Hosanna: Getting It Together
November 30, 2014
Mark 11:1-10; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7
The Lectionary for this First Sunday of Advent, in Year B of the three-year cycle, selected these four texts for us today.
Today we are going to “get it together” in three ways:
What unites these four texts? Why does the Lectionary have them together?
The word “Hosanna” is a single word, but it says two things. What are the two meanings of “Hosanna,” and what joins them together?
How are the two Advents of Christ, his first coming and his second coming alike? How are they different? Looking toward his second coming, what is the Hosanna factor in our lives?
Law and Gospel
It all comes together through Law and Gospel.
The Law is the Word of God telling us what we should do, and pronouncing judgment and condemnation when we fail to do it.
The Gospel is the Word of God telling us how Jesus fulfilled the Law, including paying our wages of sin, which is death, for us, setting us free of the Law’s condemnation.
The Holy Spirit uses the Law to show us our failure to please God, and more than that, our inability to keep the Law as we should. We can be moral people in a civil sense. For example, we can withhold our hands from stealing. Nothing is compelling us to be bank robbers. If we rob the bank, it won’t work to say, “The Devil made me do it.” But even our best morals do not make us spiritually righteous before God. We cannot achieve spiritual righteousness. When the Spirit strikes our hearts with the Law, when we despair of our own efforts to be spiritually righteous, we cry out, “Save us.”
The Holy Spirit uses the Gospel to show us who Christ is, what He has done for us. The Gospel proclaims that God, for Jesus’ sake, forgives us all our sins, makes us right with God, and gives us the promise of eternal life. When the Spirit comforts and consoles our hearts over our sins by these promises and declarations of salvation, we cry out, “Praise the Lord in the highest.”
Hosanna: Law and Gospel
Both of these responses to the Word of God, the response to the Law, and the response to the Gospel, are contained in one word of the Gospel text today, the word “Hosanna.”
This they quoted from one of the set of Psalms used each year at the time of the Passover, called the Hallel, Psalm 113-118.
In Psalm 118:26, we see the saying the people in our Gospel text used, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” In the verse before that, v. 25, we see, “Save us, we pray, O Lord!” The word there translated as “Save us, we pray” is Hosanna. One commentator says it means, “Save, we beg.” It is a begging prayer, when people realize that they are spiritual beggars, when they know they are poor in spirit.
Hosanna is the cry of sinners in despair of themselves under the Law, “Save us.” It is the cry of confession and repentance. It is an acceptance of guilt causing the trouble we are in. It is the response of people convicted by the Law and in broken contrition.
But it also is the cry of people believing that God will save, that He is saving. Those Psalms and many other places in the Old Testament tell that the son of David will come to rescue Israel from its oppressors. This crowd is expressing what sounds like faith that Jesus is the King to sit on David’s throne and deliver them from the Romans. The Pharisees certainly took that to be what the crowd was saying. Luke’s account shows us this, 19:39, when the Pharisees called for Jesus to rebuke the crowds for their expression of faith the he was the Son of David, there to deliver them. Jesus answered, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
So Hosanna also is a shout of praise for a delivering King, for faith that salvation has come.
In one word, Hosanna, we hear contrition and faith, repentance and belief, the hearing of the Law and the hearing of the Gospel.
Together: the Old Testament Lesson
In our Old Testament lesson for today, we see from the first verse a cry of Hosanna in its first sense, it’s sense under the Law, “Save us, we beg.”
V.1 - Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.
Here they cry for God to show up, to do mighty works and terrify their enemies, on their behalf, as v. 4 says, “Who acts for those who wait for him.”
What is the problem? Why are they under their enemies? Why do they need deliverance? V. 5 – “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? “
Shall we be saved? See the despair. See how struck down they are in their conscience and despondent they are about what their sins have brought upon them.
Look how this conviction, contrition, and despair goes on verse by verse:
6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all
our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and
our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
9 Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.
All this is the work of the Holy Spirit using the Word of the Law to convict of sin and judgment, and bring the cry of confession.
