God answers our cries of “hosanna,” ”save us,” in ways so utterly and incredibly unexpected, that we have to wonder if they can possibly be true. But they are—and so could there be any better way to begin Holy Week than with palms in our hands and “hosanna” on our lips? Is there any more faithful way to embark on this sacred journey than to cry out to God from the deep, honest places inside of us; to ask him, beg him, to save us, please save us? I don’t think so!
Our readings today have a number of things in common, but the most important one is the use if the word: Hosanna. The word appears on once in the Old Testament, in verse 25 of our reading and in the New Testament, only in the gospels in the accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to begin the events of Holy Week. It’s also interesting to note that of the four gospel accounts have differences—only John specifically mentions palms, while Luke makes no mention of branches of any kind.
First Reading: Psalm 118—A Song of Victory
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? 7 The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
14 The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Gospel Reading: Mark 11:1-11—Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.
7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.