Audio Worship 4/02/2023 "Hosanna! Save Us!" Matthew 21.1-11

Princeton Presbyterian Church Sermon # 1580

April 2, 2023

Matthew 21:1-11   Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus (This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


"Hosanna! Save Us!"


Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”


  • Entering Jerusalem


Knowing how much Jesus went through on the night he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, I cannot help but imagine it was also difficult to enter into Jerusalem before this week to come, a week of suffering and betrayal and death on the cross. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus “sets His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51). His obedience to the Father’s will was faithful and true. No matter what pain and anguish Jesus would endure, He would let nothing within Himself prevent Him from accomplishing God’s purpose of salvation for His elect.

On this day we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I imagine it would have been an unexpected humble entry as most people might have expected something spectacular or, at the very least, to come in a style more symbolic of an earthly conqueror. Most Jews probably thought that if Jesus were truly the expected Messiah, He would overthrow the Roman government and deliver Israel as Moses once delivered Israel.

He is proclaimed a king by the chanting crowd, he rides on a donkey, so the king is a humble king. He would not be crowned king in the way an earthly king would normally be crowned, but eventually His crown would be a mocking symbol in a crown of thorns. This Palm Sunday entrance moves Jesus and us into the story of the suffering King, what we also refer to as the Passion of Jesus Christ. Jesus enters Jerusalem to bring his message of a different kind of kingdom, not only by the words he had spoken and will speak, but by the very manner in which he arrives in the city.

We are not sure how many people would have lined the streets, it may not have been as many people as we sometimes imagine. It does not appear that the Romans thought much of it at the time, just a guy riding into town on a donkey. Perhaps a few people putting their cloaks along the road and cutting down branches when the cloaks ran out. He draws something of a crowd, but nothing that will appear to get out of hand - nothing the Romans could not handle. Jesus would not have been the first person to ride into Jerusalem with an entourage. But He was not riding in on a fine steed sitting in a finely adorned saddle with jewels and other animals carrying his riches. No trumpets marking His arrival, no soldiers preceding Him. He was just a guy on a donkey with a bunch of rag tag people putting down their cloaks and some branches.

But, by the time He entered Jerusalem, it was large enough to draw the attention the town as people were buzzing over His identity. “Who is this?” Some probably wondered, "Who does this guy think he is?"



  • Who is this?”


The question of who Jesus was may have been asked on a variety of levels. For those who only saw Him entering Jerusalem, it could have been a simple question of His name. For those who had heard more about Him, like of miracles He had done, it could have been a deeper hope that He genuinely was the coming King of Israel. It seems to me that there were multiple groups of people inquiring and also a variety of answers to the question. One group is represented in verse nine, the ones who were following Him and also went before Him were placing cloaks and branches along the road. They answered the question of identity with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Another group might be identified in verse eleven in direct response to the question of who this is? “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” It seems to be a little drop off between Son of David and prophet. But it is possible that several answers were spreading throughout the town as people spread the question and the answers that were heard. You know how it goes when people spread news, the story grows as it is shared.

Who is Jesus? Imagine that day in Jerusalem. People talking and forming their own opinions. It was the question of the day as Jesus rode in with cloaks and branches marking the way. As Matthew gives testimony to the story, Jesus is once again fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. "

Rejoice, for your king is coming. This is who Jesus is. He is righteous and having salvation. This is who Jesus is. He comes humbly, on a donkey. This is who Jesus is. And the response is appropriate - “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Hosanna literally means "O save us!" Like many words, hosanna takes on an additional meaning through time and becomes a cry of praise. Praise to the One who saves us. Matthew helps us see that Jesus is the one of whom Zechariah spoke, the king who comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.

Palm branches remind us that those who followed Him on that day believed Him to be a king, even the King. We have the benefit of reading other Scripture that proclaims Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. We have the benefit of all the testimony of the Bible that helps us to know more fully how to answer the question, “Who is this?”

Jesus is the King who comes to Jerusalem in humility knowing that He will suffer and die. He will suffer and die for us. The King gives His life for the subjects, so that we might be saved. "Hosanna!" Hosanna to this King who brings salvation to us through His suffering and death on the cross. This ride into Jerusalem marks the beginning of His final week before the cross. Yes, He is the king, but on Friday He will be crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and placed in a tomb.

Who is this? This is the King who saves us, hosanna! This is the King who is willing to give His life for us. This is the King who seeks a relationship with his people, not just a relationship of exalted King and humble servants, but one of a humble King who gives of Himself that we might be saved. The King suffers for us. Jesus rode into Jerusalem knowing He would suffer and die. He told the disciples this would happen. He knew, and He still rode in, humble and obedient.



  • Who Do You Say That I Am?


The people asked “Who is this?” and I am reminded of another question that Jesus asked that was similar, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” It is also from Matthew’s gospel, 13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16.13-16). Here too we hear of a variety of thoughts on who Jesus might have been. Who is He? John the Baptist? Elijah? And by the time we get to Jerusalem and the humble entry, the answers are still given with some uncertainty, Son of David? A prophet? But in this instance with the disciples, Jesus turns the question asked about Him on them. Who do you say that I am? That is the question we also entertain daily. It is part of our own testimony as to who we believe Jesus is...and the answers are numerous for us. We know Jesus as the Son of David, as the Good Shepherd, as the Son of God, and so forth. Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God who begins this last week of His life on this earth with a humble entry into Jerusalem.

We also confess who Jesus is in our speech and our actions. What would our response be to someone who asks of us? Jesus is my Savior and Savior to all who trust in Him. Jesus is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus is the One who came to bring salvation and forgiveness and love and hope and faith and truth and life. We each have our own expressions and our lives can also reflect what we believe and confess.



  • Hosanna! Save Us!


When we gather today to praise God and sing our hosannas, we give testimony to who Jesus is. We join with all who have gone before us to proclaim the Lordship of Christ. We acknowledge Jesus as the One willing to suffer for us. Our tendency is to resist the humbled way that leads to suffering – but Jesus embraced it. It is what enables Jesus to embrace us and our suffering and in turn we are able to embrace His suffering. As Paul writes: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11).

Jesus is our king, to whom we now sing our hosannas! Save us, O Lord! We sing to Him because we are actually on the other side of the entry into Jerusalem. We know what came this week -on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Jesus is praised and thanked because He was faithful even unto death. This week we look to that death, the news that is painful and hard to look upon. But we must have death before resurrection. We must have Good Friday before there can be an Easter Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem to signify that the suffering servant, the humble King is willing to give His life for us. This week is the most important week of our lives. This week, these final days in Jesus’ life, we reflect and learn more about this King who lived in fidelity, obedience, and love as our King. Who is this? This is Jesus Christ to whom we shout with those along the road: “Hosanna! Save us!” Amen.