Calvary Road Baptist Church

“TODAY YOU SAY ‘HOSANNA’”

Matthew 21.9

 We are three weeks from Christianity’s annual observance of Easter, our celebration of the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, three days and three nights after His crucifixion on a cruel Roman cross for our sins. Though many who profess to be Christians tout our Lord’s great Sermon on the Mount as the loftiest instructions for daily life ever taught by a religious leader (which, indeed, it is), their praise of the Son of God seems to become somewhat muted this time of year, as they celebrate Easter without actually trumpeting the Savior’s bodily resurrection from the dead. Oh, they have their ecumenical sunrise services, as well as their Easter egg hunts at Library Park. However, they always seem to fall a bit short of any clear and ringing affirmation of that event upon which Bible Christianity, the faith once delivered to the saints, stands or falls. As the Apostle Paul declared to the Corinthians, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”[1] Therefore, in light of the fact that we are approaching our celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead, I thought it would be beneficial for us to look into some events that transpired shortly before our Lord’s crucifixion. Don’t be too surprised to discover some similarities of conduct exhibited by those living then and people living today.

The last city the Lord Jesus passed through on His final journey to Jerusalem was the city of Jericho, whose prominent citizens were for the most part either of the priestly caste or the publicans, those tax collectors who collaborated with the Roman occupiers to squeeze oppressive taxes from the downtrodden population. In Jericho, Jesus gave sight to the two blind beggars that for the first time publicly acknowledged Him to be the Messiah, by crying out that He was the Son of David.[2] He then selected from the multitude of onlookers a guy to dine with who had climbed a tree, a publican named Zacchaeus.[3] That certainly stirred up some consternation among the resentful multitudes. Many were pilgrims who were passing through the city on their way to Jerusalem to worship a week later at the Temple on Passover, and publicans were a despised group to them. As well, among Jesus’ followers was the expectation that our Lord, replete with all His miracle-working power and the stunning doctrines He taught, would soon be crowned the king of the Jews in Jerusalem.

We have already seen, in Luke 19.11-27, that the Lord Jesus Christ disabused His followers that any such thing was immediately about to happen. However, you know how people are. When they want something badly enough, they sometimes believe that wanting something to be is sufficient to make it come to pass. Little did our Lord’s followers and admirers realize that a conspiracy was already being hatched against Him for having earlier raised Lazarus from the dead.[4] It seems that Jesus and His apostles arrived in the vicinity of Jerusalem on Friday, observed the Sabbath on Saturday, and then triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem on the first day of the week, that week we now refer to as Passion Week. What they did not know was that they had given the conspirators the opportunity they had been waiting for, though Jesus knew. In Jerusalem, He sent disciples to secure a donkey colt for Him, and rode it into the city, fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy and showing the population that He as a king was coming into the city in peace.[5] Kings who entered cities on horseback symbolized conquest, rather than peace.

How did the people respond to Him? Matthew 21.8-9 is our text for today. When you find those two verses, please stand and read along silently as I read aloud:

 

8      And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.

9      And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

 

Consider how they responded to the Savior, both initially and eventually, in a message from God’s Word that I have titled, “Today You Say “Hosanna.’”

 

Three considerations:

 

First, WE CONSIDER THEIR CELEBRATION OF JESUS CHRIST

 

In Jericho, there was anticipation of Christ’s crowning. I have already referred to that. Luke 19.11: “And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” So we see, they were already simmering with excitement. Therefore, despite the parable our Lord taught to squelch the notion that He was about to take charge in Jerusalem, be crowned king, and overthrow the Romans, they still entertained the expectation that He would do precisely that. Therefore, there was overflowing exuberance when He rode into the city on that colt’s back in fulfillment of a prophecy everyone in the city was familiar with. They had been downtrodden by Gentiles for centuries. First the Babylonians, then the Greeks led by Alexander, and now the Romans. They wanted it to end, they ached for it to end, and their misunderstanding of the fulfillment of the prophecy, and their deafness to the parable Jesus had taught them in Jericho, led them to believe they were on the cusp of their oppression finally ending.

“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” Those were the chantings of the multitudes in the procession. Can you imagine spending your whole life hearing about the greatness of your people in the days of David and Solomon, a thousand years earlier, but having to face the oppression and humiliation of occupiers every day of your life, and now being excited at the prospect that the long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived to overthrow Rome and restore Israel’s greatness?

