Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion (C)

March 20, 2016
Text: John 12:12-19; Luke 22:1-23:56

            Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means “Save us!”  We use it as an exclamation of praise, and it is certainly that and was used that way in the Scriptures.  But it is first of all a prayer, and it is a prayer for our most basic need.  Salvation.  The word is directly related to the name “Joshua,” our Lord’s Hebrew Name, Yeshua, “YHWH saves.”  Hosanna, we pray.  And when any Christian prays that prayer, God in heaven hears and answers.  He answers with Jesus.  He sends His Son.  God comes down.  In the flesh.  He comes to save.  “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13; ESV).  So the people cried, praying Psalm 118, as the Lord Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt, fulfilling the Scripture recorded by the Prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).  “Hosanna,” the people cry, “save us!”  God responds by sending His salvation in the person of Jesus, whose Name means “The LORD saves.”  Hosanna.  Yeshua.  Prayer and response.  Jesus is always God’s answer to our prayer.
            Hosanna.  Save us.  This is what King Solomon prayed for at the dedication of the Temple.[1]  Solomon prayed that God would always hear the prayers of those who pray toward the place of which God promises, “My name shall be there” (1 Kings 8:29).  In the Old Testament this was the Temple in Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the Ark of the Covenant with its mercy seat (the throne of God!), and the place of Sacrifice.  These things pointed forward to Jesus, the One who “comes in the name of the Lord,” who is Himself the mercy seat and the sacrifice.  Solomon prayed that God would hear all who pray toward the Temple in their many and various afflictions, and that for the sake of His Name He would rescue, release, forgive, save.  That is, after all, the pattern of our God.  He heard the cries of His people in Egyptian bondage.  He sent Moses to speak in His Name, and He Himself led the people out of their slavery, through the Red Sea and the wilderness and into the Promised Land.  He led them with His own presence in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.  He dwelt with His people.  His glory descended on the Tabernacle.  He met with Moses face to face.  Make no mistake.  This is Jesus.  The LORD heard the prayers of His people, Hosanna, save us.  His answer is Jesus. 
            You wouldn’t know this from the English translation, but again and again in the Psalms and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God’s people pray some form of the word from which we get “Hosanna.”  It is translated “save.”  Save me.  Save us.  Save the king.  Simply: Save.  In other words, again and again the people of God pray the Name “Jesus.”  Isn’t that amazing?  And God answers, finally, and decisively, by sending Jesus.  Hosanna.  Save us.  Jesus.  The LORD saves. 
            So it is no accident that the people cry “Hosanna,” as our Lord rides into Jerusalem to accomplish His saving work.  In addressing that word, that prayer, to Him, they are confessing Him to be the Messiah!  They are confessing Him to be God’s answer to their prayers.  Now, to be sure, they may not understand just what it entails that Jesus is the answer to their Hosannas.  We know that many were expecting Messiah to claim the Kingship of Israel in such a way as to deliver the nation from the tyranny of the Romans.  Others wanted healing miracles and bread in abundance.  And lest we forget, this crowd has assembled because Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead.  We all want a King who can do that.  But Jesus is not a politician, and even though He can actually deliver on His promises, and does that very thing, His Kingdom is not of this world.  The great mystery of it all is this: God’s answer to our Palm Sunday prayer is the Passion of our Lord.  God’s answer to our Hosanna is God dead on the cross.  That is the relationship between what we did at the beginning of the service with our palms and procession of joyful singing, and what we did shortly after as we solemnly heard the account of our Lord’s suffering and death for us in its entirety from the Gospel according to St. Luke.  Hosanna, we pray.  Save us.  The Lord does it, by suffering and bleeding and dying.  This is not what anyone expected.  But it is how the Lord accomplishes our salvation.  Jesus reigns from the cross.  Jesus saves us on the cross.  Our prayer is answered on the cross.  This is what Holy Week is all about.
            And what of us now?  The cross was nearly 2000 years ago, and still we have reason to cry, “Hosanna!  Save us!”  There are the sins that beset us, the relationships we have broken, the loneliness, the shame, the despair that can set in deep down in our souls.  There is cancer.  There is war.  There are out of control presidential elections, which are always “the most important election of our lifetime.”  There is deep anxiety because we know that things are not right.  We need saving.  And if the cross is God’s answer, we need help if we are to see how.  A distant God who died for you two millennia ago, but has no contact with you now, is not a real Savior.  But that is not our God.  Remember that God answers our Hosanna by coming.  He comes down.  Jesus comes.  That is how He delivers the salvation of the cross.  He comes to you, in the flesh, just as surely as He came into the womb of the Virgin Mary, just as surely as His hands and feet were nailed to the tree and His sacred, kingly head crowned with thorns.  He comes to you in water and words and bread and wine, delivering the gifts of His salvation.  It is His voice you hear, forgiving your sins.  It is His Blood with which you are washed in the font.  It is His Body you eat and His Blood you drink, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This is the medicine that heals you, body and soul.  His flesh is the bread of life in abundance.  He is the King who redeems you from the tyranny of sin, of death, and of the devil.  He is risen from the dead, and He will call you out of the grave on the Last Day, just as He called Lazarus.  And you will never die again.  He promises.  And He delivers.  Hosanna is a prayer for all occasions.  We always need His saving.  And He always saves.  “Hosanna,” we pray.  “Jesus,” God answers. 
            It is right, then, that the prayer, “Hosanna, save us,” has also become an exclamation of praise.  For His saving us is an accomplished fact in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  You will see it when He comes again in glory.  Oh, how we long for that Day.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Hosanna.  Come, and save us.  He will.  He is coming soon.  In the meantime, He does not leave us on our own.  We sing the song of the Palm Sunday crowd every time we come to the altar.  We sing the Sanctus: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest… blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (LSB 195).  We pray “Hosanna,” and what does He do?  He comes down and feeds us with His Body and Blood.  He forgives our sins.  He saves us.  “Hosanna,” we pray.  God’s answer is Jesus.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

[1] He does not use the word “Hosanna,” but here he connects God’s salvation and His Name.


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