Jesus is coming into the capital city. It’s a festival time – well, that doesn’t do it justice, it’s the most solemn of festival times – The Passover is only a week away. The crowd has heard of this Jesus from Nazareth who has done great things – healings, the blind see, the lame walk, those tormented by demons are delivered, good news is preached to the poor and disenfranchised, miraculous feedings of thousands with next to nothing – a few loaves and fishes. And more, he’s descended from King David’s line, the nation’s greatest King ever! Surely now’s the time for the Roman oppressors to be overthrown and for the nation to be restored to greatness with this Jesus as their new charismatic leader…
“Hosanna!” The people cry out! “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The word Hosanna is made up of two Hebrew words, and is commonly translated as “Oh, save us now!” It carries both a supplication, and is meant as praise. Of course, it’s a phrase we hear each time we gather at the Lord’s Supper. It’s used in what’s called the Sanctus – or the Holy Holy Holy. We sing these words, joining our voices with the angels gathered in the throne room of God in the heavenly Temple. The Prophet Isaiah receives a vision at the time of his prophetic call of this heavenly throne room. The angelic hosts praise God singing, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God almighty!” But we don’t only sing that angelic song, as we gather at the Table of the Lord. We also sing, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”
And the point is to set a trajectory – to point to what’s happening in our midst at that moment. Once again, Jesus is coming among us as the source of our salvation, bringing forgiveness, healing, salvation, life. The transcendent praise of God’s heavenly throne room gives way to our own earthly praise and to our own cries for help, salvation and deliverance, as the One who comes in the name of the Lord comes again as both host and food at this Table, and we receive his broken body and shed blood in, through and under the bread and wine we share.
The One who, just a week after his Triumphal entry, will be hung on a Roman torture stick, left there to die mostly alone, abandoned by all but a few women who had traveled with him supporting his ministry in Galilee and beyond is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, not as a new David to overthrow Rome and to establish an earthly kingdom, but as a King who is
- Betrayed by a close friend
- Abandoned by the rest of his inner circle
- Made to endure a mockery of a religious trial
- Beaten and made sport of by the Temple guards
only to be handed over to the Roman Governor
- Condemned to death for no reason
- Crucified between two thieves
- And buried hastily in a borrowed tomb.
The trajectory of this worship service today is the trajectory of the Sanctus, and it’s the trajectory of God’s intervention into our human experience. It’s the trajectory of the ultimate downward mobility. Jesus, though he was in very nature God, emptied himself and obediently accepted death on a cross. And standing at the foot of that cross, witnessing this death, and hearing the Centurion’s proclamation that: “Truly this man was God’s Son!” we realize what it really means when we join our voices in the eternal song of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, to save, to deliver, to die that we might live!
Now, let us read together, the Passion of our Lord, according to Saint Mark…