Final Week of Jesus 2020: Day 1
Palm Sunday is like the unofficial start to Spring. Flowers begin to bloom, little girls are wearing pastel dresses, and flashes of color are sprinkled throughout the stores. Well, at least that’s true most years. In 2020, everything is different. But this is when we need Holy Week more than ever! We need Hope. We need to connect with a story that overcomes the pain and suffering of life and replaces it with Love and grace. I invite you to take the next 7 days and join me as we look at the final week of Jesus.
Celebration of a King
Two thousand years ago, excitement filled Jerusalem as Jesus entered the city. Crowds of people threw coats on the ground, waved palm branches, and shouted, “Hosanna!” But why? Jesus had been traveling the countryside for three years, teaching and performing miracles. There were always crowds around, but this time was different. It was a celebration.
Today, our schools focus on Math, Science, and English. Our children study a wide range of subjects and topics to receive a well-balanced education. In the time of Jesus, education was mainly dedicated to the Old Testament Scripture. Children spent years learning the Law and the teachings of the prophets. So, every Jewish citizen was familiar with a prophecy about the Messiah. A prophecy that told them what to look for and how they would know He had arrived.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. -Zechariah 9:9
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, He was riding a colt.
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me… The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. -Matthew 21:1-7
Jesus was making a statement: I am your King. I am Messiah. And the people were ALL IN!
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” -Matthew 21:8-9
The crowds are shouting and praising Jesus as He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I’m sure it was quite the spectacle (enough to get Rome’s attention! #foreshadowing). But what was really going on? Why the shouting and palm branches? Because there was something else going on under the surface. And it all comes down to the word, Hosanna.
There is a special passage in the Psalms that is used during several feasts and worship gatherings still to this day. It’s found in Psalm 113-118 and is called the Hallel. During the Feast of Tabernacles, crowds would recite the Hallel and wave large palm branches. As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people were quoting from Psalm 118.
Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. -Psalm 118:25-26
In the Old Testament, people would shout the Hebrew word, Yasha! During the time of Jesus, it was translated to the Greek: Hosanna! Lord, save us! Today, we use Hosanna as a term of praise, but in the Bible, it was a cry for help. It was an exclamation. The King James Version of Psalm 118 sheds more light: Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity (Psalm 118:25).
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds were shouting, “Lord, save us… now!” The Jewish people, God’s chosen people, were under Roman rule and authority. They believed the Messiah would come to overthrow Rome and set up a new Jewish nation. For them, salvation was not spiritual or eternal. It was a military and political act of war. They had witnessed the miracles of Jesus to heal the sick and raise the dead. Now they expected Him to use that power to destroy Rome and raise up Israel. Save us, now!
Even though these events took place two thousands years ago, I can clearly see myself in the story. Speaking of stories, here’s one from my own life that I haven’t wanted to share, but I think you should know:
Four years ago, I was serving as youth pastor at a church in Alabama. My wife and I were born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, but we felt God was calling us there for a season. After several years and a new baby, we knew it was time to go back home. Since then, I haven’t had one full-time position at a church… and not because I haven’t tried. For four years, I have applied to job after job. I’ll pray about an opportunity. I have peace about the position. But… nothing. I lost count somewhere around 30. I think the amount of churches I’ve applied to is now closer to 50 in that timeframe. I have a Master’s degree. Faithful podcast listeners send me regular messages telling me how much they enjoy my teaching. Yet, out of 50+ applications, I’ve never even scored a face-to-face interview. I’ve had one follow-up with an email questionnaire and one phone interview. That’s it. (Full disclosure, I did work part-time for a church during this time, but I knew that pastor for over a decade, didn’t even have a formal interview, and worked in a tech position outside of my passions or gifts. More of a “Hey, we need somebody. Wanna help out for a bit?”)
Higher Than Our Ways
I’ll be honest, this has been one of my greatest struggles over the past few years. I have been frustrated with myself, frustrated with God, and fighting depression over it. I’ve questioned my calling and felt like a failure. I feel lost. I’ve wondered if God is punishing me, or worse, ignoring me.
Then, I’m reminded of a verse in Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9
When you’re lost in the real world (driving, hiking, etc), it always helps to get higher. The higher you are, the better you can see the path ahead of you. The same is true in our spiritual lives. God’s ways are always higher than our ways. When we’re confused, He sees things clearly.
The people of Israel were shouting for salvation, right then and there. They had no idea that Jesus was focused on a greater Salvation that would heal all of humanity. How many times in our own lives do we shout, “Lord save us!” and expect it to happen now? When it comes to those church jobs, that’s what I’ve been doing. But God’s ways are higher than our ways. He sees the whole picture. Maybe God isn’t punishing me, but pushing me towards the best He has planned for my life.
Our Hosanna Moments
The same is true for you. Have you ever had a “Lord, save me now!” moment? There is nothing wrong with praying that. The problem is the people were putting expectations on God when they didn’t know the whole picture. If Jesus would have saved the people the way they wanted, you and I could not experience Hope today.
Let’s continue to shout, Hosanna, God save us! But let us do it from a place of humility before God, trusting Him to see the bigger picture and show us His plan when He’s ready.
- What was your most recent “God save me, now!” moment? How did you respond? How did God?
- How can we approach future “Hosanna moments”? Should we respond differently?
- What’s an area of your life where you have experienced frustration, but when you put it through the lens of Isaiah 55:8-9, think God could be doing something better than you planned?