Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

Sermon - 05/10/15 Hosanna

HOSANNA

Mark 11:1-11

Here we go!

 

The events of what we know of as “Holy Week” are about to begin. Jesus, his disciples and his group of followers are about to enter Jerusalem. Now remember, they have just left Jericho in the early morning and have been walking up to Jerusalem. Just as they approach the village, Jesus instructs two of his disciples to go ahead of them, into the village and when they enter the village they will find a colt tied up, which has never been ridden. They are to untie the colt and bring it back him. Jesus also instructs them that should anyone ask what it is they are doing, they are to tell them “The Lord needs it and will send it back shortly”. Low and behold, the two disciples go ahead, they find a donkey right where Jesus said they would, they are asked why they are taking it, and the response Jesus gives them is satisfactory. They return with the colt, just as Jesus asked.

 

Okay, when I read this, I think, how interesting. I immediately wonder what those two disciples were thinking when what Jesus told them to do, happened exactly as he said it would. We already know they are miles away from understanding exactly what is about to happen to Jesus, and this finding an unridden colt would feed right into their comprehension of Jesus coming as the Messiah, to save His people. Was Jesus finally revealing his Messianic Secret? Up to this point, the disciples have heard Jesus hushing people and telling those He has healed to keep quiet. Was it time for Jesus to declare his Kingdom? Remember, the disciples are assuming there will be a political victory of God’s Messiah. I wonder if these two disciples are hoping this could be the defining moment.

 

Look what happens next. The two disciples give the colt to Jesus, then they put their cloaks over it before Jesus gets on. Then everyone else in the group starts laying down their cloaks or cutting branches and laying those down on the road ahead of Jesus. Then everyone around Jesus starts shouting:

 

“Hosanna!

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!

Hosanna in the highest!”

 

When we read this it may look like the people are shouting praises and glorifying God, but in essence they are shouting for themselves to be liberated from the Romans because the word “Hosanna” in Hebrew means “Save us”.  If you go to Psalm 118 you will see this is a direct quote. All good and respectable Jewish people had memorized Psalm 118, a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies. In fact, by this time in Jewish history the phrase “Hosanna” had found its way into common day greetings and blessings.

 

So as the disciples are shouting, “Hosanna” what they were meaning in their words was, “O Lord save us, O Lord, grant us success.”

 

And it doesn’t stop there. It turns out Psalm 118 is the most quoted of all the psalms, in the New Testament.  But the part that is most quoted is not this verse with “Hosanna”. Instead, the most quoted part of Psalm 118 comes just before this part, where the psalmist talks about the stone the builders rejected, becoming the head of the corner of all.

 

The New Testament writers continually applied the image of Jesus being the rejected-stone.

 

There is a bit of irony here at the outset with the people shouting the words of Psalm 118 as Jesus enters Jerusalem, proclaiming him as Messiah, when within the very verse they are quoting, the idea of his being rejected was so vividly displayed. Does it begin to make sense that before the week is out, these same people will be shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion?

 

In fact, it is the very “rejection of the cornerstone” that brings salvation to the world, rather than the triumphant entry and its reception.

 

This controversial irony makes for a great theme for Hollywood. How many of you have seen the movie, “The Firm” based on John Grisham’s novel of the same title? The plot illustrates this irony quite well. In the movie, an exceptionally gifted young man, played by Tom Cruise, who is fresh out of law school lands a dream job with one of the most respected law firms in the country.

The partners in this firm greet him royally, wining and dining him, buying a house for him and his young wife, lavishing him with accolades and praises. It was a glorious start to his law career! But within months it becomes clear that most of those partners are criminals with connection to organized crime. The firm itself hired thugs to keep the partners in line and the cozy house they had bought for the young couple turned out to be loaded with hidden microphones that had recorded all their private conversations, lovemaking….everything.

 

Given how it turned out, it’s hard to imagine that in later years this man and his wife would look back fondly on those early days when the firm first hired him. It did not work out well and so there would be nothing good to look back on.

 

That is a human example.

However, we need to remember that with God,

anything is possible and

He is in the business of redeeming the horrible things in our lives.

 

As we read the Palm Sunday story, we need to remember that this event is the beginning of one of the biggest events in history. In fact, it rates right up there with the Big Bang. The very Son of God was about to be handed over to a group of humans who were prepared to betray, abuse and murder him. And all because they were afraid of him and didn’t want him to ruin the “good thing” they had going. You can bet that even the heavenly angels were watching with anticipation. For within a few days, God himself was going to be put to death.

 

And within this death the entire universe would turn dark,

But God’s plan would offer a complete reversal to the Light,

namely the resurrection.

 

Pretty heavy duty stuff was going on during this celebration of Passover.  Which brings me back to the disciples. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were a bit confused, and maybe even nervous and biting their nails as to what exactly was going on with Jesus.

 

 

Think about a time when you anticipated something big. Something that was so big, you really didn’t know exactly how it was going to play itself out.

 

Maybe you were going to pop the question and ask someone to marry you.

 

Maybe you were facing a major interview or a big exam.

 

Do you recall the knot in the pit of your stomach that may have been there for days before the actual event? Do you recall how tense you felt? How jumpy you were?  I think we can easily transfer that feeling back to the disciples as they are entering the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

 

Yet, we know the end of the story. The expectations of the disciples and followers did not materialize. In fact, even this entry ends in an anticlimactic note. The parade ends at the temple, they look around and since there is no one there, they leave and go out to Bethany.

 

Are you confused yet? As we have been going through the book of Mark I have been reminding you

that by having God become human

and come to earth

and live with us,

God turns everything we thought was one way,

upside-down.

And the very concept of salvation is no different.

 

The crowd that was with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem behaves like any human crowd would today. Their shouting of “Hosanna” which literally meant “Save us” is similar to what we cry out to God today, whenever we are in need of help. And when it looks like Jesus was not going to save them the crowd shouted, “Crucify Him”.

 

How often do we do this today, as well? God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we think they should have been answered and we get mad at him and ask, Where is God now? Why does he allow such things?

 

Yet the real miracle of this Holy week, from Palm Sunday to Easter is how God  uses the very destructive forces of human nature, that of self-centeredness, scapegoating and violence to bring about His redemption.

 

What sort of miracle is He working out in your life today? What destructive forces of human nature are at work in your life right now? Maybe the destruction has been caused by someone else, maybe it is a destruction of your own doing. No matter, whatever looks near to impossible and horrific in your worldly eyes,

when placed in the Master’s hands

can be redeemed?

 

So, whenever we come to a place in our life when we shout, “Hosanna”,

“Save Me”,

remember,

 

He did.

 

Let’s pray.