Avera Marshall Spiritual Care Department
So what exactly is Palm Sunday, and what's the big deal about it? "Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest.'" (Matthew 21:7-9)
What relevance does Christ's triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem have in my life as it relates to my personal problems, to my feelings, and within my relationships?
The Palm Sunday triumphant cry of "Hosanna" answers the most desperate need and cry of every human heart. The Hebrew equivalent for "Hosanna" occurs only once in Psalm 118:25 and is best interpreted as, "Save now, we pray!" Though it occurs only once, it is the heartfelt desire of all humanity.
"Hosanna" could be our cry in our bondage to our unhealthy addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, pornography or abusive relationships. Some of us could cry out "Hosanna" when we are overwhelmed with feelings of despair, depression or despondency or the feelings of anxiety, hopelessness or anger. Still others have the thoughts of "Hosanna" within our troubled marriage relationships, with our parental relationships, within our extended family relationships or within our professional-business relationships or our personal relationship with God.
Many people who cried out "Hosanna" on that first Palm Sunday expected this Jesus they called the Messiah would be strong, eloquent, intelligent, with military conquest, money and power, much like a Hollywood-type character, would ride in on a white stallion and set things straight in a military-like absolute way. Those expectations still exist when people ask questions like, "I prayed. Why didn't God give me what I want?" Or, "Why doesn't God heal me instead of punishing me with a terminal disease?" "If God can't stop a tsunami, earthquake or wars, why would I want to listen to anything else He has to say?" These very questions, let alone the expectation, illustrate a misunderstanding of God's relationship with us. For many people, their "Hosanna" comes from a theology of glory, where there are no earthly pains or sufferings, no disasters, only wealth and good health for God's people.
Yet, Christ's entrance into Jerusalem and actions within the temple itself was revealing God's redemptive relationship with all humanity through the message of the Cross. A donkey not a chariot, coats and palm leaves not red carpet or bricks of gold, healing regular people not the positioned or powerful, leading to a cross instead of a golden throne, coming to serve and give everything instead of being served.
The theology of the Cross is presented in Christ's triumphant, yet humble entrance into Jerusalem. God our suffering servant came to us in the midst of the brokenness of our lives, our hearts and our relationships. He came to answer our prayers: "Hosanna!" Christ came to bring spiritual, emotional and physical wholeness of body, mind and spirit. "Hosanna!" Christ comes through the humble means of sacred Scripture and sacraments bringing God's grace and forgiveness to us.
How did Christ answer our prayer: "Hosanna"? He himself is the answer. Christ's cry from the cross, "It is finished!" is an accounting term, meaning that our sinful debt had been paid in full. Justice had been satisfied by full payment of its penalty, and thus God could "be just, and the justifier of the person which believes in Jesus" (Rom 3:26). In other words, God in and through Christ crucified and risen is our Hosanna!