Sing "Hosanna" to Your King!
Dear Jesus, as I with my fellow believers remember how You rode into Jerusalem to die, prepare our hearts for proper meditation and worship this Holy Week. Move each of us to look to You for the strength our faith needs to follow You in all things and to celebrate the joy of our salvation. Teach us to lay aside our sin and whatever would draw us away from You. Bless us in our worship this morning and always. Amen.
On Palm Sunday, the people honored Jesus as a king by laying their clothes and palm branches along the way. More importantly, we prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts by repentance and the laying aside of our sins (John the Baptist’s message foretold by Isaiah). We are like grass and flowers, that is, weak and only here for a short time. Jesus is our victorious Lord and gentle Shepherd. His Word and salvation endure forever! Therefore, climb to the top of the highest mountain and proclaim His praise to all the world!
Events are building to a climax: On the Saturday, Mary honors Jesus by anointing His feet with fragrant oil. Judas disapproves. The hatred of Jesus’ enemies has become so great and has blinded them so much that they even plot to kill Lazarus. Then on Sunday the city was filled with excitement as Jesus entered on a donkey. The Pharisees were angry, the people joyful, and Jesus ready to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.
Text: Hebrews 12:1-6
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
In the name of Christ Jesus to whom we give all glory, honor and praise; and in whom we trust to help in every trouble—dear fellow-redeemed:
"Hosanna to the Son of David…Hosanna in the highest!” were the words of praise that echoed throughout Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.
“Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest” are the words we sing each month when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and use our Communion liturgy.
When the crowds shouted "Hosanna" on the first Palm Sunday they really didn’t know how this week would end. Many of them probably had dreams of how they would like to see the coming days unfold. Many may have had their own ideas of how Jesus could be their king, but none would have dreamed the events that are coming on Friday.
We have the joy of knowing how this story ends. As we celebrate Palm Sunday there is no reason to pretend that we don’t know about Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. We have the joy of celebrating what took place on Palm Sunday with the added blessing of knowing how Jesus’ work was completed.
With the blessing of hindsight and God’s recorded words of the New Testament, we can shout "hosannas" to our King in the fullest of ways because by God’s grace we know the fullness of His glory.
"Hosanna" is a Hebrew word which literally means "save now!" (It is used in Psalm 118). Hosanna began as a plea for deliverance and help. Because a plea for deliverance would go out from someone who was in need to someone who was greater and able to help in that need, "Hosanna" became a word of praise and honor given from an individual of lower status to someone of greater status. Therefore, "Hosanna" has a double-meaning: "Save now!" and "Glory, praise, and honor be to you!" Both of these meanings can rightfully be addressed from us to Jesus our King, and we do so this morning as we "SING HOSANNA TO OUR KING!" I. PRAISE be to You, O Jesus, for Your strength has won the victory! and II. SAVEme, O Jesus, for my weakness would lead to defeat!"
As we hear the events of the first Palm Sunday and again consider them in our hearts, "STRENGTH" is not a word that immediately comes to mind. Sure, we could probably see “strength” in a crowd of people—a HUGE crowd of people going in front of Jesus and following behind. We could seestrength in all of those voices raised to praise Jesus, the palms and the clothes laid on the road for His donkey to pass. But strength in a king would mean royal robes. It wouldn’t mean just a crowd of people, it would be a delegation of his own best servants and the highly honored attendants of his court who would be closest to the king in the parade. The king would be riding a steed of the utmost quality. His would be a royal steed with glistening coat and bulging muscles that would snort and stomp on the ground ready at any moment to show its STRENGTH and break forth in a burst of speed!
Where is the strength when we see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s cold—a poor man’s animal, no shining coat, no snorting, no stomping, no royal robes, no regally clothed servants and attendants…just 12 disciples who were common laborers and some even despised, a crowd of ordinary citizens, and a man atop a dusty donkey.
The strength of Jesus is not immediately evident in the appearance of His ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He is strong, not in appearance as a captain or general or a king might be in earthly terms. He is strong as the "Captain of our Salvation." Earlier in Hebrews we read, “It was fitting for Him [God], for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation [Jesus]perfect through sufferings”(Hebrews 2:10).
Jesus is the captain of our salvation but made perfect through suffering and not the kinds of things that would normally be equated with strength. Jesus, the captain of our salvation, dictates how that strength will show itself. It is not going to be shown in the same way as an earthly general going coming home from battle in all of his glory. No, Jesus is the captain of our SALVATION and King of our souls. His strength will show itself in relation to our salvation from sin. The STRENGTH of our King is demonstrated in every way and at every time He did what was necessary for our salvation
We hear in our text, "[Jesus], for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [v.2b] These words describe what would come in the days following Palm Sunday—the shame, the suffering, and the death. Jesus was entering Jerusalem to be the captain of our salvation. God had planned-out our salvation and prophesied and promised that this is how our salvation would be accomplished. He would send His Son who would come like one of us, take our place, and be sacrificed in our stead. THIS is what Jesus came to do. By fulfilling the promises of God, Jesus demonstrates STRENGTH to win salvation for our souls.
