THE IRONY OF HOSANNA

Hosanna

Hosanna Sunday or the ‘Palm Sunday’ marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, an act that set in motion the chain of events leading to his crucifixion a few days later. The contrast that this scene portrays could not be more extreme- on one hand we have the people chanting praise to God for the one who was to ‘save’ them, yet in Jesus we someone who hardly looked like a Savior!

7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21)

If the Jewish nation expected someone who was a dashing military leader who would whip up passion among his followers and draw elaborate political schemes to liberate Israel, Jesus was hardly that person. Perhaps the vacillating crowd in crying ‘Hosanna’ was trying to inspire Jesus to be who they wanted him to be. How they longed for someone who would rather ride a dashing horse into Jerusalem, with an armed guard in tow, crying murder to their Roman oppressors! Yet, here was a Savior who borrowed a young donkey for his stead, who preached non-violence and who spoke of another world to come.

In a world where people are preoccupied with many immediate concerns- be it chasing the material things, be it struggling against an apparently unjust society or living through pain, talk of the other world or of spiritual matters does not cut much ice. Yet, it is precisely the latter that stabilizes man to be able to face his immediate concerns. Not knowing who you are or where you are headed for ensures that any transient remedy for our immediate struggles will not last. Not being grounded in the spiritual world is to ensure failure in the physical world.

And so Jesus, the one who saves, as ‘Hosanna’ indicates was pointing toward a comprehensive salvation for man- one that is rooted in the spiritual, encompasses all dimensions of man and transcends time and space. Anything less would be no salvation at all. And so as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, an irony of sorts, the challenge being posed to the fickle crowd shouting ‘Hosanna’ was, “Are you willing to recognize Jesus for who he is? Are you willing to acknowledge him as a Savior who would save you from your sins, make you right before God and ground you for eternal life?”

The crowd wasn’t willing; and starting with false expectations, when all they got was disappointment, they turned around and crucified him. Jesus meets us today with that same question- are we willing to accept him for who he is or do we rather wish to make him what we want him to be? Hosanna Sunday invites us shun our worldly expectations of him- that of provider, keeper of tradition, political symbol, etc. and to recognize Jesus as he truly is- our Savior; who forgives us, cleanses us and makes us right with God as we give our lives to him- in faith and obedience.

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