Praise looks so good on you. It’s so great worshiping with you. It’s so good that we can be together. We don’t take that for granted anymore, I hope. And also for those who are joining us via livestream, we just consider you also part of this holy time that we get to spend together and with our God.
My name is Allan Sherer. I am Pastor of Global Connection, and mostly my sphere of responsibility is missions and outreach. Maybe some of you have noticed that we have been doing some work on our campus. We are in phase 1 of a walking trail that will eventually go all the way around our campus and then also will integrate with the mixed income housing project that we’re doing across Walker Springs Road and lead to a little park over there. This is all part of our vision to integrate our church family into the community and to invite the community into our church — not just on Sunday, but every day. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and soul and mind and strength and like unto it, which is a big statement, right? Anything like that is big, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I sometimes have asked the question, if this church were suddenly just not here, what difference would it make for our neighbors? Would they just be happy that maybe the trees would grow back, or is this church an integral part of this neighborhood? We don’t believe that we sit on this property by accident. And this is our way, one of the ways that we are seeking to love our neighbors as ourselves.
So, I just would invite you during the week or whenever you would like to, walk the trail. There’s still more work to do. We’re going to be doing some beautification in the fall, and we’ll be letting you know if you would enjoy being part of that. But as you walk the trail, pray. Pray that our neighbors would consider this campus to be theirs, because that’s why we’re here.
We’re going to ask the Lord now to bless the unfolding of his Word. Father, we cry, “Hoshiana!” Save now. Save now, oh God. Come into our private worlds, and come do what needs to be done. And Lord, we just offer this time completely for your pleasure. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This is what’s called the Triumphal Entry. And maybe if you grew up in church world, we also call it Palm Sunday. Maybe it looks like this — children with palm branches kind of awkwardly walking down the aisle, maybe in their dad’s bathrobe if you want to go full stop, and singing a song and quoting a verse. I love that. But that’s nothing like what it would have looked like in Jesus’ time. It was not a religious pageant. It would have looked more like this. It would have looked more like a political rally or a national event. This was around Passover. Passover was 4th of July for the Jewish nation because it commemorated when God brought them out from under the bondage and tyranny of the Egyptian empire. So, just as our 4th of July would function in our culture, that’s how Passover was.
It was already a politically charged situation whenever they had Passover. Almost all of the conflicts with the Roman government happened around Passover. The Roman garrison was always on high alert because hundreds of thousands of Jewish people from all over the world would come to Jerusalem.
The cry “Hoshiana.” We say Hosanna, but it’s literally two words — “Hoshi” (like Hosea), which means to save, and “ana,” which means now. They’re crying, “Save now!” And this is a really desperate cry. And it’s a cry of a people who are losing hope and barely holding on for dear life. And you know what, people all around us are crying, “Save now.” Not all of them are crying to Jesus. But people in every culture all across the world, even cultures that don’t even have a word for God cry out, “Save now.” And this community is full of people. The houses that sit around us in this neighborhood, I would say most of them have someone in them who’s crying out, “Save now! Something needs to change.”
And in Jesus’ time, people were more desperate than most of us can ever imagine. Politically, economically, there was so much injustice. The Romans had their knee on the neck of the Jewish people, and the people were losing hope. The Romans were unbelievably cruel and merciless. They stole the Jewish people’s best lands. They taxed them to the point of starvation. They stripped them of their cultural identity and dignity. And now, Jesus is coming to town. And people are no doubt thinking, “Couldn’t the one who opened the eyes of the blind, the one who healed the sick, the one who even raised the dead (which had happened just a few days before this), maybe he can change it. Maybe he can do something.” And so, they cried just like we would cry. Exactly. Hoshiana! Jesus, whose name means “salvation,” be a Savior, and do it now.
The beautiful thing is that Jesus hears their desperate cry. In Luke, the way Luke records the story in Luke 19,
“Some of the Pharisees came in the crowd [when they heard this] said, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’”
Because the Pharisees knew that this kind of thing often did not end well. In fact, only a few years before this, something just like this had happened. It ended up in an insurrection. And the Romans, according to a historian named Josephus, crucified 22,000 insurrectionists. This was serious business. So, the Pharisees said, “Jesus, tell your followers to stop.” What did Jesus say?
“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Because there is a universal longing for salvation. I don’t care what color you are. I don’t care what your national or ethnic or even religious background, people are longing for salvation, and they’re desperate for it to happen now.