You may recall how (many generations before Jesus was born) the Passover lamb was sacrificed in Egypt during the days of the plagues. God said He would strike and kill all the first born in the land, but for those who listened and heeded His word there was a rescue from the death of the 10thplague. God commanded that a spotless lamb be chosen, killed on the appointed day, roasted whole, eaten with bitter herbs, and its blood painted on the door posts of the house. Wherever God saw the blood painted on the door posts, He would pass over that house and not strike the first born. The blood of that lamb saved the lives in that household.
God commanded that the Passover meal be celebrated every year as a remembrance of how He delivered Israel from death and from their bondage in Egypt. Both in the original Passover and in all the ones thereafter, God commanded that the Passover lamb be chosen on the 10thday of the month and that the Passover be celebrated on the 14th day. The Passover during Jesus’ last week on earth was celebrated on Thursday. Counting back from Thursday, Sunday was the day for choosing the lamb.
It was Sunday. A lamb for sacrifice had to be chosen. Jesus chose Himself. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem He was choosing Himself as the Lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. He was and is the "Lamb of God who rode into Jerusalem to die for our sins. There is STRENGTH, for Jesus came to fulfill every word of God’s promises to bring salvation. The Captain of our Salvation demonstrated strength in presenting Himself as a sacrifice for us!
As we consider all of the remaining events of Holy Week, and not only that but everything throughout His life and ministry we find the same STRENGTH demonstrated again and again. This is not STRENGTH in what we see with our eyes, but STRENGTH toward our salvation!
Jesus, the Son of God, eternal and all-powerful became our servant. Is that STRENGTH or WEAKNESS? If you are stronger than someone else, is it easier to show that strength for your satisfaction; or is it easier to withhold that strength for the benefit of someone else…EVEN IF it makes you lookWEAK and opens yourself to ridicule because of it? Jesus demonstrated STRENGTH by His willingness to become our lowly Savior, to take our place, to ride into Jerusalem in lowly fashion, not displaying the strength that was truly His.
Jesus quietly and silently endured the mock trials before Annas, Caiphas, Pilate, and Herod. He endured the false witnesses, the harsh words, and the crucifixion. If you are verbally under attack does it take more strength to lash out with an equal or greater firestorm of words; or does it take more strength to set aside selfish ambitions, ego, and pride and not seek revenge?
Does it take more strength to shout and yell what YOU want, or to be able to calmly, clearly, and effectively speak? Jesus’ didn’t yell, scream, or get angry at Peter when Peter denied Him. Just one look from Peter’s Savior said it all. It was the strength of Jesus’ Word in the preaching and instruction which Jesus had given Peter and the others in the days, weeks, months, and years before.
To have the power, the glory, and the authority which would enable you to "lord it over" others and then NOT use it in that way…to be truly right in everything you do and in all the words you speak and still NOT defend yourself or retaliate when you yourself and everything you’ve ever said is under attack, is going to make a person LOOK WEAK. However, this is not a sign of weakness it is really a sign of STRENGTH!
It takes no spiritual muscle at all to follow the world. In fact, the world and all of its deceptions will give you a free ride, doing all the "work" for you as long as you want to follow where it wants to take you. It takes STRENGTH to follow God’s will against the world. Not only did Jesus follow the will of God to accomplish our salvation, He DEFEATED the world, He conquered SIN, He prevailed over the Devil, and He triumphed over DEATH.
After conquering our enemies Jesus was glorified by the Father. In Ephesians we read, "[God] raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:20b-23). When the work of salvation was complete God showered full honor and glory and authority on His Son. We can now see THAT strength through the eyes of faith. GONE is the lowliness! GONE is the submission under the law to be our Savior! NOW we have a resurrected glorified Savior who saw the joy of our salvation and came in STRENGTH to accomplish that salvation and win for us eternal life. He is NOW seated at the right hand of God using ALL POWER to govern the earth for the salvation and spiritual blessing of souls.
STRENGTH lies in accomplishing salvation. When Paul prayed many times asking God to remove the "thorn in his flesh," God’s answer was: “My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In order for Paul’s own salvation and the salvation of the souls to whom Paul was ministering, it was better for him to be physically weakened by that "thorn" but STRONG because it was accomplishing God’s will.
