Monday, April 14, 2014

Hosanna!



Times were tough in ancient Egypt. The Israelites had been slaves for 400 years, and their masters were very cruel to them. For years, they prayed for deliverance, and God heard their cries. He sent a guy named Moses, and God used Moses and his brother Aaron to deliver the Israelites out of slavery. God sent ten plagues on the Egyptians, and the last one was the hardest for the Egyptians to handle. The firstborn of each family, even including the animals, died. But God passed over the Israelites and spared their firstborn. Up to that point, the Pharaoh had been pretty stubborn about wanting to keep his slaves, but losing his heir made him realize that some things just weren’t worth losing what you love the most. So he finally let the Israelites go. So began a period of 40 years as the Israelites traveled home to the land of their ancestors, and every year they celebrated their deliverance when God passed over them. Passover became one of the most important feasts of the year. For years, they had been praying, “Hosanna!” Please save us! God had heard their pleas and answered. He had saved them. But as the years went on, they needed to be saved again and again. Years later, they split into two kingdoms and eventually were captured by the kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria. The nation of Judah got to return home after 70 years in exile in Babylon, but eventually, the empire of Rome came along and took over the whole area. Prophets foretold of a Messiah who would one day deliver them from their oppressors, and so they continued their pleas of “HOSANNA!”

Somewhere around 1400 years after the Israelites left Egypt, angels appeared to shepherds on a hillside announcing that the promised Savior had arrived! Wise men from the east saw a star and came to worship this new child who had been born to a girl named Mary. The child’s name was Jesus, and he grew up to become a respected rabbi who preached, told stories to teach lessons, and did some amazing miracles. Word was getting around that Jesus was fulfilling a lot of the prophecies of the Messiah.

So it was that the year Jesus was 33, He and His disciples arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. People came from all over the place to celebrate in the capital city, and as Jesus got close, He had an odd task for some of His disciples. He told them to go to a nearby farm, where they would find a donkey colt. They were to untie it and bring it to him. Jesus told them, “If the donkey’s owner asks you why you’re untying it, tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So they did as they were told. Sure enough, the owner asked why they were untying his donkey. They explained the situation just as Jesus had told them to do, and he let them take it.

Many years earlier, the prophet Zechariah had foretold that the Messiah would come in victory, riding a donkey colt. So now they saw that prophecy happening before their very eyes! The plea that they had been praying for hundreds of years suddenly became a shout of praise! “HOSANNA! SAVE US! Yay! Our Savior is here! You’re here in the name of the Lord, and you rock!” While they were shouting and excitedly praising God, they took off their coats and laid them on the ground for the donkey to walk on. They had cut down palm branches from nearby trees, and they laid those on the ground too! This was how they welcomed a King into the city.

There were some Pharisees in the crowd, though, and they weren’t too happy with what they heard. They told Jesus, “Tell your followers to be quiet!”

“Are you kidding?” Jesus replied. “If they stopped their praises, the rocks would shout out!”

For hundreds of years, the Israelites had praised God for all the wonderful things that He had done. They praised Him for delivering them from Egypt, for providing food in the wilderness, for helping them to conquer their enemies in the Promised Land. All that time, they had also been praying for deliverance from their oppressors. Now their prayer for deliverance became their shout of praise for what they knew Jesus was about to do: deliver them!


But as we’ll find out next week, Jesus had a plan up His sleeve that was much better than delivering them from the Romans. They didn’t realize right away that it was better, though.



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