They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:7-9)
Irony’s finest hour.
Christ on the donkey trampled their clothes. So he must trample our human goodness (righteousness). Fig leaves stitched with human performance can never be a worthy garment for heaven. So, in his great love, he clothes us with robes of his own shimmering righteousness. By grace, we are made fit for heaven.By grace, we are justified.
When they shouted Hosanna (Hebrew for “Lord, please save us”) they were quoting Psalm 118:25, which was traditionally read aloud for the Feast of Tabernacles. Christ was in that moment living an “enacted parable” showing them how he would save: by his humiliation (on a donkey and soon a Cross), trampling their righteousness, and becoming the King of Grace.
Save now, I pray [Hebrew: Hosanna], O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. (Psalm 118:25)
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the people were really worshipping HIM as he was. They were worshipping AN IDEA that they wanted him to be. Hosanna means “O Lord, please save us.” And salvation is what they wanted. But not a spiritual salvation from sin. They wanted political salvation from Rome.
- They wanted a king riding a chariot. He came as the Savior riding a donkey.
- They wanted a champion to conquer Rome. He came as the Sacrifice to conquer sin.
- They wanted the hammer of Law to give Justice to their enemies. He came as a Shepherd of Grace to give Mercy to all who would believe.
- They wanted him to praise their deeds. He trampled their righteousness and announced their disease.
Never has anybody missed the point as much as the first celebrants of Palm Sunday. It is epitome of irony.
Let us follow their enthusiasm, but not their misunderstanding.
“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.” (Luke 19:41)
He wept because they had no clue about grace. He wept because they had no clue of the powers and beauties that could be theirs, but weren’t. Palm Sunday is a strange lesson about missing the heart of grace. We who have seen the Cross and Resurrection have a wonderful opportunity to really get it. The King of Glory came riding on a donkey… one of many steps on a downward staircase starting with the incarnation and the manger, through a donkey and humiliation, and finally reaching the cross and the grave, all for the sake of grace.
That’s the Savior who really can save. Let us say our Hosannas to Him.
Let’s make Holy Week special.