Where does our salvation, the solution to all our problems, really come from? Does it come from here below, greedy free enterprise, heavy-handed government, political parties, science, medicine, education, technology or military might? Or does it come from above, from the highest place of all?
I want to help us understand the true meaning of hosanna in the highest.
We will look at the Christian vote, Jesus’ new ride, the meaning of hosanna in the highest, and Jesus as a non-violent subversive, the only leader worth celebrating.
The Christian Vote
One side of politics supports the poor, which Jesus said we should do. Another side is largely against the killing of innocent unborn children, a righteous cause. One side sees salvation in greedy free enterprise. The other sees salvation in heavy-handed government programs. So then, which side should a Christian vote for? Both sides are weak and strong on issues important to the kingdom of heaven. The choice is difficult. It is not the church’s job to tell people who to vote for. The church has a job in politics as prophet to both sides of power. When Jesus rode into town on a colt (Mark 11:1-11) the crowds understood where our real hope comes from. They shouted “Hosanna in the highest.” All human efforts fail miserably. Real salvation only comes from one place, the highest of all, heaven.
Jesus’ New Ride
When we think of a new ride in today’s world, we think of a new car. However, in the world of equestrians a new ride is not the best ride, but an untested and untrained ride. It takes a special eye to see a champion in an untrained colt. So when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a colt (Mark 11:1-11), what was he representing? A young foal or filly might buck. It might not know where to go. It could be a wild, frisky and frolicking ride. It is a risk. It is a humble ride symbolizing the humility of Christ. Taking a chance on something new is typical of Jesus. Doing things the way they have always been done was not a hallmark of his ministry. Doing something new and risky was integral to Jesus’ ministry.
What is the meaning of hosanna? We hear of it throughout the church year and especially on Palm Sunday (Mark 11:1-11). The crowds who were celebrating Jesus kept shouting, “Hosanna! … Hosanna in the highest!” What did they mean? Hosanna is a combination of two Hebrew words. The first is yasha meaning “help” or “save” and is also a root of Jesus’ name. The second is na meaning “please” or “we pray” and the combination into the Hebrew word hoshia-na is both a plea and a praise. It is also a cheer. Jesus is the only one fully worthy of the cheer. Unlike most world leaders who ride in expensive carriages and limousines, leaders of Israel were to ride a donkey symbolizing the humility that God expects of his leaders. We shout hosanna in celebration of the true Savior.
In the Highest
When Jesus rode into town on a colt (Mark 11:1-11) why did the crowds shout “Hosanna in the highest?” We know that hosanna means save us please or save we pray. Then, what does it mean hosanna “in the highest?” The translation comes from a Greek word meaning in the highest regions, a superlative found often in Greek poetry meaning heaven or euphemistically, God. In a world where people look to political parties, science, medicine, education, technology or military might for salvation, this speaks to us as well. High position in every human endeavor is occupied by the most intelligent and well educated people who are unable to solve humanity’s problems. Our problems are spiritual in nature and the solutions to our problems are spiritual. Christians call that solution salvation, which only comes from the highest of all, heaven.
Non-Violent and Subversive Jesus
When Jesus rode into town on a colt, it was a very non-military picture (Mark 11:1-11). Some interpreters even suggest that it could have been a nursing mare with her colt alongside. Either way, his ride fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. Christianity is about a takeover of this world’s systems. Christianity is non-military and non-violent but also subversive. Jesus was always radical and controversial. Passover (our Easter) was a time when Israel remembered being freed from slavery in Egypt. Since then Israel had suffered under other tyrants. Alexander entered Jerusalem on his war horse, a black stallion in 332 BC. Jesus’ entry on a donkey would have reminded them that Caesar was the new Pharaoh. Jesus entry mocked the merciless leaders of this world and promised a new world order without the corruption of this world’s mismanagement.
What events in our lives are really worth celebrating? Would we say wedding anniversaries, birthdays, a new job, a win by our favorite sports team, a coloring by a small child? All those things are worth celebrating. Mark 11:1-11 celebrates Jesus. How ought we to celebrate Jesus in comparison to all other celebrations? Is the wedding of the lamb worth celebrating? Is the birth of our Savior worth celebrating? Is our permanent position for eternity worth celebrating? Is a win for the kingdom of heaven worth celebrating? Are the efforts of little ones in Christ worth celebrating? Our weekly church service is also a celebration. We celebrate victory over all wrongs, salvation from our own embarrassing mistakes, and every bit of it in thanks to the one who made it all possible. Let’s be willing to lavishly celebrate Jesus.
Our salvation, the solution to all our problems, does not come from here below, from greedy free enterprise, heavy-handed government, political parties, science, medicine, education, technology or military might. That is the meaning of hosanna in the highest. Our salvation comes from no place but heaven. That is leadership worth celebrating!