Palm Sunday

(Cross-posted at Image of Truth)

Palm Sunday beings Passion Week (or Holy Week). The primary event the day commemorates is Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he was crucified. The work pictured, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by Jean-Hippolyte Flanderin, is one of a minority of painting to portray a certain uniqueness in Matthew’s telling of the triumphal entry. Matthew alone says that Jesus used two donkeys, not one, in his ride into Jerusalem:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:“Say to Daughter Zion,

‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,“Hosanna to the Son of David!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  (Matt. 21:1-6)

The other gospels do not include this detail. However Matthew, who focuses on Jesus most as Jewish Messiah, is careful to include it. Meanwhile, the scene features a word that we often confuse or misinterpret today.  Hosanna was not merely a praise, as it is often used today, but also a cry for salvation. The crowds were, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, praising and proclaiming him the Messiah that would save Israel once and for all. When this did not happen in the way they believed it would, they turned on him just a few days later. Yet, in doing so, salvation was brought in the way that the Messiah did intend… his own death and resurrection.

The Hosanna from the gospels has been set to music many times, in many styles. Sojourn Music has a setting of it on their album Advent Songs (with Christmas-themed lyrics, however, we at Sojourn traditionally sing an alternate set of lyrics to the same melody on Palm Sunday). Well-known musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed two Hosannas, one for the controversial rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970 and another, using the Vulgate translation of Mark 11:9, in his highly stylized Requiem Mass in 1984. This version is shown below in its first live performance.

(Illustration: Jean-Hippolyte Flanderin, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, 1842)