People cry out, save us personally, save me personally from guilt, from shame, from regret, from addiction. People cry out, save us relationally from abuse, from abandonment, from loneliness. People are crying out, save our culture from injustice and racism and crime and sin. Save us from misery and suffering. Save now! Save now from cancer, from poverty. Hoshiana.
You know, even the earth itself is crying, “Save now.” Paul says in Romans 8,
“The creation waits with eager longing … the creation itself will be set free from its bondage … the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
And Jesus was born to be their Hoshea, our Hoshea, our Savior! When Jesus started his ministry, this is the way he characterized what he came to do. Listen to these words.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Jesus is the Savior and these people are crying, “Save us!” So, if Jesus is a Savior, and the people are saying, “Save us,” what’s the problem? Something’s off because Jesus doesn’t fix their problem. Jesus cries. In Luke 13, again, the parallel passage, I’m sorry, Luke 19, says,
“When he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it …”
And this particular word in the Greek language for “weep” is a word that means, he was convulsively weeping. His whole body was heaving. He was crying and he said this:
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
See, just a short time before this, Jesus had said, “How often I would have gathered you as a chicken gathers her chicks under her wings, but you didn’t want it.” So, I asked myself the question, what’s going on here? He says, “I wanted to save you.” They say, “We want to be saved.” It seems like a perfect formula. But Jesus says, “You don’t understand the things that make for your shalom.” In other words, you long for salvation, but do you really know what that word even means?
It kind of reminds me of that iconic dramatic film with the iconic line, “You use this word a lot. I’m not sure this word means what you think it means.” They want salvation. But what are these people thinking when they’re crying, “Save now?”
Did you ever wonder what was the deal with all the palm branches and the throwing the clothes in the road and the crying? Did you ever wonder where that came from? Well, let me tell you. It started with this guy. This guy is named Judas Hyrcanus Maccabees. A pretty awesome looking, pretty bad sort of dude. He’s strappin’ for sure. And this guy actually lived almost exactly 200 years before Jesus. And it was another time where there was another oppressing power, the Greeks, who were ruling over the Jewish people. And the leader of the Greeks was a man named Antiochus Epiphanes, which is also a pretty bad name. Epiphanes means “revelation.” He saw himself as a revelation of the gods. Antiochus Epiphanes wanted everybody to worship Zeus. Who wouldn’t, right? And he was very upset because the stubborn Jews would not cave in and worship Zeus with him. So, finally he got so frustrated that he went into the temple. He built an altar over the existing altar, and he sacrificed a pig. Now, if you know anything about Jewish culture, that was a no-no. And he thought, “If I sacrifice a pig on their altar, I’m going to make them give up and worship me.” But it didn’t.
So, he went to a man by the name of Mattathias Maccabees (which is Judas’ father), and he said, “Now I want you to sacrifice a pig.” And Mattathias said, “uh-uh!” And he basically said, “All who are with God come to me.” And they started this revolution, and it was one of the most awesome … it was like our American Revolution in that culture. This is where the tradition of Hanukkah went back to, which is another whole story. But Mattathias had five sons, and they were all bad — bad in a good way. And they carried out a guerilla warfare against the Greeks, who were called Seleucids, and they won. They won this victory. And at the end of the whole thing, Judas Hyrcanus Maccabees rode into town on this warhorse looking like this. And the people, because they didn’t have poppers or firecrackers, went out in the fields and cut down palm branches. It was a new thing. And they laid them on the road to honor him, and they threw their clothes, their cloaks on the road. And they said, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
So, when you fast forward to what’s happening on that first Palm Sunday, they’re basically trying to reenact the Maccabees thing. They’re basically saying, “Okay, we have set the stage. Props have got all the palm branches spread. We have written the script. All right, lights, action camera. All right, Jesus, now. Wipe out the Romans.” They’re setting the stage. They’re trying to provoke Jesus. They’re trying to maybe help Jesus know the kind of Messiah he really needed to be. They were trying to provoke the Romans into a conflict. That’s why the Pharisees were so afraid of what was going on.
You know, the name Maccabees is really cool, it actually means “hammerer” or “extinguisher.” So the messiah they wanted was Thor. But that’s not the Messiah they got. They had a script of what it looked like. When they said, “Save now,” they had a mental idea of what that was going to look like. It was going to look like lots of dead Romans. They had a cast of what the person was going to look like — Rambo or Jason Bourne or Thor.
They had a specific idea of what it meant to be saved, and it makes sense. “To be saved,” to them means our enemies humiliated, us in power, and a victory parade. We want a king on a throne full of power with a sword in his fist. In short, they wanted to “Make Israel great again.”
