On Palm Sunday or the celebration of the Triumphal Entry of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, we usually bring palm leaves and sing “Hosanna!” Usually, what comes into our mind when we hear the word “hosanna” is that it is a song of praise and it is uttered with joy. But is this the original meaning of that word?
The English word “hosanna” that we see in the Gospels is from the Greek word “hosanna” (yes, same spelling). This was the translation of the Gospel writers of what the people cried during that time. The Hebrew word that the people who were lining up the streets during that time shouted the Hebrew phrase “hoshiya na.”
The Hebrew phrase “hoshiya na” can only be found in verse in the whole Old Testament. It can be read in Psalm 118:25, “Lord, save us!” So “hosanna” means, “Save us now, please!” The literal meaning of the word can be illustrated with someone who is drowning and is shouting “Help, please save me (“Hoshiya na!” “Hosanna!”).
The people during that time were not singing praises and shouting the word with joy, but it was a cry to God for help. It can be imagined as a protest rally. Matthew 21:10 says, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred…” In some translation it says that the “city was in an uproar” or “the people went wild.” It was a situation that was ready for a revolt.
The Israelites were under the Roman Empire and they wanted to overthrow it. They were trying their best to sway Jesus to become their king. Imagine this situation: Herod was the King of Israel, and they were shouting that Jesus is their King, the son of David. It was indeed an upheaval. The Gospels record that the leaders were indignant.
The people were expecting that Jesus will lead them to storm the Fortress of Antonia beside the Temple Mount and usher in the kind of “salvation” that they were expecting. But Jesus went straight to the Temple and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers. It was not a political salvation. Jesus ushered in a holistic salvation – this is what the kingdom of God is all about. God is not just a king in a certain geographical area but God should be the King in all areas of our lives.
Now picture out these two scenarios: the time when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and the ends as written in Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
What are in the hands of this saved people and what are they shouting? It is a palm branch, and they are shouting “Hosanna!” Now, this is the real meaning of the triumphal entry of the Lord Jesus Christ. We hope and pray that we are part of these people who will be waving these palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!”
Let us have a blessed Holy Week!
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
Office of Communications
Central Philippine University