Meditations on Palm Sunday

The word endures. The Word endures. We who stand among the Palm Sunday crowds know that the Word will soon be beaten, mocked, and killed. We know, too, that that is not the end of the tale. — Jan Richardson

“Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna sanna sanna , ho sanna, hey sanna, Hey, hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me. …” — Webber and RiceJesus Christ Superstar (rock opera)

Songs


Blessing of Palms
This blessing
can be heard coming from a long way off.
This blessing is making its steady way
up the road toward you.
This blessing
blooms in the throats of women,
springs from the hearts of men,
tumbles out of the mouths of children.
This blessing
is stitched into the seams
of the cloaks that line the road,
etched into the branches
that trace the path,
echoes in the breathing
of the willing colt,
the click of the donkey’s hoof
against the stones.
Something is rising beneath this blessing.
Something will try to drown it out.
But this blessing
cannot be turned back, cannot be made to still its voice,
cannot cease to sing its praise
of the One who comes along the way it makes.
—Jan Richardson

Hosanna: Help Us!

The Hebrew word Halleluia means “praise the Lord;” Hosanna means “save us!” or “save!” The Palm Sunday crowd falsely assumed that Jesus would bring political liberation.— Steve Vredenburgh

We think of “Hosanna” as a shout of praise, but the basic meaning of this Hebrew word is “Help!” It is an SOS cry. That appears to be the way the first Palm Sunday crowd used it. Having heard of Jesus’ ability to feed an army with a school boy’s lunch and His recent accomplishment of bringing a dead Lazarus back to life, they were convinced He was a candidate for the monarchy. “Jesus, Help! Expel our hated Roman rulers. You be our King!” How disappointed they were when Jesus, after riding into the capitol city on the wave of the crowd’s enthusiasm, merely looked around and walked back out. — Merwin VanDoornik

But what I didn’t know until this week is what the word “hosanna” actually means.  All these years, I thought it meant some church-y version of “We adore you!” or “You rock!” or “Go, king!”  It doesn’t.  In Hebrew, it means something less adulatory and more desperate.  Less generous and more demanding.  It means, “Save now!”  — Debie Thomas

“Hosanna” 
does come from an old Hebrew phrase, but one that was less praise and more desperate plea. “Save now!” It was a phrase stripped of all pretense of politeness. “Help!” Its insistent cry was one reserved for royalty or divinity. “Deliver us! Don’t wait!” The people are either calling Jesus “king” or “God” or both. … My own mind is drawn today to Anne Lamott’s book, which you have heard us reference a few times: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. In it, Lamott says that all prayers boil down to these three simple words: help, thanks, wow. And more often than not, these concepts overlap and run together. … I think a truly holy Hosanna can hold these three words together, this help, thanks, and wow. Hosanna cries for deliverance. It calls out in gratitude. And it gives voice to holy awe. — Marthame Sanders

By Which Gate? 

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan argue that two processions entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday two thousand years ago; Jesus’s was not the only Triumphal Entry.
    Every year during Passover — the Jewish festival that swelled Jerusalem’s population from its usual 50,000 to at least 200,000 — the Roman governor of Judea would ride up to Jerusalem from his coastal residence in the west.  He would come in all of his imperial majesty to remind the Jewish pilgrims that Rome demanded their complete loyalty, obedience, and submission.  The Jewish people could commemorate their ancient victory against Egypt and slavery if they wanted to.  But if they tried any real time resistance, they would be obliterated without a second thought. 
      As Pilate clanged and crashed his imperial way into Jerusalem from the west, Jesus approached from the east, looking (by contrast) ragtag and absurd.  Unlike the Roman emperor and his legions, who ruled by force, coercion, and terror, Jesus came defenseless and weaponless into his kingship.  Riding on a donkey, he all but cried aloud the bottom-line truth that his rule would have nothing to recommend it but love, humility, long-suffering, and sacrifice.  — Debie Thomas

The Rest of the Week

It seems reasonable to me that people choose to go from the Big Parade to the Empty Tomb and skip the stuff that makes them uncomfortable: stuff like how Jesus ate his last meal with the people he loved most, all of whom (perhaps like me) would betray abandon or deny him, that these friends (perhaps like me) couldn’t even stay awake while he prayed in the garden, that the crowd (perhaps like me) would strike and taunt him for not living up to their expectations, that the people would (perhaps like me) shout crucify him! And twist him a crown of thorns, that passersby would (perhaps like me) shout “for God’s sake, save yourself”.  Because we would save ourselves.  And the fact that Jesus got himself killed in a totally preventable way never once showing enough self-respect to fight back or get himself off that damned cross…well maybe he had it coming. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Five hundred years after that  … this story continues, the story of God’s decision to not hold back and watch to see what we might do on our own but instead to get involved, to take matters into the divine hands, to join God’s own self to us fully and completely so that we might live and die – and live again! – in hope and courage. That’s the story we tell, the story of this week’s dramatic reading, the story of God’s passionate and relentless quest to redeem each and all of us in love.  — David Lose

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