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Hosanna (Gr. hōsanna), is a transliteration of the Aramaic hosha‘ na’, meaning “save, now,” “save, I pray thee,” or “save please” (Psalms 118:25).
The only reference to the word hosanna in the Old Testament is found in Psalms 118:26 as [yasha’na] which is a cry for salvation. The first Hebrew part (root) [yasha] is a word meaning to free or deliver, and to save. That is also why Jesus Christ is called in the Hebrew language, [yasha], or Savior. And the second Hebrew part is [anna] or [‘na], which is a particle meaning to entreat. So, Psalms 118:25 is really a plea for deliverance, the exhortation unto salvation. So, when it says, save now, I beseech thee O LORD, deliver prosperity; it is a petition to be set free.
Psalms 118, a messianic song of praise, says: “I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now (hoshia‘ah nna’ – hosanna), I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.“
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. God is the Lord, and He has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:21-29).
In the same way, the word hosanna is used as an exhortation of deliverance in the New Testament when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Matthew wrote, “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:8, 9 also John 12:13).
The parallel passage in Mark is, “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David” (Mark 11:10). The Weymouth New Testament presents it as “Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our forefather David! God in the highest Heavens save Him!”
During the Triumphal Entry, the Hosanna shouts of praise by the people were considered a prayer to God that salvation may come to Israel through the Messiah King. This message was repeated by the masses. It is similar to the joyous acclamation first used in welcoming the “Ark of the Covenant” to Jerusalem in the Old Testament (Psalms 24:7–10).
The multitudes realized that the power of God was with Christ. So, they laid palm branches and clothing and shouted hosanna to the son of David. In so doing, they were acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the king who had come to deliver them from their bondage. Except, they were thinking of a physical slavery, whereas the Savior came to deliver them from the spiritual slavery of sin (Luke 4:18).
The crowds waved branches of palm trees as a symbol of victory. In triumph, Jesus marched forward to be crucified on the cross on man’s behalf, where, in seeming defeat, wearing a crown of thorns as “King of the Jews” (John 19:19), He actually gave up His precious life as a mighty King (1 Timothy 6:15).
The multitudes that gathered around Jesus and shouted hosanna moved on toward the summit of the Mount of Olives. Among these, were many who had come to Bethany to see Jesus and to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had but a few short weeks before raised from the dead (John 12:17, 18). Even the chief priests came out to join the multitudes. In this triumphal procession, there were many who had been slaves to Satan and whom Jesus had delivered from evil spirits, from every sickness and bondage. Only Luke gave an account of the climax of the Triumphal Entry.
As for Matthew, he recorded Jesus’ exclamation of grief over the doomed city of Jerusalem who rejected His love (Luke 19:39–44). At His arrival to Jerusalem, He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37). God did every thing possible for the salvation of His chosen people. But it was the people’s own choice of rejecting His Son that determined their doomed destiny (Daniel 4:17).
The Theme of the Cross
Today, Christians celebrate Christ’s Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem in Palm Sunday. They Praise God and sing hosanna for His great offer of salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ. The apostle John writes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“Hosanna in the highest,” is the theme of the cross, which is the highest mark of God’s sacrifice to fallen humanity (John 15:13). The apostle John proclaims, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us” (1 John 3:1). Through God’s love, it becomes possible for all the believers to be “called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1) and “heirs” of His kingdom (Romans 8:17).
In His service,
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