As you stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross again tonight, did it cross your mind again? Who is this man, this Jesus? Likely not in the way the Pharisees asked it, with their mocking or their selfish demands that Pilate remove the sign that proclaimed what they didn’t want to acknowledge. Likely not as those passing by horrified. Likely, you and I asked as those who respect God’s Word, who wonder at the complexity of this Savior (God and Man together), who know the depths of personal sin and see its judgment – don’t we ask what this means? So that we know it better ourselves? Who this Jesus is – and what exactly God is saying to us through him?
Tonight then we are blessed to hear the words of the crowds as we look back to Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, days before he died. There, the crowds said, “This is Jesus, the prophet…” And what a beautiful thing that is for us to know! For a prophet, very simply, is one who speaks a word from God. And Jesus, as he rides into Jerusalem, brings us two beautiful reminders of what God is saying through him – for our encouragement and our praise.
Jesus encourages us with this: he fulfills God’s Word. From Zechariah, we have this direct word from God: “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” That the prophecy was fulfilled – Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – his disciples had gone to get it at his command – but they had fulfilled what had been prophesied long before. Which is just what we see at his cross – all the gospel writers speak the same way. Jesus meets the women on the way to the cross and speaks God’s prophecies of future destruction. Scripture written long before was fulfilled when he was “counted with the lawless ones” and when they “divided [his] garments among themselves and cast lots for [his] clothing”. And, after he died, they note that “not one of this bones will be broken” and “they will look on the one they have pierced.” Step back and see this simple thing tonight – God has planned out all these things. God had spoken all of these things long before just so that they might happen.
Of what encouragement is a Jesus who fulfills God’s Word like this? Peter later would express the importance of this fulfillment Jesus brings. “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” As you watch Jesus ride into Jerusalem, this is the encouragement: He fulfills God’s Word for us. For us whose lives seems out of control… For us whose hearts are often terrified by the ever-changing world… For us whose plans often will not hold together… God has planned over time many times your lifetimes. From before there was time he planned. In specific detail about bones and clothes and death he prophesied. And just as he spoke it so it happened, all so we could see: “your king comes to you.” He is “your king” people of Zion, believers who wait on him. So that, if you are weighed down with sins, if you are crushed by guilt, if you are weak and alone…you might see, this. He comes to you and not for himself. He doesn’t come with might and power to force you into submission. He comes gentle and lowly. He leads broken disciples in his train. He bears the praises of sinful people. And he makes his way to a cross where he will be tortured and die. Of course, he comes to you gently and humbled like this in order to win the victory, as a king should. By his mighty power – his perfect life, his sacrifice death – he can say, “It is finished,” the battle with sin. Through Jesus the prophet, God is saying that all his planning of salvation was accomplished for us. By him, just as God promised, with all of God’s power – he fulfills God’s Word for us.
And that’s just in line with what prophets do, isn’t it? They speak a word from God for an audience. And God’s intention is that his people will hold onto that word he gives. Do you remember how Moses told it to God’s people Israel long ago? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” And then he pictured it – teach them to your kids, talk about them wherever you are, tie them on your bodies, write them on your houses – have them in your lives. Jesus the prophet brings this kind of ownership of God’s Word to us – He puts God’s Word in our mouths so that we can have it as a special word for our days, a word on our lips and in our lives.
Take up for yourselves the word of the people in the crowds. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!” We’ve talked about this word, “Hosanna” before – do you remember? In Hebrew it’s hoshiya na and it means literally, “save now” or “save, we pray.” It would be the kind of word you’d cry out if you fell off the pier down at the lake and you couldn’t swim, “Help! Save me!” So it was in Psalm 118:25 – the psalm the crowds quote – it is a cry for help to God, “Please bring salvation!” The neat thing abouthoshiya na though is that over time, the Jews used it in their worship in a certain way and the meaning sort of changed. It changed to mean just what Psalm 118 did – the verse right after hoshiya na was, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You could say, the cry for help from God was answered almost before it came out of the psalmist’s mouth – and it became a cry of victory. A bit like how your cry of “help!” as you fell into the lake would change as you saw someone swimming to your rescue – from “Help me!” to the gurgled praise of “Help has come!” For God’s people, Hoshiya na “Save us please!” became “Salvation!” because of the “blessed” one who had arrived.
Isn’t that what we get to speak? Isn’t this word also on our lips and in our lives; the kind of thing we teach our children? We cry out to God for help – asking forgiveness from your sins. We cry out for peace in the face of difficulties and death. We cry out for the reminder of his loving plan when the world is broken. We pray “Hosanna!” in that “Save us!” sort of way every day. But we say so much more than that, don’t we? We pray knowing and saying that “Blessed is the one who [has come] in the name of the Lord.” We know that, in a way far beyond our own ability to ever do, truly blessed is Jesus the prophet who is everything God promised. We speak / do / pray / think all of those things with the confidence that Jesus brings his blessing to us – so that we are truly blessed ourselves. “Blessed is he…” truly means, “Blessed is me!” It means we can shout “Hosanna” in victory saying “Salvation!” because it has happened and it is yours. Let your lives speak this word because you do know the battle with sin is done. You do know Satan’s power is destroyed. You do know forgiveness of sins. You do know the promise of eternal life. And you know it is all ours by faith in our blessed Jesus. See Jesus ride into Jerusalem, watch as he dies for you and hear what God is saying through his prophet: because of what he has done for you, this kind of word is in your mouths for you to say right along with him. “Hosanna!” “Salvation!”
Who is this Jesus we have seen this season? He is Jesus the prophet. This prophet came to tell God’s words of blessing and salvation for us so that we might have them for ourselves. As we close out this Lenten season and move into the contemplation of Holy Week, may Jesus’ work and his words from sin and shame be our peace and to the glory of his name also our praise. Amen.