April 5, 2020
Hosanna in the highest! What does Hosanna mean? It means, “Save us” in Hebrew. The crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem were quoting Psalm 118, “Save us, we pray, O LORD! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.”
We could certainly use some saving! Oh, how we wish a vaccine would be developed soon! That would be a game changer! That would be our salvation! If we could just get a shot to prevent this disease, then we could go back to our normal lives! But a vaccine, even if it is developed in record speed, will not be ready for several months.
Hydroxychloroquine! An anti-malarial drug also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis used along with an antibiotic called azithromycin has shown promising early results. Many doctors are touting it online and on TV, so that even the FDA has announced an emergency authorization to use this drug to treat Covid-19. If this works, this could be the savior we’re hoping for! But we have far too little information to call this drug or any other experimental drug our Savior.
Summer! Perhaps summer will be our savior. Warn weather will cause the spread of this disease to drop precipitously, like it does for the flu and colds each year! And then we can just hope that this plague doesn’t return in force next fall when the temperature drops. Or maybe we’ll be better prepared.
Or perhaps, you’re not too worried about the disease itself, but what it has done to your livelihood. The government is making decisions on which jobs are essential and which jobs are unessential. But for your family, which is clothed, fed, and otherwise provided for by your income; your job is essential to them whether the government deems it so or not! You need a financial savior! You need your job saved! You need money to buy the things you need in this life. Yes, the government is providing relief to most families in our country, but that money won’t last long. And the government, which fills its own coffers by taking from those who actually produce wealth, cannot provide perpetually for a nation, whose productivity has largely drawn to a halt.
We need saving alright. We need money, food, and clothing. We need our bills payed. We need medicine. We need this plague to go away! Yet, is this the kind of saving these crowds were crying for as Jesus entered Jerusalem?
It certainly would make sense. Jesus certainly did heal their diseases. He took away leprosy with a touch. He restored the sight of the blind; made paralytics and cripples dance; made the mute and deaf speak and hear; he even made the dead live again! He fed the hungry with bread and fish created from thin air. At one time they tried to force him to be their king; to be their chosen savior.
But that is not what Jesus is entering into Jerusalem to be: an earthly king, who feeds and heals temporary afflictions. The crowds borrow words from God to cry out for help. God caused Psalm 118 to be written. So, it is God who determines what they mean when they cry, Hosanna. They are not asking for a temporary salvation: food for a day, healing from this or that disease. They are asking for eternal salvation: salvation from death and hell.
Jesus rides on to Jerusalem on a donkey, because he plans to lay down his life in Jerusalem. There he will be betrayed, beaten, and murdered. He will bear the disease of our souls on his own soul and will be scourged until we are healed by his stripes. Likely this isn’t what this crowd meant by Hosanna. But it is what God meant. Jesus fulfills God’s plan to save us. He does this by dying for our sins, so that we might have everlasting life.
We sing Hosanna today. We do this every Sunday in the Sanctus before we eat the true body and blood of Christ Jesus; the same body, which hung on the cross and blood, which poured from his wounds. And we eat this meal for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. By singing, “Hosanna,” we confess that Jesus’ giving his body over to death and his blood to be poured on the cross was for our salvation. And we confess that all who believe receive this salvation when they eat of this Sacrament.
Yes, we do need saving from this plague, which has befallen our nation and the nations of the world. We need our daily bread! And God certainly promises to provide it for us. But our greatest need remains our need for eternal salvation. We need to be saved every day. We need Christ every day. And God offers us this salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is received through faith.
In our Lutheran Confessions, Martin Luther points out in Article IV of the Smalcald Articles that we have a liberal God. The Gospel, which gives eternal salvation to all who believe, is given to us in multiple means, so that we will not go without. Luther writes:
We will now return to the Gospel, which does not give us counsel and aid in only one way. God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world [Luke 24:45-47]. This is the particular office of the Gospel. Second, through Baptism. Third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourth through the Power of the Keys. Also through the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren, “Where two or three are gathered” (Matthew 18:20) and other such verses [especially Romans 1:12].
