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Expectant travelers . . .

on the road strewn with palm branches.

Jesus and his disciples are making their way across the Mount of Olives, on their way to Jerusalem. But they are not the only ones on the road some 2000 years ago.

Many are traveling, some from great distances over many days to get to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover that early Spring. As the Jewish pilgrims journey, they sing psalms--they worship and remember. The Songs of Ascent1 Psalms 120 to 134, capture the hearts of the people as they travel to the beloved city of Jerusalem and the revered Temple where they will offer a sacrifice and study.

Take a look at just a few verses from Psalm 121 ~

I lift up my eyes to the mountains-

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord , the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip-

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.2

They have no idea how different Passover this year would be! You see, as they traveled toward Jerusalem, the Lamb of God was also making his way to Jerusalem, and to the cross. He stops on the eastern slope on the Mount of Olives almost to Bethphage, where Matthew describes a familiar story:

"Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to Daughter Zion,' See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'"

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."3

'Hosanna, hosanna . . .' the townspeople are waving their palm branches and saying 'hosanna' to Jesus. [steep Palm Sunday path is pictured on the Mt. of Olives today] Hosanna is a Christianized form of the Hebrew word Hoshana. It is a combination of the words Yahsha (help, succor, rescue, save, deliver) and na (please, I pray now, I beseech you). In the Jewish context, it was originally a cry to God for help, "Save, please!"4 but later on it took on a broader meaning. Over the centuries the phrase hoshiya na stopped being a cry for help unique to the language of the Jews. Instead it became a shout of hope and exultation. Gradually it came to mean, "Salvation has come!"

When Jesus was in the center of the procession as he entered Jerusalem, the people all around him were shouting, "Salvation has come! Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Praise God in highest heaven!" It is the excitement of a heart that sees hope and joy and salvation on the way and can't keep it in. So "Hosanna!" means, "Hooray for salvation! It's coming! It's here! Jesus is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!"

Jesus knew his time had come, even as he rode on the back of that donkey ... within days would be his agonizing death, yet he received the praise of this people.

What must have been in his eyes

as he looked at those who waved palm branches this day,

knowing some of the same would yell 'crucify him' very soon?

Surely his expressive eyes held a mixture of love,

pain, compassion and mercy looking at the crown of his creation.

Such love. And in the next breath, I think of John's later written words,

'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power;

For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.' 5

Consider Jesus' eyes. They never miss a thing - not a blind man hundreds had passed by,6 nor a tear that rolls down your cheek7, nor a kindly thing you do for other8. . . not the look of love in those who cried 'Hosanna'. Are you ready to receive the King as he is riding toward you? It is almost Palm Sunday, you know, He's coming!

This song gets me every time: Hosanna - live from Israel:


p.s. May I encourage you to find a church to worship the Lord this Sunday, this Palm Sunday?

1 - Songs of Ascent, Got Questions?

2 - Psalm 121.1-4, NIV

3 - Matthew 21.1-11

4 - Psalm 118:25

5 - Revelation 4.11

6 - John 9.1

7 - Psalm 56.8

8 - Matthew 25.40

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