Today is Palm Sunday, the day when Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumphant return to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The reason we call it Palm Sunday is because of the tree branches the people waved as Jesus rode into town. In my tradition, we recreate this with a congregational procession from outside and into the nave, carrying actual palm fronds and singing.
Here’s the story from Matthew 21:
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,2 saying to them,”Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
In fact we say words from this passage nearly every Sunday as a part of our liturgy
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
So what exactly does Hosanna mean? It’s a combination of two words and its literal meaning is “save us now.” And it is in that vain I say those words each Sunday.
It’s interesting to look at how the words meaning get changed by context or intent. In fact, this very word, Hosanna, was used as part of a battle cry during the Maccabean rebellion, and it is in this manner I believe the crowd uses the word here. Remember, they were expecting Jesus to ride in and begin a physical rebellion against Rome. “Save us now!” And when he didn’t? “Crucify! Crucify him!”
I’ve responded the same way to Him. “Help me!” “Oh, not that way, never mind”