“Hosanna!” from two Hebrew words literally meaning, “Save us,” and “cry/pray/beseech.”
“Deliver us, we pray” – “We beseech you, save us!”
On its own, the word is a cry for deliverance. A shout of “hosanna” would not recall occasions of celebration, but of desperation. It would have been a cry born out of great need for a rescuer to come swiftly.
Most of us know “hosanna” only as a word of praise, usually employed to a great extent during worship services on Palm Sunday. Psalm 118 reveals the context which turns a shout of “hosanna” into a shout of rejoicing and adoration:
“This is the day of the Lord’s victory; let us be happy, let us celebrate! Save us, LORD, save us! Give us success, O LORD! May God bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD! From the Temple of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God; he has been good to us. With branches in your hands, start the festival and march around the altar. You are my God, and I give you thanks; I will proclaim your greatness. Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good, and his love is eternal.” – Psalm 118:24-29 (GNT, emphasis added)
It was this Psalm that the crowds were remembering aloud in their shouts of “hosanna” as Jesus rode toward Jerusalem on a donkey. That moment we remember on Palm Sunday prompts me to consider the crowds and what my own cries would have been had I been among them. With loud cries of “hosanna” they proclaimed the mighty rescuing power of the one they were welcoming into their midst and yet revealed their own desperate need to be saved as they would shout for his death days later.
“Hosanna!” “Save us, Lord!” is both the recognition of our need for deliverance and a shout of expectation, hope and praise to the God who saves.Caleb Matthews ( M.Div. ‘12) serves as director of admissions for Northeastern Seminary.