It’s one of the most vivid scenes in the entire Bible – Jesus entering Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna!,” as people waved palm branches and laid their coats on the path before the foal carrying the Messiah. It must have been amazing.
But there’s an aspect of this scene – or at least the way we think of it – that has puzzled me for years. The event is always depicted and thought of as energetic and celebratory. But, the word, “hosanna” is nothing like that. The word itself is dark and brooding.
In it’s literal interpretation, “hosanna” means, “save us.”
Can you imagine someone today – in dire peril – shouting to the first responders, “Help!” And with their cry, there would be laughing and dancing, even celebration of their dilemma? No, their voice would be intense and languishing, full of desperation.
As much as I can identify with the joy of the Triumphal Entry, I also believe there was an element of desperation, and the sound included anxiety and pleading. They knew they were hopeless and needed their Messiah to come. For this moment, they believed Jesus just might be Him – and so they cried, “Save us!”
It was this idea that prompted the writing of the song, “Hosanna, God Save Us” that appeared in a LifeWay Easter musical from 12 years ago. It was co-written with my friend, Jeff Lippencott. In this song, we tried to express joy and anguish and worship and desperation.
It seems to me the current state of the world calls for the same thing from us… the believers who are welcoming Messiah this Palm Sunday. Worship Him, yes! But cry out to Him – that He will come and save us from ourselves! Our worship should rejoice in His redemption, yet cry out in desperation for His provision now and His anticipated return.
But also, Hosanna. God Save Us.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.