At church this morning, we celebrated Palm Sunday. I learned that the donkey has a cross on its back (see here). I also learned that “Hosanna” means “Save”—and I could figure out why it meant that: In Hebrew, it’s the hiphil imperative of yasha with a na (“please”) attached to it. The pastor made the point that many of the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted a political salvation—in which they’d possess Jerusalem and be independent of Roman oppression—but Jesus was offering a spiritual salvation. The Jews were not expecting a Messiah who would humble himself, suffer, and die for their sins.
There is a certain coziness that comes from knowing that God loves me and forgives me and that I am his child, and that I can hope for a rich eternal future, regardless of what my present external situations may be. But I can understand why there were many Jews who wanted political liberation—with all of the poverty and the taxes that they had to pay to Rome. One of the texts that we read today was Zechariah 9:9, which was about the king of Israel humbly coming to Jerusalem on a donkey. But so much of the chapter is about God walloping Israel’s national enemies, and creating a concrete (not merely a spiritual) state of peace. I was wondering at church this morning where the king’s humility in riding on a donkey fit into that, and I remembered that I discussed that issue a while back in my post here.
But I still admire Jesus for rising above political grievances and showing a higher way. He brought different people together, people who ordinarily hated each other—such as Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax-collector.