Some dates mark out for us a special turn in the year. New Year’s Day is the first of these. Our birthday is another - it may signify that we are ready to start school or retire from work.
In the Christian calendar, we tend to think of Christmas, Good Friday / Easter and Pentecost as major dates. They high- light major turning points in human history.
Within the story of Jesus, Palm Sunday was a major turn- ing-point. Jesus was the Messiah - God’s promised "anointed one". But he kept that a secret, referring to himself as "the Son of Man". When Peter declared him to be "the Messiah, the Son of the living God", Jesus asked his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah (Mt. 16.20).
Problem was that people hoped for a political Messiah who would oust the Romans and restore Israel as a nation. But that wasn’t why Jesus had come.
Palm Sunday was when Jesus publicly declared himself, deliberately fulfilling the words of the prophet, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech. 9.9). That was it - "gentle and riding on a donkey" - for he came humbly and in peace.
The crowds coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday were singing Psalm 118. We know this because snatches of it come into the gospel record.
"Hosanna" comes from the Hebrew of v. 25. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" is from v. 26. V. 27 reads, "With boughs in hand, join the festal procession up to the horns of the altar". Later in the temple, after the parable of the tenants, Jesus quoted v. 22, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone" (Lk. 20.17).
"Hosanna" comes from two Hebrew words in Psalm 118.25 and is translated "save, we pray" or "save now" or "please save" or just "save". We seem a bit unsure what the second word na really means. It has been called "a particle of entreaty".
Four years in North Queensland have convinced me that the most accurate translation for us is "save ay!"
These people had suffered indignity and oppression. Right now they had to pay heavy Roman taxes. This crowd who was looking to Jesus as Messiah was well aware of corruption in their leadership. They were also aware of their own deep spiritual need which this Jesus was beginning to fulfil.
"Hosanna! Save us ay! Lord, save us ay!"
The angel had said to Joseph, "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt. 1.21). Jesus himself said, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk. 19.10).
Come to him! Welcome him! Lord, save us ay! That’s the very reason he came into Jerusalem and submitted to the events that led to his crucifixion. That’s also the reason to welcome him into our lives.
© Peter J. Blackburn, Palm Sunday Rally, Ayr, 4 April 2004