Palm Sunday

“When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 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. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.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.” Mark 11: 1-11

“From Olivet they followed
mid an exultant crowd,
the victor palm branch waving,
and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of earth and heaven
rode on in lowly state,
nor scorned that little children
should on his bidding wait.”

“Hosanna, Loud Hosanna” vs. 2, by Jeanette Threlfall

 As we read this passage of Jesus’s so called “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem we must remember that the true meaning of “Hosanna” is not “a shout of praise or adoration” or “to praise or applaud” as the dictionary currently defines it. At the time Jesus entered the city, humbly on a donkey, he was purposely fulfilling the prophesy of Zachariah. (Zach 9:9)The people believed that Jesus had come to be their king, to lead them out of an oppressive system of occupation imposed by the Roman authorities. Those cries of “Hosha-na! Save us now!” are still being shouted today by the people who are now living under the same oppressive systems of occupation imposed by the new Roman authority, the Israeli government.

Painting by Zaki Baboun, used with permission

Painting by Zaki Baboun, used with permission

Each year thousands of internationals participate in the “Palm Sunday Walk” waving palm branches and singing hymns while following the traditional route that Jesus took from Bethany into Jerusalem… or at least part of it. The beginning of the route is now blocked by the Separation Wall built by Israel with U.S money on the guise of security. In Bethany the Wall divides Palestinians from Palestinians, father from son, child from school, patient from hospital. All too many of those internationals who have zealously come to “walk where Jesus walked” have no idea that thousands of indigenous Palestinian Christians, many of whom are descended from the original disciples, are barred from entering the city by the Israeli military. There is no triumphal entry for them. Instead faithful Christians and clergy alike are forced to shout “Hosanna” from the other side of a thirty-foot concrete wall as they face their holy city of Jerusalem but cannot enter. They understand the true meaning of Hosanna. “Save us! Save us now!”

As we begin to celebrate Holy Week and look forward to the resurrection, let us continue to be mindful of those whose voices are crying out for redemption, for release from captivity, for justice, for freedom, for the basic human rights that God granted to all people. Let us not only pray for them, but let us join Jesus on that walk to Jerusalem, so that we can do the work He called us to do, so that others can be free.

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for sending us your son to bring the good news to the world. As we walk with Jesus toward this New Jerusalem, where there will be an end to the systems of oppression in this world, where the oppressed will be set free so that all your people may rejoice, give us the courage to work for justice, the strength to be persistent, and open hearts for all your people so that one day the cries of “Hosanna, Save us” will be replace by a glorious “Halleluiah!” Amen.

-Janet Lahr Lewis, GBGM Missionary and Advocacy Coordinator, Middle East

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