What did those words mean? You may remember that I recently told you that blind Bartimaeus, back in Jericho, was the first person in the gospels to publicly proclaim our Lord to be the Messiah, when he hollered, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me,” in Luke 18.38. Now, just a few days later, and perhaps instigated by the words of that once blind beggar, they were crying “Hosanna,” “proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and He let them do it. ‘Hosanna’ means ‘Save, we pray thee.’”[6]

Imagine the Lord Jesus Christ entering Jerusalem through the East Gate, riding on the colt of a donkey, people spreading their garments on the ground before Him, laying down palm branches for the colt to walk on, and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” My friends, they were celebrating my Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Next, WE CONSIDER THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS CHRIST

 

How does such a thing as the crucifixion happen less than a week after His triumphal entry? One day people are crying out Hosanna, and a few days later they are angrily shouting “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.” How are we to explain that from a human perspective? There are a number of factors that go into it, considering the whole thing from our perspective:

First, of course, He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Sold for thirty pieces of silver. We know the man was a thief before he betrayed the Master, so it is likely that his motive was purely one of greed.[7] However, we also know that when Judas departed the upper room, Satan entered into him and spurred him on.[8] We know that thieves shall not inherit the kingdom of God.[9] We also know that the love of money is the root of all evil.[10] The downward spiral of sin in a man’s life is perfectly illustrated with Judas Iscariot, his sins carrying him along until he is eventually possessed by the devil himself, betrays the Son of God, and then commits suicide.[11] It is not likely any of that night’s events leading up to our Lord’s crucifixion would have happened without such a traitor as Judas Iscariot.

Next, of course, His disciples abandoned Him. You understand that the evening before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus Christ took eleven of His apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane, and there began to pray through the night. When the soldiers came to arrest Him, several of the apostles initially put up a bit of a struggle, but Mark 14.50 informs us that “they all forsook him, and fled.” One even ran away naked, verse 52. However, there was a reason the soldiers were sent to take Jesus into custody in the middle of the night. Their superiors feared the reaction of the populace, so they ordered Him apprehended at night when everyone was asleep. What might have happened had our Lord’s men not abandoned Him, or if they had made a real ruckus? It might have frightened the soldiers off, since those who had sent them did not want to provoke a public outcry.

Third, you will remember that Simon Peter denied Him. This was sometime later, at the home of the high priest, Caiaphas.[12] Peter had followed the soldiers and Jesus there after they took Him into custody. Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ predicted Peter’s denials despite Peter’s pronouncement that he would never deny the Lord.[13] You have to wonder what might have happened had Peter stirred things up instead of cowering as he did. What if he had gone from door to door, waking people up and announcing the shenanigans those Jewish rulers were up to? It is likely he could have gathered crowds who would have demanded the Lord’s release, or would have at least temporarily squelched any conspiracy of have Him quickly crucified.

Fourth, the mass of people simply ignored Him. To be sure, a whole bunch of people shouted and praised Him the day of His triumphal entry. However, days had passed and He had become old news. People returned to their high holy days routines, being totally religious while completely ignoring God, God’s plan, and God’s Son.

Fifth, the rulers of the Jews conspired against Him. They had been doing their dirty work of planning Jesus’ death in secret, sneaking around and whispering behind closed doors for a long time now. Therefore, when they made their move, they knew they had to arrange for His arrest in the dark of night, and for His trials to take place in the dim hours of the morning. The plotters also knew they had to move quickly, so there would be no chance to mount a defense against their charges, and so none of the Sanhedrin who were sympathetic to Jesus would be able to put a stop to them, men such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea.

So you see, everything had to fall perfectly into place for Jesus to be crucified. None of the conspirators had a change of heart. No one leaked the plan. One of the Lord’s own had to betray Him, while the others had to abandon Him for fear. The majority of the people had to be asleep, and relatively unconcerned about this One who had been big news only a couple of days ago.

 

Finally, CONSIDER THE SUPERFICIAL NATURE OF THEIR SPIRITUALITY

 

We know what happened. However, we should ask ourselves how it could have happened. To be sure, the passion and crucifixion of the Son of God was the result of a divine plan that was executed in accordance with God’s grand purpose. Peter described it as “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” during his Pentecostal sermon.[14] However, on a human level, how could it all have happened? Sure, you say Hosanna today, but what will you do in a couple of days?

First, His disciples had to abandon Him. But how could they do that? First John 4.18 sheds some light: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” They ran, they scattered for their lives, they were spooked with fear because they did not love Jesus. Had they loved Him, they would have stood up for Him. Had they stood up for Him, it is unlikely that even if He was arrested He would then have been crucified.

As well, for Him to be crucified, Judas Iscariot had to betray Him. How could he do that? Let me refresh your memory of our Lord’s explanation of the parable of the sower, in Matthew 13.19: “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.” They all thought Judas was one of them. They had no idea who the betrayer Jesus talked about in the upper room would be. However, the wicked one did come to enter in to him, did he not? Judas Iscariot simply did not grasp the reality that you cannot have it all. His love for money instead of love for Jesus opened him up to the worst fate of all, to end his life by suicide and to forever be known as the son of perdition. But for Judas to show them who was Jesus, in that day before photographs and with no pictures, it would have been all but impossible for soldiers to identify Him, and His arrest that night could not have been otherwise accomplished.

