Lent 6b ; Palm Sunday

Preached: April 5, 2009

Faith Calls Out: Hosanna!
Mark 11:1-10

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior is from Mark 11:

When they came near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany by the Mount of Olives, [Jesus] sends out two of his disciples and says to them, “Go to the village in front of you. As soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied up, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, 'What are you doing?' say, 'The Lord needs it.' And immediately he will send it out again here.”

They went away and found the colt tied near the door outside by the street, and they untie it. Some of them standing there were asking them, “What ore you doing untying the colt?” They said to them just as Jesus had said, and they let them go.

They bring the colt to Jesus and place their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. Many scattered their cloaks on the road. Others scattered leaves cut from the fields. Those going ahead and those following were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:1-10)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior,

Hosanna! Every Palm Sunday that word comes up. Hosanna! We say it. We sing it. In fact we regularly use it in the Common Service on communion Sundays as we sing the Sanctus: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.” But what does Hosanna mean? Is it just an exclamation like “Hooray!”? No, it means much, much more than that.

For you see, faith calls out: Hosanna! That's the theme this morning. But if we just mindlessly mouth the word without a thought to what it means, then it isn't faith speaking. So today let's consider what's wrapped up in that word: Hosanna! May the Holy Spirit through God's Word open our hearts to shout “Hosanna!” -- to shout it as a repentant prayer and to shout it as joyful praise. For then our faith does call out: Hosanna!

A. A repentant prayer

1) What do we need to be saved from every day?

The crowd's shouts on that first Palm Sunday echo words from Psalm 118. “O LORD, save us . . . Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD” (Psalm 118:25, 26). Those first words in the Hebrew of the Psalm are: אָנָּא יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא (ana adonai ho-she-ah na). Hosanna comes from the last two Hebrew words in that phrase: הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא (ho-she-ah na): “Hosanna! Please, save!” It's a prayer, a plea, a cry for help. Save us!

But save us from what? Save us from financial hardship? Save us from terrorist attack? Save us from hurt feelings? Save us from ridicule or failure? Save us from pain or sickness or disease? Save us from family strife? Save us from losing friends? Save us from bad grades? Save us from another snowstorm? Save us from what?

Now during such hardships or when feelings are troubled, just about anyone will cry out: “Help me! Save me!” But when the trouble is gone and feelings are better, those cries stop.

How often don't we fall into that same pattern! But that's not the pattern of faith. Yes, faith certainly calls out to the Lord in the day of trouble for any and all of those things mentioned above. But faith doesn't stop calling out when the momentary trouble passes. For faith knows that every day, every moment, we need help. We need to be saved. So faith continually prays: “Hosanna! Please, save!”

For faith knows that the trouble we face goes far beyond money, or disease, or feelings, or crises. Each day our guilt condemns us. Each day we face damnation. Each day is a battle between eternal life and unending hell. Each day the devil tries to claim us as his own. And how often doesn't our sinfulness seem to prove him right? Each day we need to call out with the Psalmist:“Out of the depths, I cry to you, O LORD. O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:1-4).

2) How did Jesus answer this prayer?

And that is why, dear friends, we call out, “Hosanna! Save us!” as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. For you, dear friend, know why he came. He rescues us out of the depths of our guilt and damnation. For he carries our burden. Yes, that guilt that condemns you, that sinfulness that makes Satan glad, that damnation we have earned ; Jesus carries it in your place.

He carries it in lowliness, riding on a borrowed donkey. For he, who is the glorious God, magnified over all ; he lowered himself to save you. Rather than grasping and holding on to the divine privileges that were rightly his, he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7 NIV). He comes into Jerusalem “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV), as the prophet foretold.

And he stops at nothing to save you. He humbles himself much, much lower than riding on a borrowed donkey. He humbled himself even to death on a cross. He did it for you. He did it carrying your sin and guilt. This is why he, and he alone, is the answer to that pray: “Hosanna! Please, save!”

Now faith that calls out: “Hosanna!” is faith focused on Jesus, our only Savior, our only answer. For faith confesses how powerless, helpless, and lost our sin has made us, and it turns to Jesus alone day after day. That's repentance, turning to Jesus as our only Savior from sin, death, and hell. So “Hosanna!” is our repentant prayer as faith calls out to Jesus, confident that he has answered, assured that he has saved us.

