In the reading from the Gospel of John this Palm Sunday, we get to see these two sides of an experience: excitement and confusion playing out, as Jesus makes his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem where the crowds and the disciples celebrate and move forwards towards an uncertain climax, only having the tiniest awareness of what might lay ahead.
Imagine yourself as one of the great crowd. You and many others have travelled to the city to celebrate Passover. You hear Jesus shall be entering the city and you are immensely excited to greet him as he does. “The one who comes in the name of the Lord” is here. You pull down palm branches and start enthusiastically waving them, much like we might do today with flags, celebrating all that is good and victorious. You are excited because you hope that this “King of Israel” is here to be victorious in the only way you understand kings to be: in the overthrowing of those who abuse their political power and in the setting free of those who are oppressed and disadvantaged. That is something to celebrate! The crowds in their excitement shout “Hosanna!” which in Hebrew means “Save, Please!”.
Now imagine yourself as one of the disciples. Upon hearing the crowd's words Jesus immediately decides to find a donkey to ride. This confuses you. Why doesn’t he choose a horse as might a warrior king declaring war would have done but instead chooses something that later, when you and the other disciples look back, you will understand symbolised the lowly and humble position of Jesus’ purpose and fulfilled the prophecies of the holy scriptures of old. For now though, you do not know what is going to happen. You do not know what to expect. You and the others were often confused when around Jesus, this was nothing new, you follow him into the city all the same.
If in these uncertain and unsettling times we are excited but wary, confused but still willing to take a step forward, maybe we too should say aloud “Hosanna!” just like the crowds did that day. God will hear this vulnerable, raw and authentic call. Sometimes the most powerful of prayers are the shortest most succinct ones. A well known short prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Shorter still would be simply “Jesus”. When we are lost for words, excited but confused, unsure of where we are going and what will happen but are not quite able to articulate it, maybe we can try praying “Hosanna!”
It is probably the most humble and honest prayer we could ever pray.
Natalie Rees (Ordinand - St Peter’s Church).