And you know, the truth of the matter is, every one of us has a script. When we cry out to God, “Save now,” we all have an idea of what that’s going to look like. For some, it would look like my wife respecting me and honoring me and supporting me. Save now, change her. For some of us, it would look like my husband actually loving and cherishing me. Save now, change him. For some of us, it would look like our children coming to their senses. Save now. For some of us, it would look like finding a soul mate and not being alone anymore.
In fact, sometimes our scripts can be actually really intricate. Some of us are very imaginative. We have it all … we have the screenplay in our minds. I’m sitting in a coffee shop and drinking my coffee, and then she walks in. This isn’t me. I have a wife. But I’m talking about some of you. And then she walks in, and then I give her that glance, you know. That one that’s not too strong, not too weak. And then she gives me the glance back like, “Okay, who are you?” We’ve got it all worked out in our minds. We sit in that coffee shop day after day, and then finally, maybe one day she walks in, and we know she’s the one. She’s beautiful. And we’re having the worst hair day of our lives. And I have a pimple. What’s up with that? Save now. We have it all worked out.
And the things we cry for, what they were crying for, the Jews, was good. If you don’t understand it, you just don’t understand what it’s like to be a conquered people. Those dreams we have about our husbands, our wives, our children, our job, our career, losing weight, whatever those dreams are that we have, most of the time they’re good. But what happens when Jesus doesn’t seem to do anything about that situation? What happens when he doesn’t seem to hear or care? What happens when we cry, “Hoshiana, Hoshiana,” and things just seem to get worse? Because when you think about it, Jesus never killed a single Roman. Imagine that. Not one, as awesome as that would have been. He didn’t lift a single finger to change their political situation.
In fact, Jesus doesn’t even seem to understand the moment. He was supposed to ride in on a warhorse, but he got the colt of a donkey. In Jewish culture, that’s not the way you do it. That’s never the way that kings ride in, on a colt of a donkey. It’s like they want him to ride in in a tank, and he rides in in a golf cart. They want him to be Thor, and he says, “How often I would have gathered you like a chicken gathers her chicks.” They want Thor and they get a chicken. Jesus is not playing along.
And the reality is, we don’t get to cast Jesus in our own personal screenplay. It doesn’t work that way. To the surprise of every Jewish patriot, it was evidently not Jesus’ plan to make Israel great again. In fact, even after Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples came to him in Acts 1:6 and said, “Will you [at this time] restore the kingdom to Israel now?” They’re still thinking that way, make Israel great again. But Jesus says, that’s not my focus. It’s not for you to know the times and seasons. I’m starting to have my doubts that Jesus is in heaven obsessed with making America great again or making England great again or making Uruguay great again. God has plans for the nations, and he has a plan for our nation. But Jesus said, it’s not for you to know that. That is not my focus. You go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And it has never been more important for us as the people of God to get locked in on what God is locked in on. And that’s taking the gospel to those who have never heard — in the world, in our community, and in our neighborhood.
The truth is, Jesus almost never saves us the way we want, the way we thought he should. And you know what? When Jesus doesn’t do that, when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations, sometimes we turn away from him. Sometimes we turn against him. Because these very people who are crying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” in less than five days they’re going to hang him on a cross and spit on him. Disappointment is a powerful thing.
So, here’s what we learn from this passage. Jesus’ way of saving is way bigger, way bigger than what we think. I mean, the next scene in this story, if he was going to do the Maccabees — we’re going to do a remake like we do of all the great movies, we do a remake, right? If we’re going to do a remake of the Maccabees movie, what should happen next is that Jesus would go to the temple, he would wipe out all the Romans and other Gentiles around the temple, and this is a picture of Judas — it’s not a picture, it’s an artist’s conception. I don’t think they had cameras then. But he would go to the temple, kill the idolaters that were sacrificing pigs, wipe them out so that the temple, again, could be just for us Jewish people. For us, it’s for us. It’s not for them. Let’s kill them and make it for us again.
And it’s interesting that Jesus did go to the temple, didn’t he? In verse 11, it says he went up to the temple and “he looked around.” And then he came back first thing the next morning, and what did he do? He said, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all” people. Jesus actually cleansed the temple of us so that it would once again be all about them. Jesus cleansed the temple of those who had twisted his teaching and the ways of his father into something that was crass and commercial and said, “My house is to be a house of prayer for all peoples.” See, his way of salvation is so much bigger.