Jesus’ STRENGTH has won for Him the victory which He gives to us. As we heard in the Old Testament lesson: “The Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him. Behold! His reward is with Him.”(Isaiah 40:10). The "reward" is the forgiveness for every one of your sins because Jesus went to the cross to be your Savior.
Seeing Jesus enter into Jerusalem to be our Savior, and knowing all the events that follow in Holy Week, and knowing how all these things were necessary for our salvation, we can (and do!) rightfully give Him all praise, glory, and honor. In Revelation, the praise and glory is given to Jesus in these words: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"(Revelation 5:12); or to put it another way, in today’s word: "HOSANNA!!"
In Psalm 118 where we find the word "Hosanna" in the context of asking for help, the psalmist writes, “Save now I pray, O Lord…” (Psalm 118:25). The prayer for deliverance goes out to Jehovah the God of our salvation, the God of strength who does all things to accomplish our salvation.
We need to call out to our strong Lord of salvation because left to ourselves we have weaknesses which would surely destroy us. In the first verse of the text, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” [v.1]
We are the weak ones who need to set aside the weight, avoid the traps that seek to ensnare us, to run with endurance and not grow tired. If left to ourselves we will surely fail. WE are the ones who have the weight and find it hard to bear. WE are the ones who are tempted by sin and fall into it being ensnared by it. WE are the ones who grow weary in doing good, grow weary in upholding the faith, grow weary in resisting the temptation to follow the world. WE are the ones with the weaknesses and failings that are dangerous to our souls!
How can we lay aside this weight and the sin that ensnares us? By looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! Had Jesus our Lord of salvation not helped us in the first place we wouldn’t have anything…we wouldn’t be where we are today. That same Lord and Savior who created faith, who began it in us through His Word, who gave made it possible through his death and resurrection, is the same Lord Jesus who is going to bring it to completion. As Paul says in Philippians, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Continuing in our text, "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” [vv.3-4] Keep the joy of salvation at heart. We have NOT experienced these things to the point of bloodshed as did Jesus. Consider Jesus who endured all this for the JOY of giving YOU salvation! CONSIDER JESUS who was able to do this through the STRENGTH of this salvation and the desire to provide it to sinners. This same salvation will give you also the strength to persevere and endure.
Another pitfall to which our weakness might lead us is as the writer to the Hebrews says: “You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” [vv.5-6]
Not everything is perfect in this life and not every trouble disappears immediately when we cry to Him for help. When the Lord allows things to come into our lives it is not punishment for a specific sin we have done. God allows those things to come as a way of strengthening us—chastisement, to correct, to rebuke where we have done wrong, to steer us in the right direction, to "shore us up" so we don’t fall back into our own weakness.
This correction comes out of LOVE. We do not dare to forget this. If we forget that the Lord’s chastisement comes out of love that WILL drag us down, that will harm our endurance if we go through this life concluding: "This must mean God hates me." Or "Why is God doing this always to me??" The answer is that He is doing it out of love (even though it may be hard to see) and with that knowledge we are able to persevere knowing that He will bless us in this way.
This chastisement does at times rebuke and correct. At other times it may not be so much a correction or rebuke as it is allowing a struggle to learn, to grow, to be strengthened. Consider the love of a father to a son (the comparison is made in the text): Sometimes the father will allow his son to struggle. The son didn’t disobey the father. The son hadn’t been acting foolishly or living dangerously. Yet, the father lets his son struggle so that the son will better appreciate the reward of labor and the knowledge that comes with working through a problem on your own. A wise father doesn’t leave his son without direction. He gives good counsel and then lets the son put that guidance into action. A caring father would not let his son struggle in a way that would be dangerous or harmful to him and while the son is struggling the Father is still watching and ready to step-in and help if the struggle becomes too great or dangerous. Likewise, when our heavenly Father allows chastisement to come into our lives it may be to have us struggle so that we rely on Him all the more, but He provides guidance in His Word and He is always watching and ready to step-in to help and rescue us so that no harm comes.
God allows chastisement to come so that we are built up in spiritual strength. God allows chastisement not just to correct but to instruct, to teach, and to help.
Everything points to our weaknesses and the need for strength. The same Lord whom we praise for His STRENGTH is there to hear our CRY FOR HELP and give US strength.
When the disciples thought they were drowning on the Sea of Galilee, they cried out to Jesus saying, “Lord save us! We are perishing!” (Matthew 8:25). We too can cry out with a similar plea whenever we are fearful or in need. We too can cry out, "HOSANNA! – Lord HELP ME!!"
We have every reason to cry out "HOSANNA" in praise to our Lord, and we have every reason to cry out "HOSANNA, Lord HELP!" So not just today, but every day under God’s grace cry out and sing:
"Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!" AMEN!
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt