Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success.
Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. On this day, Christians remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and we prepare for a deeper participation in the crucial events of this week.
I have chosen to reflect upon Psalm 118 today because of its strong connections to Palm Sunday. This psalm begins with a celebration of God’s steadfast love and salvation. Then it envisions the opening of the gates of the temple in Jerusalem. In this context, the psalmist cries out: “Please, LORD, save us!” (v. 25). This call for help is followed by “Bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD!” (v. 26). The psalm finishes with thanks and praise for the God who saves and forgives.
It’s easy to hear echoes of Psalm 118 on Palm Sunday. This is especially true in light of the fact that in the original Hebrew of Psalm 118:25, “save us” is hoshi‘a na’. When written in the Greek of the biblical gospels, this phrase becomes hosanna. Thus, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was greeted with the words of Psalm 118: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9, ESV). He was fulfilling the role of God in Psalm 118, coming to Jerusalem to save his people. That’s why they cried out “Hosanna! Save us!” Though hosanna can sound to us like an exclamation of praise, it is, essentially, a cry for help. As Christians have used this word throughout the centuries, it has become a word of praise, in spite of its original meaning.
As we begin this Holy Week, we start where the people of Jerusalem started almost 2,000 years ago. We need help. We need a savior. We need someone to set us free from our sin and to open for us the gates of new life. We need God to be our king, to rule over our lives and to redeem our world. So, like the people of Israel, we cry out “Hosanna! Lord, please save us!”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you experienced God’s salvation in the past? Where in your life do you need to experience God’s salvation today?
PRAYER: At the beginning of Holy Week, dear Lord, I cry out to you as did your people long ago: “Hosanna! Save us, Lord! Save me, Lord!” As I say this, I think of how you have already saved me. Through the cross, you have saved me once and for all from sin and death. And by your persistent grace at work in my life, you have saved me from all sorts of messes I have gotten myself into.
Yet I need you to save me still. Where sin has a hold upon me, I ask you to set me free. Where I am bound by ignorance, I ask for the knowledge of the truth. Save me, Lord, from my tendency to want to rule my own life, rather than to live under your gracious sovereignty. Save me from my fears, my hesitations, my doubts.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed are you, dear Lord, because you have come to me! Amen.
Devotional Reflections for Holy Week
My blog is featuring a serious of devotional reflections for Holy Week, based on a biblical version of the Stations of the Cross. You can find these devotions at my blog: http://www.patheos.com/community/markdroberts/.