8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
After World War I, aviation was in its infancy, and the new air ports were just beginning to use another new invention: radio. Planes carrying cargo and mail ferried around Europe and the US, and the pilots used radio to stay in touch with ground crews and to help navigate to their destinations. In that time of burgeoning air flight, if a pilot had a problem with his plane, he would call on his radio and hope someone at a nearby airport or city would hear his call. In the early 1920’s, an enterprising radio operator at an English airport noticed that since European pilots spoke so many different languages, it was hard to tell when a foreign-language pilot was calling for help. So, the fellow came up with a standard phrase that soon became the universal call sign for seeking help: “Mayday.” We spell it “mayday” now, but the word actually comes from the French “Venez m’aider”–“Come to help me.” Or simply “M’aidez”–“Help me!”
When Jesus came to enter Jerusalem for the final time, word of His healings and miracles traveled before Him. Each of the four Gospels record the event pretty much the same, and all agree that as Jesus rode into the city of David, crowds of people flocked to see Him and cried out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” And three of the Gospels record that the people also called out “Hosanna!”
Scholars don’t all agree on the exact origin and meaning of the word “Hosanna.” The standard interpretation is that it comes from two Hebrew words that mean “Save now.” Since three Gospels all record the word in connection with “Blessed is He…”, that translation would make sense.
25 Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
Many in that crowd were undoubtedly acclaiming Jesus as the coming king of Israel, the temporal heir to David’s throne. Their cry was both an exclamation of joy and a call for help. “Save now!” they cried, hoping that Jesus came to throw off the yoke of Roman bondage. But Jesus did not come to them to free them from Rome, He came to free them from false religion and empty living, to bring them peace with God. He brought spiritual salvation rather than secular revolution.
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!”
“Save now!” the people cried. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” And like the multitude in John’s revelation, they were crying “Salvation to the Son of David!” “Salvation in the highest!” From the belly of the fish, Jonah put it best:
8 “Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
9 “But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD.”
“Hosanna” is of the Lord. True salvation belongs to God. We can cry out to worldly powers for their aid as much as we like, but eternal salvation is from the Lord God alone. We can proclaim rulers for serving us and giving us help in troubled times, but salvation of our souls comes only from God through Christ Jesus. We can call out “Mayday” over the radio and the Internet, but true salvation comes only through the Son of God.
The saddest part of the Palm Sunday story is that the same people who cried out “Save now!” on Sunday were calling out “Crucify Him!” on Friday. And I have seen my own share of “foul-weather Christians”–people who seek Jesus when they’re troubled but abandon Him when they think they’re safe. Worse yet are those who, like the people of Jerusalem, do not see the physical salvation they desire and so they deny Jesus. “He didn’t save me from my troubles,” they claim. Jesus didn’t come to save us from worldly sorrow but to bring us the joy of peace with God, the joy of salvation, the joy of the reality of “Hosanna!”
Four years ago today, I wept on the shoulder of a pastor and said my “mayday” to God. “Save me now, Lord,” I prayed, and that day I gave myself to Christ. That is the saving we need, the aid we should seek. “Hosanna!” we should cry, seeking the forgiveness and mercy of the Lord our God. “Hosanna” should be our daily prayer, knowing with faithful certainty that salvation is indeed of the Lord.
Precious Lord God, I know that salvation is Yours alone, and that You sent Your Son for my sake. Let me not be like those who abandoned Jesus, but let me join with the angels in proclaiming Your glory and power. Hosanna, Lord! Save us from ourselves. Save us from Satan. Save us from sin and death. Save us to Your eternal glory. Amen.