8 Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. 9 Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!”
Mark 11:1-11 CEB
Rev. Melissa Fain
“Hosanna” is an interesting word. It is rooted in an old definition, but the meaning had changed by the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the Donkey(s). By Palm Sunday the word basically meant “Praise him!” This later understanding is how many of us play out Palm Sunday in our churches. We gleefully have our children march up to the front of the sanctuary and lay palms at the communion table. It is a celebration. It is a joyous day, which seems completely out of place with the Lenten season. That is, unless you understand the earlier definition of the word. Initially Hosanna meant, “Save us.”
I couldn’t imagine how it must have felt to come into Jerusalem with coats waving, exuberant cheers, and glorious smiles. Then, to hear them cheerfully shout, “Save us!” I think it would make me cry. They were saying the right thing in completely the wrong way. Did they even realize what they were saying? If they knew, it was a cold and callous thing to say to Jesus. If they didn’t… how we can scream for help and not even know we are doing it.
If Lent were a play, Ash Wednesday would be our opening act, and Palm Sunday becomes the cliff hanger to end Act I. It should leave us going to intermission with chills running down our spine. This crowd was either clueless or hostile. Either of those choices were really bad news for Jesus. Either hostility or cluelessness were clear signs of Jesus’ potential to living beyond the week. The New Testament shows what hostile crowds were capable of. Just look at the story of Stephen. It didn’t end well for him. Also, a clueless crowd could be pushed by more sinister forces: the religious leaders.
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You are creator of heaven and earth. You know each and every hair on our head. You understand us. We want to celebrate. We want to wave palms and shout, “Praise Him!” It is difficult, but help us call for help. Amen.
Click here to work through the communal Lenten meditation.
Melissa is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She has a BA in Music from Kennesaw State University and a Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She is currently the senior minister at Fig Tree Christian. Melissa is the mother of two wonderful children, and wife to a great and supportive husband. In her spare time she loves arts and crafts which includes making costumes from scratch, and knotted bracelets.