Hosanna? What's the Big Deal?

Have you ever wondered what was so bad about the crowds shouting "Hosanna" as Jesus rode into Jerusalem in Matthew 21? Matthew records that as Jesus entered the city, "Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'" (Matt 21:8–9). This infuriated the chief priest and scribes (vv. 15–16), who demanded that Jesus order the people to stop.

But what was so maddening about hosanna? If we knew the Old Testament as well as the Jewish religious leaders did, we wouldn't even need to ask. In the 118th Psalm, the the Davidic King praises God for his enduring, loyal love (vv. 1–4). When God's people, the nation of Israel, are being afflicted by their enemies, they can trust in God's care and expect his deliverance (vv. 5–21). God's king (the anointed Davidic king) expects to be vindicated as his trust is in God, returning victorious through God's help. In light of this, the psalmist looks forward to rejoicing in God's salvation and calls for God's deliverance and salvation (vv. 22–26). The result of God's deliverance is thanksgiving and worship coming from his people Israel (vv. 27–29).

You may still be wondering what "hosanna" has to do with Psalm 118. The word hosanna is a transliteration of the Hebrew words that are translated "Save us, we pray" in verse 25. You'll also notice that the crowd in Matthew 21:9 also quoted the following verse in Psalm 118: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (v. 26a).

The problem the priest and scribes had was that the people were affirming that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed Davidic king whom God had promised to send. They were agreeing with Jesus' claim that he was the Messiah. They were celebrating the very claim for which the religious leaders would crucify Jesus within the week.


Andy Rupert said…
That was worth the read, Mark. I didn't know that.