That's why “Hosanna! Please, save!” is not only a repentant prayer but also joyful praise.

B. Joyful praise

1) Where does joyful praise come from?

That's how the people were using it on that first Palm Sunday. They joyfully praised Jesus as the one who came in the name of the Lord, the one who would fulfill the promises the Lord had sworn by his name. For the Lord is the God of free and faithful grace. He freely makes his promises, and he faithfuly keeps his promises. For he is the Lord. Faith calls out: “Hosanna!” for faith trusts that the Lord keeps his promise to save. What a reason for joyful praise!

The people praised Jesus with their voices. They praised him by spreading their cloaks and branches on the road in front of him. They honored him as their king.

How do we joyfully praise our King? Like those crowds near Jerusalem, we too raise our voices coming together this morning and singing out, “Hosanna!” We praise him from our heart of faith that believes he has saved us from sin, death, and hell. And that is the first key point we take note of in this second part. It is faith that calls out: “Hosanna!” Only faith can praise Jesus. This faith trusts that Jesus has saved us from sin, death, and hell. This Good News, this Gospel, is the power that fills our faith and drives our praise. No matter how energetic, spirited, enthusiastic, sincere, or heartfelt the praise is, if it does not come from faith in Jesus, our Savior, then it's all empty hosannas. Likewise, no matter how sound, Scriptural, right, and true the words of praise are, if it does not come from faith in Jesus, our Savior, then it's all empty hosannas. Our praise comes from faith, and faith comes from the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, our Savior from sin.

So when your praise seems shallow, when your hosannas seem muffled, when joy seems dim and forgotten, what do we need? What will brighten our praise and raise our hosannas? Well, praise comes from faith, and faith comes from the Gospel. We need to hear the Gospel with believing hearts that grasp God's promise and hold on to Jesus alone. For as the Gospel strengthens our faith, our hosannas grow louder.

2) How do our hosannas sound out in praise beyond these walls?

And that joyful praise, those loud hosannas, ring out far beyond these church walls ; and I'm not talking about turning up the sound system. Joyful praise and loud hosannas ring out as you live for your King in your life outside these walls. For faith calls out: “Hosanna!” by the way we live. That's the second point in part two to take to heart. Your life is joyful praise, shouting hosannas to your King.

Live in a way that shows that you serve Jesus as your King. You're not ruled by your sinful passions. You're not ruled by the bottle or addictions. You're not ruled by money or pleasures. You're not ruled by worries or fears. You're not ruled by work or leisure. You're not ruled by family or friends. You're not ruled by success or praise. Jesus reigns as your King. He alone has purchased you to be his people, ransomed with his blood, redeemed as his very own. That's why he came to Jerusalem to die.

He is your King. Praise him by placing him first in your choices and decisions. Praise him by honoring him with your time, talents, and wealth. Praise him by going to him for all your cares and needs. Praise him by holding his Word in highest regard. Praise him by hating all that dishonors him and goes against his Word. Praise him by showing his kindness and love towards others, even your enemies. Praise him by reflecting his mercy in the words you speak. Praise him by building up your fellow Christians in the one true faith. Praise him by inviting those who do not yet know him. Let your life be a symphony of hosannas, joyfully praising your King in all these different ways, just as the differnet instruments of an orchestra sound out together.

3) How do we retune our hosannas to praise our King?

And when the hosannas of our life become out of tune with our King, what are we to do? Remember our hosannas come from faith, and faith comes from the Gospel. Only the Gospel can retune our lives ; only the Good News of Jesus, our Savior. So go to that Gospel proclaimed in his Word and made visible in his Sacraments. In faith cherish the Good News that Jesus has ridden into your heart, not on a lowly donkey, but on the lowly water connected to the Word in Baptism. He has washed your sins away. He rides to you today under the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper to feed you with his body and blood. What lowly means he uses! But what glorious Good News he brings: “Your sins are forgiven. You are no longer under condemnation and damnation. For I, Jesus, have saved you.”

So when we soon sing, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest,” sing it as a repentant prayer with your faith focused on Jesus. He rescues you from the sin and guilt that trouble you. He saves you from the death and hell we have earned. And sing it as joyful praise. For Jesus has answered the prayer: “Hosanna! Please, save!” He has died for you and risen as your victorious King. He brings you that salvation through his Word and Sacraments. So in all that you do let your faith call out “Hosanna!”

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313