The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John 12:1-18
As some of you know on Saturday evenings after Great Vespers we have made a habit of having question and answer time for our parishioners. This time after Vespers is lovingly called “Stump the priest”.
Now during one of these sessions I was asked “What is the meaning of Hosanna?” As we just heard the gospel reading we remember that the people were all shouting “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” to Our Lord Jesus Christ as He is entering into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. Hosanna is a term that we are all familiar with from Palm Sunday but what does it actually mean? I certainly didn’t know at the time so I had to look it up. Basically it is an expression that means “Save us, I pray” or I pray that you will save us.
So this was the cry of all the people following Jesus. They were begging him to be saved. They were calling Him blessed. Just a while earlier they had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and they were convinced that this Jesus was someone special…Yet we see how quickly things can change in a matter of days.
As we fast forward to the evening of Holy Thursday and Holy Friday we remember that Our Lord is brought to trial illegally, in the middle of the night and the people, the same people who witnessed Christs many miracles and heard His life-giving teaching and cried out to Him “Hosanna!” These same people, will all cry “Crucify Him!” What’s worse is that not one will stand up for him, His disciples will all quietly distance themselves from Him or worse yet they will betray Him.
Today’s Feast is a reminder that we are the people who have cried “Hosanna” and we are also the people who have shouted “Crucify Him”, we are both. We are those who cry “Hosanna” whenever we are in need or feel threatened or feel like we’re losing control of our lives, often these are the only times we will pray and ask God to have mercy on us and save us out of the depths of our despair. But when hard times pass we forget God and all that He has done for us. Sometimes we have the opportunity to honor God in our lives and in our work. We can credit Him with our successes….but do we? Instead we credit ourselves, our hard work, our intelligence with everything good in our lives.
We can honor God by living according to the teachings of Jesus. But when we ignore those teachings and go our own way it is the equivalent of casting Jesus aside as the people did when He was brought before Pontius Pilate. It is as if we are saying “What do we care what happens to this man…..as long as He doesn’t cramp my style, as long I can live my own life.” Worse yet some folks even stop believing in God when they don’t get their way. They become like children in the midst of a tantrum. This is what happened 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. The people were offended by God because He did not fit neatly into their world view or their plans and so the cries of Hosanna quickly turned to cries of “Crucify Him.” It’s the same for each of us This is our reminder that we are sinful people in need of a great redeemer.
Our Lord Jesus Christ displays His great love for us in this holiest of weeks because He hears our cries of “Hosanna” and our cries to crucify Him. And in His great love for mankind He allows Himself to be crucified when we’re against Him in order to do precisely what we had begged Him to do while we were on His side….We had cried out to be saved and He didn’t forget. He will carry our cries of Hosanna to the place where He can actually fulfill them.
He loves us so much that He will use sin against sin. He will use the sin of the people, our sin to break the bonds of sin forever. And in breaking the bonds of sin, He will answer our petitions and will truly save us. He will do all of this not because we have done anything to deserve it, but through His grace and love for humanity. Grace is Christ crucified for each and every human who has ever been conceived, ever been born, ever lived or ever died.
So in all of this when Christ is going to the cross He has not forgotten our cries for help, or our cries for a savior…..and He will answer these cries before the week is out when He will breathe His last breath and bow His head saying “It is finished.”
May this week’s journey to the cross and the empty tomb be filled with joy and blessings for each of you. And Glory be to God forever and ever…….AMEN.
Adapted from a sermon preached on 3-28-10
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