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Good Friday: “Passover’s Hosanna”

Holy Triduum: Good Friday, Tre Ore Divine Service

02 April 2021
“Passover’s Hosanna”
St. John 18-19; Psalm 118
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

+ In the Name of Jesus +

On Palm Sunday Jesus humbly rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey, and the people repeatedly cried out, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  This was the sacred text of Psalm 118, a Psalm repeatedly chanted by God’s people at every high festival at the Temple, but uniquely the common people were privileged to join with the Levites in chanting portions of this Psalm when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed. They sang after “blessed is he who comes in the name 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! The Palm Sunday crowd was watching their true festal sacrifice – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He would be bound with cords – nails would pierce his hands and feet, and bind Him to the cross, to the horns of that bloody altar.

You will not find the word “Hosanna” in your English Bible if you look up this Psalm. One reads the following:

Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.

But those words, “Save us, we pray, [now] O Lord” is the Hebrew word, “Hosanna”… When the Gospel writers recorded Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on that first day of Holy Week, they chose to keep the Hebrew Hosanna in their text.

A common Jewish name in first century Israel that directed people to the theme of God’s salvation was Jesus’ own name in Hebrew: “Joshua” (roughly “Yeshua”). Our catechism students learn about the meaning of this name each year. The name “Jesus” means “YHWH [The Lord] saves.”  Joseph was directed to name Mary’s baby “Jesus,” for, as explained by the angel, He would save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). Mary’s son was appropriately given the name Joshua (Jesus) both because He is God, the Lord, and because He saves mankind; the Lord saves.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem the Jewish crowd, certainly not realizing what they were saying, called out “Save now” (Hosanna), and they addressed this Psalm to the man whose name means, “the Lord saves.” They had the right man for the job, whether they understood it or not. Today, we know the rest of the story. Jesus Christ is the Lord’s anointed to be the saving festal sacrifice heading for the altar – a cross shaped altar.

Within five days of Palm Sunday, today, Good Friday, Jesus would be hanging upon the cross, bound by our sin and shame, and once again the crowd spoke of salvation, but they spoke of it in doubt and mockery as they jeered at Jesus’ apparent inability to save Himself:  They called out, Save yourself, and come down from the cross [Mk. 15:30-31].  As Jesus was dying to save mankind the people were tauntingly calling out a “hosanna”—“save [yourself] now.”

But in order to save us He would not save Himself. This is the “great exchange”: our Lord and God denying salvation for Himself in order to earn it for us. Strangely, “hosanna” was happening there at the cross, for at that very hour – “now” – He was saving, saving not Himself but saving mankind. In His death and resurrection Jesus was fulfilling the prediction of Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” He is rejected as He is mercilessly tried, beaten mocked, flogged, and at last, crucified and made a curse on the cursed tree; and yet through His innocent suffering and death, He becomes the cornerstone of our Christian faith having finished and completed the work of saving all men.

Our Hosannas are muted for today. We normally sing the song of Palm Sunday before the Lord’s Supper is consecrated and distributed. Not today. Our praises are muted, for today we honor our Lord’s time for our sake on His holy cross, and give thanks for all He endured for us. But this is no final funeral service for Jesus. Hosanna, save us now, O Lord, is fulfilled by the one come to save His people from their sins, by the festal sacrifice bound to the cross. God’s benediction and final word comes tomorrow night and Sunday morning, when we look and listen for those joyous tidings of the new creation in Christ.

On this Good Friday, remember that the Lamb of God who came down from heaven was bound and brought to the horns of the altar of the cross for us men, and for our salvation, and has given us the means by which we are saved, by which the blessings of that atoning sacrifice are delivered. The crucified and resurrected Jesus informs His disciples that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved (16:16). Truly for each of us Hosanna – save now – happens uniquely when we believe and are baptized. Every baptized, believing one in Christ can truly pray Hosanna to the blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord, the One who willingly obeyed the Father’s will perfectly, who became on this day so long ago the festal sacrifice once for all men and for all time, that all men might be saved and be given the gift of eternal life.

Truly, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it – O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever. Amen.


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