The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John 12:1-18
We are now entering into the busiest week in the life of the Church. This is the week where we witness the turning point to the greatest story of the human race. Throughout this week we will hear many gospel passages and accounts from the Holy Scriptures. Each one of these stories is rich with meaning. As Christians one of the worst things that can happen to us is that we lose our sense of wonder.
We hear the same stories year after year and we stop thinking about them. We hear the words but we don’t let the words sink in. We don’t allow the words to become a part of us. Our Lord tells us that we won’t inherit the kingdom unless we become like little children. One of the places where children naturally excel is in their ability to approach the world around them with a sense of wonder. St. Gregory of Nyssa says “Wonder makes us fall to our knees.” Today we hear the story of the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We know the story, but can the story still amaze us. Can it leave us with a sense of awe and wonder?
As the Lord enters Jerusalem the people are shouting a word we have not heard anywhere else in the gospels. What is this word they shouted? “Hosanna!” Have we ever stopped to ask “what does this word mean?” The people were all shouting “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” to Jesus Christ as He entered into the city on a donkey. Hosanna is a term that we are all familiar with but what does it actually mean? Basically it is an expression that means “Save us, we pray” or we pray that you will save us. Now it is interesting that one of the only times this concept is clearly mentioned in the Scriptures it is in Psalm 118:20-27, where we read these words,
“This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, make us prosper! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!” Psa 118:20-27
So this was the cry of all the people following Jesus. They were begging Him to be saved. They were calling Him blessed. But we are amazed that King David who wrote the psalms long before the birth of Jesus, mentions some very important points. He mentions that the Lord will enter through a gate. He mentions that the Lord who is the cornerstone of the Church, will in fact be rejected. And then in conclusion he mentions says “Bind the festal sacrifice with cords up to the altar.” By the grace of the Holy Spirit, David spoke these words and they are a wonderful reminder that what we are hearing about today and the rest of this week is not simply a 2000 year old story. It is a story that God had prepared even before the foundations of the universe. Today we celebrate the entry into Jerusalem but King David speaking through the Holy Spirit, tells us the true purpose of this entry into Jerusalem. Christ will become our sacrifice.
These people are like us. They are in dire need of a savior. They cry out to Our Lord “Hosanna!”, “Save us!” and in the midst of all of this, Our Lord will not ignore these cries. He will save us in a way we could never imagine or expect. 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 Christ’s 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 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 deny God. We are ashamed of His teachings and His words.
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.” They become like children in the midst of a tantrum. This is what happened 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. The people were offended by Christ because He did not fit neatly into their worldview 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 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 will become the sacrifice. He will use the sin of the people, our sin to break the bonds of sin and spiritual death forever. He will do all of this, not because we have done anything to deserve it, but through His grace and love for us. Grace is Christ crucified for each and every human who has ever been conceived, ever been born, ever lived or ever died.
Christ is going to the cross and He has not forgotten our cries for help, or our cries for a savior. 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 wonder to the glory of God, forever and ever…….AMEN.