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Hosanna in the Midst of Holy Week

By Bishop Mark J. Webb

Photo by Vickiido on Unsplash.

“Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11.9b-10)

Around the world, Holy Week began with shouts of hosanna! I remember as a child one of my favorite moments each year in church was receiving my palm branch on Palm Sunday and being allowed to wave it wildly and yell as loud as I could, “Hosanna!” I also remember struggling with how the very same people in Jesus’ day who shouted Hosanna could just a few days later join in the cries of “crucify him!”

What does it mean to shout hosanna? Hosanna is often thought of and used as a declaration of praise, like hallelujah, but it is actually a plea for salvation. The Hebrew root words are found in Psalm 118.25 which says, “Save us, we pray, O LORD!” The Hebrew words yasha (“deliver, save”) and anna (“beg, beseech”) combine to form the word that, in English, is “hosanna.” Literally, hosanna means “I beg you to save!” or “please deliver us!” Hosanna is a word used to demonstrate praise and adoration. Hosanna is also a deep cry to be saved.

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday greeted Jesus with shouts of hosanna to welcome their hero, their Messiah, the one they believed would be their king. The echoes of hosanna faded and were replaced with cries of “crucify Him” because they expected Jesus to rescue them from their enemies. Their emphasis was on Jesus fixing the world around them and changing others, by assuming political power. When it became apparent that Jesus was not going to live out their view of a hero or deliverer, the hosannas stopped.

In Romans 7.24 the Apostle Paul declared these words: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Paul cried out, Hosanna! Save me! He recognized that the work and promise of Jesus Christ was to change his inner self, to move him from a life dominated by the flesh and sin to a life redeemed and set free – a life that knew the fullness of grace resulting in the work of justification and sanctification.

As we travel through these days of Holy Week what is our intent in shouting hosanna! Are we looking for God to change our enemies, to transform our external circumstances so we will find the significance and life we desire? Please don’t misunderstand me, God is interested in our circumstances, but God’s purpose is to rescue us from the wages of sin and usher us into the abundant and eternal life offered through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s purpose is to save us and transform us, so that in our living we may reflect the character of Christ. When we, one by one are rescued by, saved by Jesus, we are changed and when we are changed, the world is changed. Light pierces darkness, truth defeats lies, hope destroys hopelessness, and the way of God’s kingdom is known and experienced.

As we once again experience the events of Holy Week, may we shout hosanna as we draw nearer to Jesus and embrace the unconditional love offered to us by God. Let’s shout hosanna recognizing we need a Savior and surrender anew to Jesus as Lord. Shout hosanna as you invite Jesus to continue the refining work in you so that you may die to self and live for Christ. Cry out in a new way, inviting Jesus to give you a new nature, a new perspective, a deeper trust, a greater passion for living God’s way.

As we experience this Holy Week, be intentional about inviting others to meet the Jesus you have encountered, urge them to travel with you into the events of this week that demonstrate the extraordinary steps God took to offer them life, so that they too may shout hosanna and invite Jesus to save them.

 Shouting hosanna matters! It is in that shout that we open ourselves to the saving work of God in Jesus Christ. It is the shout of hosanna that leads me to and allows me to know the fullness of new life that is encountered on Easter morning – sin no longer has power; death no longer has victory. Because I have been saved by God, I now know the amazing life found in Jesus Christ, a life of purpose, an abundant life, a life forever in the presence of my God!

Bishop Mark J. Webb is an episcopal leader in the Global Methodist Church.

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