter, the celebration of our liberation from evil, sin, and death. But do we recognize Jesus in our midst? We look for someone to approve of our choices and our worldview. Jesus is here challenging our assumptions and our privileges. We look for someone who can solve our problems. Jesus is here empowering us to make changes and to reach out to others. Jesus is here among us leading us out of our comfort zones, to turn away from our shallow escapes toward meaningful interactions with the world, to speak out and advocate for the vulnerable.
As we wave our palms every year, do we recognize ourselves in the crowds who love to be part of the Jesus parade but who turn to cries of “Crucify Him!” when he challenges the powers that be? When Jesus causes us to look at ourselves, our actions, our prejudices we push back, we rationalize, or we turn away. We like to identify with the crowds on Palm Sunday, but we recoil away from the crowds at the cross. We would never act that way! Would we?
“Hosanna” we sing. Save us now! Hosanna in the highest heaven! Save us from all that keeps us isolated and afraid. Save us from our suffering and our grief. Save us from our delusions of grandeur and acts of folly.
Jesus comes to us. We meet him among the many people who populate our lives, mixed among friends and strangers, among merrymakers and troublemakers. Jesus saves us and brings us abundant life. As we walk through this Holy Week may we be open to the power of Jesus’ love,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Let us pray,
Approaching God, we ask you to save us, to deliver us from our fears and our foolishness which separates us from you. We will walk with you this week toward the cross. Our gratitude for your love is unmeasurable. Grant us strength to journey through sorrow and hardship to the joy of life eternal in you. Amen.
Closing hymn is 264(BH) and 88(KH) In the Cross of Christ I Glory