Our demands that Jesus save us now our way are always so much smaller than what he has in mind. The cross and not the sword is his triumphal weapon. The cross — sacrifice, love, compassion — those are the ways of the One we follow. Jesus’ way of saving is far better than we think. Think about it. What if Jesus had done what they wanted? Again, I don’t think what they wanted was bad. They were oppressed, and they wanted to be freed from oppression. That’s not bad. But what if Jesus had done it? What if Jesus had given them their land back and their money back and their honor back and their autonomy back and their religious freedom back? What could possibly be more awesome than that? But then there would have been no Romans, and there would have been no more crucifixions, and there would have been no cross, and there would have been no eternal salvation, no resurrection, no eternal life, no New Heaven and New Earth, and the oppressors would have been replaced by yet another oppressor and another oppressor and another oppressor. And there would have been no hope.
In our pain and in our desperation, which is real, we create mental scripts. As beautiful as your script might be … If Hollywood only knew what is in your head, they would make a movie tomorrow. But they can make us miss what’s right in front of us. Jesus said, “If only you recognize that this day peace is within your reach. But you cannot see it.” If you only knew.
They cried out for salvation. What was within their reach? I mean, literally what was within their reach? Jesus. Jesus himself is salvation. Salvation is not primarily God fixing our lives, although a lot of times he does. Salvation is not primarily what Jesus does for us, salvation is primarily who Jesus becomes to us. And if you think Jesus doesn’t understand, if you think maybe Jesus doesn’t care, if you think maybe your life is just a joke to him, you need to understand that less than four days from this moment, Jesus himself will be in a garden all alone. And you know what he’s praying? In essence, “Hoshiana.” Father, if it be possible, remove this cup from me. Father, if there is a way, any way that I don’t have to go through the agony of the torturous death and the infinitely greater agony of being separated from you. Father, save me from this cup. And yet, not my will, but your will be done.
You see, Jesus understands what you’re going through right now. He understands those of you who feel, “I don’t think I can go another week. I don’t know if literally I can go another week married to this man.” I’m not joking. “I don’t know if I can go another week with this woman.” “I don’t know if I can take one more week with these kids or this boss or this job or whatever it is.” Jesus understands way more than you think. But Jesus showed us the way.
Brothers and sisters, there’s mystery in this because sometimes people cried out and he did answer right away. Sometimes the blind man cried out, “Save me. Fix my eyes.” And he did. Sometimes the crippled man cried out, and he did. And sometimes in our lives we have cried out, and instantly he answered. We saw a lump dissolve from one of our children instantly. We’ve seen times where we needed money, and God brought in the exact amount many, many, many times. But there are also things that we have cried out for decades, “Hoshiana, save now,” and it hasn’t happened yet.
But Jesus calls us into himself. Jesus calls us, even though … Let me say it this way. I promise, if you are a follower of Jesus, I promise you that all those problems, those longings will be fixed. I promise you, your pain will be taken away, and all your questions will be answered. But just not necessarily in the time or in the way that we choose. So, what do we do? In the midst of that, we walk the way of the master. We cry out with all our hearts, all our hearts. Cry out, cry out more. Know this, he’s listening. And if he hasn’t done it today, cry out harder tomorrow. But even as we cry, we say, “Not my will.”
Let me say it this way, most of us, many of us at least, are writing a script of our lives. And many of us have a passive aggressive relationship with God because he just doesn’t seem to be coming through. Many of us have stopped hoping. Many of us have stopped loving. Many of us have separated from people around us emotionally and relationally. Many of us have given up. And a lot of it’s because God is not moving according to our script.
So, this is what I would say this morning. What if we took the pen with which we’re writing our script, and we gave it to God. Not that we don’t keep crying and praying and hoping. But to some of us, that script is really more important than Jesus. And Jesus is really just a means to an end of us getting into the screenplay that we’ve always imagined for ourselves. When you receive Jesus, you get much more than your script. You get life. Jesus is salvation.
Let’s pray. God, I pray now as we continue in your presence, that we would be made aware by your Holy Spirit of those things where we are holding on to the pen for dear life and we are not going to let it go. We have an idea in our minds of the way our lives should look, and it doesn’t look like this. And God, it’s actually causing us to not see the things that make for our shalom, not see the One who is standing right in front of us, offering us something better than even fixing those hard problems. You are offering us yourself. So, God, come as we spend this time now. Holy Spirit, move. I invite you, Holy Spirit, come. Move in my heart, move in this room. In Jesus’ name, amen.