The entire biblical text and the reading below are meant to be read aloud in the company of friends and fellow believers, followed by discussion, confession, and prayer.
Sunday Lectionary Gospel Reading: Mat. 21:1-11
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”” (Matthew 21:1–11, ESV)
Hosanna means “Praise God! Save Us Now!” it is both a praise, cry for help. In this context it is being proclaimed to Israels hope for freedom, salvation and independence the Messiah. Little did the crowds know that in five days Jesus’ glorious throne would be the cross, his crown would be of thorns and rather than James and John sitting at his right and left it would be two thieves. To the Jew and the Greek he would be king of fools. The crowds shouting save us now thought they were the captives. They wanted this Messiah to come and rescue Israel from her enemies and establish His kingdom. To a greater or lesser degree they were saying “praise God you’re here to save us now (the good guys) religiously and politically from them (the bad guys). In five days Jesus would radically redefine what the true King and His Kingdom would look like.
What Jesus heard when the crowds spoke was “Die for us and restore our glory we are broken and we don’t know what we are doing”. For a merely religious Israelite living under the tyranny of Rome it might have never crossed their collective minds that Jesus would be saving Rome from the Jewish people and the Jewish people from Rome at the same time. But as we will see the story unfold during the passion the cries of the people of Jerusalem were the same cries of those who they hated. To Jesus the “us” in “save us” included the whole world. Today this side of the resurrection our Hosanna’s and hopes are much bigger and more complex than a simple us and them worldview. We like the disciples are humbled by praise and cry for help that comes from followers of Christ who find their own hearts to be the real enemy. Praise God! Save us now! is our cry everyday. But there is more involved in this Christ following life than crying out we must take the humble steps toward living it out as well. What do I need saving from today? Is it my political agendas and the divisions that come from them? Is it from my fickle and unfaithful heart? Or perhaps my idea of power and leadership comes from brute force rather than the cross?
Here are some questions for you to meditate on this week leading up to Easter…
Monday: If Jesus rode into your town on a Donkey today what would you lay down for him as King?
Tuesday: In what way has Jesus come into your town as King? How would people know it?
Wednesday: What areas in your life have you made a division of us and them? How does the Gospel effect this division?
Thursday: What do those in Matthew 21:1-11 what do they want saving from? When we ask God to save us what are we asking him to save us from? Are there any similarities?
Friday: Was Jerusalem ready for its coming king? Why or why not? In what ways are you ready? In what ways are you not ready?
Saturday: How is Jesus radically redefining what it means to be a king and have a kingdom?