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Hosanna! Matthew 21:1-11

It’s Palm Sunday – we are in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, the “Passion Week”.

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem he was approached by two blind men who pleaded with him to heal their blindness. Jesus had compassion on them and healed them, and they followed him.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem he had his disciples get a young unbroken donkey for him to ride on and enter Jerusalem. But why get a ride just at the entrance of the city? Was it because Jesus was tired?

No. The apostle Matthew says, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to Daughter Zion,‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” This quote is taken from the Old Testament in Zechariah 9:9. The context there is that the Lord was going to deliver his people from their oppressors (v.8), and he would remove chariots and warhorses from Ephraim and Jerusalem (v10). In contrast to the nations, in Israel kings rode donkeys. In a world filled with pride they were not to imitate the pagan kings, but in humility depend on their sovereign and good God. Horses were a temptation for Israel’s kings to go back to Egypt and imitate pagan ways, though God delivered them from their slavery there.

Jesus was born to be the King of Israel. He came to save his people from war and oppression. At that moment the people in Jerusalem didn’t know that he wasn’t exactly the kind of a king they were expecting. They desired and longed to be freed from the oppression of the Roman rule. And the kind of a king they had in mind was a military one.

But why did Jesus come into the world? In Matthew 1:21 we read that he was to be named “Jesus” - meaning the Lord saves, “because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus knew the work the Father gave him to do. He also knew how he was to accomplish it. He was obedient to his Father in his life all the way to the death on the cross. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

There was a very large crowd in Jerusalem, as people were coming together from everywhere to get ready for the annual Passover celebration. As Jesus was entering the city on a donkey, people were spreading their coats on the ground, while others were waving palm branches in celebration of their king. The crowds ahead and behind were shouting “hosanna to the Son of David…hosanna in the highest heaven”.

The word “Hosanna” is taken from the Old Testament, where it is only mentioned once, in Psalm 118:25 “LORD, save us!” In Hebrew, “hoshia-na” – in Greek “hosanna” – means “save, please” “save, now” or “salvation.” But we already saw that the people were not waiting for a Saviour from their sins, but a saviour from the military oppression of the Romans. By nature we’re at war with God and God with us because of our sin against him. And justification and peace with God may be gained only through faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Now, “The whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The answer they got is that he was a prophet from Nazareth. But as Nathaniel asked Philip in John 1:46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Jews were very suspicious about anything good coming from that town.

The people of Israel were blind as to what kind of salvation God was about to accomplish. He was planning to save from sin not only his chosen people but also his people out of all the nations of the world. In Zechariah 9:10 it says that when the Lord comes to save his people from war he will not only proclaim peace to them, but “he will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” The same people who were shouting “hosanna” - “save us, now” were going to shout “crucify him!” only five days after. The people are at war with God. No peace between God and men at that point.

The two blind men from chapter 20:29-34 shouted “have mercy on us…we want our sight.” They were healed and followed Jesus. This is the kind of shouting for mercy and healing of their blindness should have happened when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Only people in utter darkness of soul cannot see what they truly need. And that includes all of us by nature. These large crowds of religious people with all their leaders who in a few days were going to celebrate Passover - God’s salvation of Israel from the slavery in Egypt, were the very ones who needed another great salvation by their God, this time from their sins. But they could not see through their religious lenses that this Jesus was their true King, the Lord God, the only Saviour of Israel and of the world, all those who will call upon his name.

Do you and I see who Jesus truly is today? Do we see why did he come?

Pause. Ponder. And pray. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive [idolatrous] way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)