March 19 – Hosanna

Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!

I love Palm Sunday with all of its fanfare and joy. How exciting it would have been to be part of the crowds lining the streets to welcome the long-awaited Messiah! They shouted “Hosanna!” as Jesus rode into the city, and every year as we think back to this joyous day, hosanna is proclaimed in word and song, but have you ever wondered what exactly we are saying?

The prelude for Palm Sunday is a song entitled “Hosanna.” I will let you in on a little secret: I have had that song chosen since last year when I played it at Fourth Presbyterian on Palm Sunday! The piece was arranged by one of my friends from college, and I think that it captures the emotion of Palm Sunday so well. The words are included at the end of this post, and I cannot wait for you to hear the music.

Even though I chose that song almost a year ago and have used it as a choir anthem for Palm Sunday in years past, I never have stopped to think about the meaning of the title word—the word that we hear, sing and say all through this season. The dictionary definition of hosanna is an expression of adoration, praise or joy. Well, duh! When I read that, I realized that I was going to have to do a little bit of digging.

Here is what I discovered. The English word hosanna comes from none other than the Greek word hosanna. Basically, the people who translated the Bible from Greek used English letters to mimic the Greek word. Not helpful! I realized that I was going to have to do a lot of digging.

I finally found an answer that not only satisfied my thirst for knowledge but also opened up a whole new meaning to every scripture and song that uses hosanna. It turns out that hosanna is not a Greek word after all. The writers of the Greek New Testament did the same thing that the English translators did: they created a word that mimicked a Hebrew phrase, hoshiya na.

In the Old Testament, this phrase is found in Psalm 118:25 and means, “save us.” It is a cry to God for salvation. The phrase eventually shifted to actually mean “salvation” or “salvation is coming.” So when the people were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” they were full of joy upon realizing that their salvation was coming.

Of course, we know that they were expecting that salvation to play out a bit differently, but it was no less true that Christ brought salvation with him as he rode into Jerusalem that day. We continue the cry of hosanna to this day knowing that our salvation is in Jesus.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna!
Words & Music by Ron Hamilton
Arranged by Jonathan Reid

Line the streets and wave the branches;
Zion’s gates are opened wide.
Christ is coming into the city;
See the conquering hero ride.

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Rejoice and sing “Hosanna!”
Hosanna! Hosanna!
Let his praises ring.
Hosanna! Hosanna!
We welcome the Messiah.
Hosanna! Hallelujah to the King of kings.

Now, behold, the king approaches
Riding through Jerusalem.
Come rejoicing, daughters of Zion.
Every son of Judah, worship him.

If we do not lift our voices
Every stone will praise his name.
Spread your garments; shout his glory!
Christ the son of David comes to reign.

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Rejoice and sing “Hosanna!”
Hosanna! Hosanna!
Let his praises ring.
Hosanna! Hosanna!
We welcome the Messiah.
Hosanna! Hallelujah to the King of kings

– Shelton