On the last Sunday of the Savior’s mortal life the disciples brought to Him the donkey they had obediently obtained. As we talked about yesterday, the riding of a donkey was symbolic of the fact that He was King, but instead of a fine saddle of leather, gold and jewels that the king of the land would have had, this donkey was outfitted in humble cloaks from off the backs of the disciples—a gesture of love on their part.
This being the beginning of Passover week, Jerusalem was crowded with local Jews and thousands who had traveled from lands far away in order to celebrate Passover at the temple. Word that Jesus, the man who had raised Lazarus from the tomb, had come to Jerusalem spread quickly among them and curiosity impelled a great multitude to gather to see for themselves. Therefore, as Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives, crossed the wadi Kidron, and then began the assent to the Temple Mount, people thronged the streets to greet Him. Overcome with emotion many took off their cloaks and laid them on the ground to make a path for Him. Others cut palm branches, a symbol of victory, and waved them as He passed. And those that followed Him and those He approached all began to cry out singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). Hosanna means “save now,” and these words are part of the Hallel which was used in the temple during sacrificial rituals to teach the people that the animal sacrifices they were offering were a semblance of The Sacrifice that would occur when a Messiah atoned for the sins of mankind.
The Hallel consists of Psalms 113-118, which are recited not only during sacrificial rituals but on many other joyous occasions. The Hallel was traditionally recited as part of morning prayer services, and during the first night of Passover was part of evening prayers. Reading these six Psalms will help you feel the meaning of Easter, but there is one verse that is particularly poignant to me and illustrates the irony of what is occurring. Sunday the crowd praises Jesus and through word and actions proclaims Him their king, but on Friday they will cry out, “We have no king but Ceasar” (John 19:15). And in the Hallel we read, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22).
As the crowd shouts “Hosanna!” the Pharisees call on Jesus to rebuke the disciples for such blasphemy. But Jesus answers them, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out!”
As the procession slowly draws near to the city, Jesus wept, and said, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:42). There is much debate over the meaning of the word Jerusalem, but some have said it means “Founded peaceful.” If that is the case, the Savior’s sorrow is even more meaningful. The city was intended as a place of peace and refuge for the House of Israel, but men had turned it into a place of iniquity. Thus great destruction, pain, and suffering await the inhabitants and Jesus prophecies of that impending doom while weeping. (Luke 19:42-44).
But the message is for all of us. God will save us from destruction. Even the stones of the earth know that. And the Savior was given us to “found us peaceful” in the midst of this world of chaos and iniquity. This is the promise that is ours—this “belongs to our peace” if we will lay down our cloaks on the path of righteousness and follow the Savior crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that came in the name of the Lord.”