Together: the Psalm
Our Psalm for today is in the same vein. It goes on and on in a beggarly misery:
2 … stir up your might and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
All this is the cry of Hosanna, “Save us, we beg.”
Philistines, Syria, Babylon, and Rome
In our Old Testament Lesson and Psalm for today, the Israelites sought deliverance from their worldly enemies. At various times they were subjugated by the Philistines, the Syrians, and the Babylonians. At the time of our Gospel text for today, they were again under such foreign rule and domination, this time by the Romans.
No doubt the crowds knew that the past slaveries came upon them for sin. No doubt many of them were confessing that the current domination by Rome was a judgment for sin. It is hard to tell however, whether the deliverance they were seeking was from anything more than Rome.
You and I today are not under a political dominion of a foreign power. We do not suffer under Philistines, Syrians, Babylonians, or Romans.
Devil, World, Sinful Self, the Law
But were it not for the Gospel, we would be under the dominance that caused them to be under those tyrants. Their true enemies were the Devil, the world, and the sinful self. Even the Law became an enemy because, though the Law in itself is righteous and good, even though it is what we should do, because the Law by the flesh was weak. In the weakness of our flesh, the Law could only make matters worse.
Look how terribly the Old Testament Lesson and the Psalm for today end. The Isaiah text shows how bad it is, even when they are confessing sin, “7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us.” All the Law can do is bring a person to give up, to abandon hope, to quit even calling upon the name of the Lord. At that point, they do not even cry, “Hosanna,” “Save us, we beg.”
That’s where the Law leaves you.
The New Testament Lesson
And that is why we have still one more text. We need one.
Our New Testament Lesson today brings us the second Word of God, the Gospel, when it talks about the second advent, the second coming of our delivering King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice v. 7, “As you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Israelites were waiting for the Lord to be revealed. The Jews were waiting for the Son of David to be revealed, and we are waiting for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ in his second coming.
The two advents are like because in both of them, we are waiting for the revelation of Christ.
But they also are different, because after the first coming of Christ, the Gospel was brought into the open. The Gospel always was there in the Word of God. In both the Old and New Testament, God speaks both words, the Law and the Gospel. We see Job say, when in a suffering and distress every bit as bad as what Israel suffered in our lessons for today, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth.” Job 19:25. Job waits for Christ, as the Jews did, and as we do. But in the New Testament, this Word of the Gospel, that always was there, is brought into predominance.
As we wait, we have the blessing of the Gospel. V. 8 says Christ, “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This guiltlessness is not because, under the Gospel, we are not still sinners. We still sin. But we also are declared righteous in God’s sight for the sake of Jesus our substitute. This is the objective justification that comes to us from outside ourselves by which we are guiltless. V. 4 speaks of “the grace of God that was given you in Christ,” which is the forgiveness of all our sins.
As we wait, we are blessed by spiritual gifts. Paul says, v. 7, “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As we wait, v. 9, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our faith may waver, but God is faithful, and his faithfulness does not waiver. His faithfulness reaches far back and far forward. He said, Matthew 25:34, “‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Paul speaks to us in Ephesians 1,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
The Hosanna Factor Today
The cry of Hosanna was not only for the Jews in the Old Testament. It was not only for the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. It is for us today. The cry, "Save us, we beg," is our cry. The cry, "Hosanna in the highest," is our cry.
This is the first reading of Advent because we remember how the Israelites waited for centuries for the coming Messiah to save them from their oppressors, and how we’re getting ready to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas to save the world, and His quickly coming again on the Last Day. But we also remember how He comes to us and saves us, personally, each week as He has promised through His Word and Sacraments. We sing it in every Divine Service in the Sanctus.
Here is the Hosanna factor in our lives until He returns:
That we daily return to our baptisms, by daily confession and repentance.
That we daily believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We daily cry, “Save us, we beg,” and “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”
Sin and salvation. Law and Gospel. Save, we beg, and Praise to our Savior. Hosanna. Amen.