Palm Sunday is a day known for celebration, pageantry and pomp and circumstance. Every year, the Sunday morning service kicks off with parents frantically trying to get that perfect picture of their child waving palm branches down the center aisle. The band always plays a little bit louder on this Sunday. We are celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus!
But something bothers me about Palm Sunday. It’s not the band, palm branches, or parents snapping shots of their kids. The thing that bothers me goes all the way back to the very first triumphal entry celebration- the one we find in the Bible. It’s a beautiful scene. People are singing, chanting, and dancing. But something doesn’t seem right. When I read this story, one question always pops into my head…
How did the people go from celebrating Jesus to demanding his death just a few days later?
What happened? On Sunday (many think it was probably Monday), the people are shouting in celebration, waving palm branches and throwing down their coats on the ground to honor Jesus. But five days later, Jesus is hanging on a cross.
Does that bother you? It bothers me. What in the world happened in those few days for such a dramatic turn around?
People shouted, “Hosanna!” in the streets as Jesus entered the city. Hosanna means “God save us!” This seems like a beautiful scene where the Savior, Jesus, is being welcomed by the people to fulfill his purpose on earth- to save people from their sins.
But that’s not what’s happening.
Hosanna actually means “God save us now!” If we look at other details of the story, it becomes even more clear. People waved palm branches and threw down their coats in the street. This had a very specific purpose. The palm branches were a symbol of victory. Solomon carved palm trees on the walls of the Temple (1 Kings 6:29). Also, they were all familiar with a man from the Old Testament named Jehu. Jehu was anointed king by God so he could overthrow the evil King Ahab. When Jehu was anointed, people threw their cloaks on the ground (2 Kings 9:13) and shouted, “Jehu is King!”.
During the triumphal entry, Jesus was entering the city of Jerusalem to begin the final act of His purpose here on this earth. But the people did not see it that way. For them, this was a political coup. This was a mob scene. They wanted war. And they shouted for Jesus to save them from the Roman Empire right then and there.
But that is not why Jesus came.
And when 1… 2… 3… 4… days passed and Jesus had not begun his political revolution, the people became angry. And an angry mob is never a good thing.
Hosanna is a beautiful word. It is used in the Bible and in modern worship songs. But I believe this word comes with a warning. Are we asking God to save us? Or are we demanding that He does something now! If I am honest with myself, I demand a lot of things from God without even realizing it. My prayers are more about delivering a set of demands. I tell God what He should be doing and how. I get frustrated when He doesn’t come through the way I thought He should.
And then it hits me. I’m no different than that crowd 2,000 years ago.
I think we all have our own “hosannas”- areas of our lives where we demand things of God but dress it up like prayer or worship. I am so guilty of this, I’m ashamed.
So, for this Holy Week, I am going to pay close attention to my prayers. Are they filled with “hosannas”? Or am I more interested in growing closer to God and falling in line with whatever He may be doing?
I am all about asking for God’s help and salvation. But I’m done with telling Him when to do it.
How about you? Are there “hosannas” in your life? Are you tempted to place demands on God? Why is it so hard to simply join Him in the purposes that He is already accomplishing in our world?