Holy Week 2014 – Devotion 2 – Hosanna!


They took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord — the King of Israel!”  –  John 12:13

The word of his deeds spread quickly among the Hebrew people.  When they learned that he was coming to Jerusalem, they decided to greet him as if he were a king.  They lined the streets, and as he passed triumphantly through the city, they waved palm branches in his honor — a symbol of victory.  They sang out to him the conqueror’s psalm:  “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Psalm 118:25-26).  The date was 141 B.C.  The subject of the Hebrew people’s adoration was Simon Maccabeus.

Simon Maccabeus was a prominent figure in the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire.  The Seleucid leader, Antiochus Epiphanes, precipitated the revolt by building an altar to Zeus in the Jewish Temple.  Although the revolt began as a guerrilla campaign, it grew into a lengthy military conflict, which ended only after the Jewish army, under Simon’s command, destroyed the Seleucid fortress at Acra.  With the fall of Acra, Israel gained independence from the Seleucid Empire.  The people of Jerusalem heralded Simon “with praise and palm branches . . . and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.”  (I Maccabees 13:51).

On Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  We celebrate the occasion by waving palm branches and singing, “Hosanna!”  We may think that“Hosanna!” means something like “Hallelujah!” or “Praise Him!”  Actually, the Hebrew word “Hosanna!” meant “Save us!”  When the Jews who lined the streets of Jerusalem sang “Hosanna!,” they were saying, “Jesus, save us from the Romans!”  The Jewish people were not looking for someone to save them from their sins.  They were looking for the next Simon Maccabeus.  They were looking for a king.

We may ourselves occasionally fall into the trap of thinking of Jesus as a cosmic superhero who will do whatever we may ask him to do.  Jesus, however, is not in the business of defeating foreign armies, winning athletic contests, or granting material wealth.  He is in the business of saving souls.  Jesus was not the political king whom the Jewish people were seeking.  He is instead the King of Kings.

O God, we are desperate for your grace.  We are desperate to know the joy of your kingdom.  Save us!  Amen.


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