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Words of Life

Save, Please!

By Randy Robison March 31, 2024 Words of Life

Today we celebrate Easter, the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. For his contemporaries, it marked a dramatic turn of events. One week prior, this controversial prophet entered Jerusalem to much fanfare. Palm branches, often used to greet kings and welcome returning military conquerors, swirled in the air as people waved them upon Jesus’ entrance into the holy city in preparation for the sacred Jewish holiday of Passover. People shouted “hosanna” and “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

But over the next few days, Jesus was taken before the Jewish and Roman authorities, accused of crimes and sins worthy of death, mocked, beaten, and finally killed in the most humiliating way. Many of the same people who celebrated his arrival flipped in a matter of days to demand his crucifixion. What happened?

The word “hosanna” is derived from the Hebrew phrase hoshi’a na, which literally means “save, please.” Israel suffered under the rule of Rome while clinging to ancient prophesies about a messiah that would free them from oppression. Jesus seemed a strong candidate for that role. He confounded the wise with his intellect. He walked among the common people. He broke bread with sinners. And most of all, he performed miracles that no ordinary man could achieve. Surely, this was the one to rid them of the Romans and put the self-righteous Jewish leaders in their place. Save us, please! Hosanna!

Then things turned. He didn’t put up a fight when arrested. He didn’t browbeat his accusers with impressive arguments. He didn’t kick the Roman authorities out of the sacred city. He didn’t call down fire from heaven to burn up his enemies. He didn’t even speak much in his own defense! No, this man who created such great expectations did nothing as they scourged his back, jammed thorns into his head, and forced him to carry a crass wooden cross to the hill of shame. Then he died like every other criminal. What a disappointment!

It is interesting that Jesus gave the most direct explanation to the Pilate. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). He had been before the high priests but no such revelation is recorded. Only the Roman governor heard this profound, yet cryptic, truth and he didn’t understand it. At least, not yet.

It wasn’t until the resurrection that Jesus’ closest followers understood. Then they changed the world. But many Jews still didn’t receive their long-promised savior. Why? There are many explanations – pride, bad theology, deception – but I believe perhaps the biggest reason was simply that Jesus did not fulfill their expectations and desires. Rome maintained authority. Evil people went unpunished. The righteous still suffered.

In hindsight, we gain a clearer picture of Jesus’ accomplishments. He conquered sin and death. He became salvation for us, both individually and collectively. He established his kingdom in our midst. Yet many still reject him because he does not conform to their expectations and desires.

As we remember the momentous events of that world-changing week, let us lay down our demands as we cry, “save, please,” and allow Christ to complete his good and perfect work in his way. Salvation, if we will surrender to it, is here.

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