When I was a freshman in college back in the fall of 2001, I wanted to join the on campus choir but realized that it conflicted with another mandatory class I had to take. I was really upset about it. What was life going to be like without being in a choir? I had been a member of one to two choirs every year since I was in those middle school years. But then I saw something in the handy class catalog which I carried with me everywhere, a catalog which would become as well known and used as my Bible: I saw the campus Gospel Choir. I could join that.
So I signed up and joined and learned a whole new meaning behind jubilantly exalting the Lord. Every concert we had would last for at least 3 hours. We would process into the auditoriums and churches down the aisles singing and dancing, clapping our hands to the beat, unless you were me in that case your clap was half a step behind everyone else’s. But the joy and the exaltation of the Lord could be felt by everyone in those seats and by the people outside the building as well. So when I think of the Hosanna Loud Hosanna from our scriptural hymn this morning, this is the image that is brought to my mind.
I see people standing along the sides of the road clapping their hands, raising the voices in song and praise, laying down their palms and their cloaks. Though those crowds were there in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover they saw the message of the Lord and allowed themselves to be wrapped up in the joy of the moment, in the hope that it ignited in the hearts of those who looked on. Christ was giving a spectacular sign to the peoples, to the masses that would soon enough turn on him. And in those moments they cried “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord”, in Greek this translates as Hosanna.
But what did Hosanna really mean? Did it mean the same thing to ancient Israelites as it does to us? These are the questions that have swirled around my mind this week. Hosanna means “Save now” to us this is salvation from the grips of death, salvation from sin. But for Jesus’ contemporaries in Jerusalem that Passover they had a different understanding of “save now”. They looked for salvation all right. They wanted a savior, a messiah, to lead them out of bondage and into a time of plenty, a time of independence as Moses had done for their people many generations earlier.
They were searching for the foretold military leader who would be backed by the might of God who would smite the Romans and destroy them and then reestablish Israel as the dominant power in the region. And Jesus let them to believe this; he let them have their moment of hope and joy. He came into Jerusalem in a very dramatic way. He road upon a colt of a donkey deliberately fulfilling prophesies from Zechariah 9: 9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter 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 for a donkey”. The people there for the religious festivals of Passover were familiar with the prophesies and many suffered under Roman authority and yearned for a sign that those times were coming to an end. But they did not look for unique signs from the Lord as we do. They looked for signs that were predicted by the prophets of old. Signs that were perhaps more literal then they were metaphorical.
Jesus came to show them that God was going to liberate them as he had done under the leadership of Moses but this time the liberation was going to be different. God was not going to liberate them from the rule of another empire, from the influence of pagan outsiders but rather God was going to liberate them from the finality of death. God was giving them a savior who would liberate them from the emotional and spiritual control and abuse of those who were in control, those who were in power claiming to be working in his name, when in reality they worked for their own wealth and desires.
In our worlds, we are called to live into that excitement because unlike the people of Jerusalem we understand the spiritual implications of the salvation being offered to us. We do know that Christ was sacrifice and raised three days later for our liberation from the abuse of others and for the liberation of our souls from perishability. So feel the joy, feel the excitement of the coming Easter, of Christ alive in our hearts and in our lives. Let’s offer him our palms, our cloaks, and our voices in praise for his coming. For although, the Messiah didn’t come as people predicted in his time, the Messiah did come and still offers all peoples liberation and new life. Our scriptures say, “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest’!”
So go forth into this Holy Week, ready to sing your praises for the gift of Christ to our lives, for the offer of forgiveness, for the new beginnings and new life we have received because of the events of his last days of life and final victory over death. Find one thing for each day to sing your praises for, and look and see the gifts of Christ all around you. Remember that Christ sacrificed himself because of his love for each of us and that is a love so deep and so pure that it transcends all the stress, anxiety, and pain of this world. No matter what our lives look like from year to year, the one constant is that we are loved unconditionally by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 Luke 19: 38, RSV.
 Zechariah 9:9, NRSV.
 Luke 19: 37-38, RSV.
(based on Luke 19: 28-40)