God gives us the Gospel in a way that we poor sinners can receive it! If salvation depended on our works, we could never be saved! We would be damned before we ever started! So, Jesus did the work for us. And he bore the burden for our sins, because he knew we would never finish bearing it! This wasn’t our plan, but it was the only way to save us.
And this Gospel is received through faith! Any poor sinner who repents of his sins and believes that God is gracious and merciful to him and forgives him of all his sins for Christ’s sake is indeed forgiven! This is why Christ has given us the preaching of the Gospel. This is why we have pastors who study God’s word and proclaim the Gospel week after week, so that your weary souls can be fed; so that you can be saved!
And God doesn’t stop there. So that you know that this Gospel is for you, he feeds you Christ’s own body and blood. So that you know that God intends to raise your body from the grave, he puts into your mouth the body of Christ, which overcame the grave! God is generous. He lavishes us with Christ!
But, many of us can’t receive the Lord’s Supper now. I can’t visit my homebound members. They’re all isolated. We’re not allowed to gather together; only in small groups. And even that carries risk. So, has this plague kept Jesus from us? Has this virus taken the salvation giving Gospel from us?
By no means! The Gospel is superabundant. Not only in its content: the inexhaustible forgiving blood of Christ; but also in its manner. God has given us a Gospel that can survive plague, natural disaster, persecution, imprisonment, government censorship, and any other hinderance that you can imagine. When St. Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”, he is not only speaking of the feeling God has for us through Christ, but the love he expresses to us in the Gospel.
We can’t all gather together to eat Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament. Is Christ separated from us? No! We still have the Gospel! And many are listening to it on the internet, a tool Satan has used much more effectively than the Church up to this point, but which now is used to proclaim salvation to anyone who has a computer.
And if you don’t have the internet, as many of our members don’t. Is the Gospel kept from them? No! They too can remember their Baptism every day! They can read their Bibles. Husbands can confess Christ to their wives and wives can confess Christ to their husbands. Parents can gather their children around and proclaim to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can call each other and pray with each other and encourage one another in the faith. This is called the mutual conservation and consolation of the brethren. Confess Christ in your homes! And in your homes salvation will shine forth!
Jesus came into Jerusalem humble on a donkey to show that God does not demand us to come up to him, but he comes down to us. He meets us where we are, even if it’s quarantined in our homes because a scary invisible virus is ravaging our land. God offers us grace and salvation in a way we can receive it. But he does not offer it in a way we choose. God chooses how he comes to us. God chooses how he saves us. Only Jesus’ death on the cross can make atonement for your sins. And God chooses how we receive this salvation. We can only be saved by hearing and believing the Gospel. This means that we need the word of God in our homes. As we live in isolation from the outside world, we need that heavenly message to be read, spoken, sung, confessed, and imprinted on our hearts. This is how the Christian Church has survived from generation to generation. And it is the only way the Christian Church will survive: if we have Christ’s words in our ears, minds, and hearts.
This virus has humbled us. Our great nation has been bent down low. The country that had the gall to call itself a shining city on a hill has been shown to be at the mercy of God, who himself has built the true Shining City on a Hill with his Son, Jesus Christ, as the cornerstone. But it is good for us to be humbled. Because it is in humility that we meet Jesus. When we see that we are not in control. When we realize that we really do need to pray for daily bread, every day. When we see our own mortality and that the rich and powerful in this life do not have the power to save us. Then we look to Jesus who provides the saving we really need. He saves us from death and hell. He forgives our sins. And he gives us this salvation in the simplest, humblest way. Through words.
Let us not despise the Word of God, but consider it God’s salvation for us. I pray that this momentary affliction God is laying on us will cause us to hunger for the body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ in the Sacrament; the only meal we cannot live without. I pray that we desire more fervently to meet together and encourage one another through fellowship and prayer. And as God has so humbled us in order that we receive Christ through faith, I pray that in humility we serve one another in love as Christ has served us. God grant it. Amen.