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Palm Sunday

March 14, 2005

Matthew 21:1-11

Well, this week we move out of the Gospel of John. Not a moment too soon, either. Not that I don’t like John, it’s just that the passages are so loooooooong that just the scripture readings made me want for a beverage. From Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones to Willie’s pulpit of dry mouth.

So Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey or two (re-read verse 7; I want to see someone try THAT) and a great crowd gathers to welcome him as a king. This move stands in sharp contrast to the passion story, in which the title of “king” is used to mock him. Is this the same crowd who would later turn on Jesus, calling for his death? Or is it a crowd of the downtrodden, the outcast, the sick and the poor who loved Jesus because he treated them like humans, while a crowd who is satisfied with the status quo calls for him to die? Is this story maybe just a dramatic element added by the gospel writer in order to show how we humans have a tendency to adore God one minute and despise God the next?

And what’s with this “Hosanna” business? One might expect that to be a kingly title or something the way we use it in church these days, but it actually means, “save us, we pray,” or “liberate us, free us, we pray” or something like that. That doesn’t seem like praise to a king, it seems like a desperate cry for help. That sure colors the way I read the text now, just thinking about it.

So these folks call out for Jesus to save them, to liberate them, to free them. And he doesn’t. He gets killed.

I wouldn’t start preaching Easter too early. I might play with this tension, allowing the church to get into the supreme disappointment of having very high, very specific expectations of Christ – expectations that don’t get met, or at least not met in the ways we would prefer. When these folks called out for Jesus to deliver them, they had something very specific in mind – something that Jesus didn’t deliver. We expect and even demand salvation, freedom, liberation on our own terms without realizing that God’s ways are not our ways (or more specifically, we can’t really say my way or the highway to God. I mean, we do, but God just doesn’t work that way.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Willie permalink
    March 18, 2005 2:55 pm

    Re: HOSANNA. The Harper-Collins Study Bible writes that Hosanna literally means “save us,” but comments that in this passage it is simply an act of praise. I can’t help but question that. It doesn’t sound much like “Savior, Savior,” which is an act of praise because it references an act of salvation in a past or present tense. “Hosanna” seems imperative in nature, a hope for the immediate future; a statement of faith about what can be done rather than an act of praise over what has already been done or is being done now.

    The New Interpreter’s Study Bible gives a different explanation, offering only the literal translation of the word Hosanna. The New Interpreter’s also points out the irony of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, calling it a parody of a typical triumphal leader’s entry on a warhorse.

    He makes a ridiculous, almost comical entry into Jerusalem while those in need of liberation cry out to be saved; then he challenges both the ecclesial and the governmental authorities, and is killed for it.

    So if we call this a “triumphal entry,” for whom is it a triumph and why?

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