Third, for Jesus to be crucified Simon Peter had to deny Him. Imagine the big fisherman so scared that he denied the Savior rather than owning up to knowing Him when asked by the young girl. All he had to say was, “Yes, I was with Him.” Instead, he denied, and denied, and denied again.[15] Simon Peter is a classic example of some big guy who has a boat load of physical courage (after all, he did cut off the ear of Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane, John 18.10), but has not the moral courage to withstand the disapproval of a young maiden. Simon Peter could not handle the questions of that young woman, a little girl in comparison to his strength and size. Therefore, he caved in. He capitulated. He just could not man up. If he had just made some noise, threatened exposure, cried out that God’s laws are being violated, the unjust and illegal nighttime trials of Jesus would have stopped. However, instead of roaring like a lion of God, Peter whimpered like a frightened puppy. Things would sure change for Simon Peter and the others on the day of Pentecost. From then on they were characterized by boldness of speech in the face of these same religious leaders. The difference? The Holy Spirit of God. There was nothing of the Spirit in Peter’s cowardice that night. Had there been, the crucifixion would not have taken place.

Fourth, for the crucifixion to take place, the multitudes had to ignore Him. Turn to Matthew 13.20-22, where we see an illuminating explanation of their behavior:

 

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22     He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

 

The people were quite willing to shout “Hosanna” a few days ago. They were very excited about Jesus when He first rode into town. Their enthusiasm endured for a while. Then other things occupied their attention. With some it was the mundane affairs of everyday life. With others it might have been concern about the consequences of being at odds with the religious rulers, or even the Romans. With most it was a simple matter of sleep. You have a right to your sleep, don’t you? After all, even the apostles went to sleep after the Lord told them to by all means stay awake. However, if even a few people in Jerusalem had been really interested in the Lord’s welfare, and had paid attention to Him, the conspiracy to crucify Him could not have been pulled off.

Finally, for the crucifixion to take place the rulers of the Jews had to conspire against Him. What an evil conspiracy it was. Imagine the seared consciences and the hardened hearts that were required amongst those zealous students of the Hebrew scriptures to so egregiously violate the Laws they were so devoted to that they could methodically and systematically contravene every principle they had ever publicly espoused. Additionally, they conspired against a man they knew worked great miracles, a man they knew taught profound truths, and a man they knew had committed no known sins that could be used to charge Him with wrongdoing. His crimes? He threatened to upset the apple cart. There were two dynamics operating in delicate balance that Jesus threatened to overturn. On one hand, there was the delicate balance of those who vied for the allegiance of the common man, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. Jesus was so popular among the people that those three groups who had battled over the years for people’s affections felt threatened by Him. Therefore, He had to go. There was also a delicate balance to be preserved between the occupied and the occupiers, between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire. Herod had maintained that balance in the years up to our Lord’s birth with severe brutality. Since his death, the Roman governor had cooperated with the Jewish leaders to maintain the balance, allowing the Jewish leaders to control the masses in return for stability and privileges. However, the Lord Jesus Christ allowed people to praise and worship Him. He allowed the masses to refer to Him using Messianic terms. The people were stirring up hopes of throwing off Roman rule and a return to Israel’s golden age, such as when David and Solomon ruled. This, the Jewish leaders knew, would result in open revolt and the loss of life when the Romans quashed the Jewish uprising. Therefore, the cause of such hopes, Jesus of Nazareth, had to go. It never occurred to them that since Jesus was born when the Messiah was to be born, in the city the Messiah was predicted to be born in, with the proper bloodline to rule Israel as king, with miracle-working power, with a comprehension of God’s Word and God’s will that was unmatched, He actually was their Messiah!

 

As we ponder the crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our sins, let us consider that the odds were so long against His crucifixion taking place that it could never have happened in the regular course of events. Jesus was crucified because God planned it, because God wanted it, and because God executed His plan in accordance with His determination to save some sinners from their sins.

On a strictly human level, Christ’s crucifixion could not possibly have happened unless, at every turn, every person committed sin. Judas sinned. The disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane sinned. Peter later sinned by denying his Lord three times. The Jewish hierarchy sinned. The people sinned by means of their apathy, or their lack of interest, or their determination to not lose any sleep, or whatever.

To be sure, Pontius Pilate sinned. The Roman soldiers sinned. The Temple guards who first arrested Jesus sinned. My goodness, they were charged with protecting the sanctity of the Jewish place of worship, and they knew Jesus had been to the Temple every day and had never done a single thing wrong.

Even the Apostle John, that youngest of the apostolic band who knew the high priest and actually saw the unjust and illegal nighttime trial of Jesus, was not without complicity in this whole affair.[16] Though Peter denied the Lord three times outside, John stood there in Caiaphas’ house and said nothing to stop it!

Is there no one in all of this who does right? Was there no one connected with our Lord’s crucifixion who was innocent? No one, my friends, beside our Lord. None of them were without sin, just as none of us is without sin. We are all guilty, and every one of us needs the forgiveness than only Jesus provides.



[1] 1 Corinthians 15.17

[2] Luke 18.35-43

[3] Luke 19.1-10

[4] John 11.45-53

[5] Isaiah 62.11; Zechariah 9.9

[6] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol I, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930), page 167.

[7] John 12.6

[8] John 13.27

[9] 1 Corinthians 6.9-10

[10] 1 Timothy 6.10

[11] Matthew 27.5

[12] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels, (New York: Harper & Row, 1950), pages 212-215.

[13] Matthew 26.34-35

[14] Acts 2.23

[15] Matthew 26.69-75

[16] John 18.15



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org