Between Hosanna! and Hallelujah!

“So, they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him. They began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” [John 12:13.]

This week, on our pilgrimage towards Easter, we remember the journey of Jesus into Jerusalem on a young colt. You will no doubt be familiar with this scene of crowds laying down their cloaks, waving palm branches and singing Hosanna! If we were able to sing in church, we may well have been singing the refrain ‘Hosanna’ over and over in our hymns this week.

But do we really think about what our exclamation means?

The word ‘Hosanna’ comes from the Hebrew, meaning ‘to save,’ to rescue, or a saviour. It is a declaration of our longing for salvation – a plea to God in times of need. The people shouted ‘Hosanna to the King’, as they believed Jesus was about to be their Messiah – and indeed He was – but not in the way they expected.

We know that Easter is coming, but can you imagine the disappointment as they realised their saviour is not about to be crowned – but is about to die. There is a time of deep reflection between the cry of Hosanna! when we ask for help from our saviour and the time to rejoice in His victory over death with Hallelujah!

The word Hallelujah is used frequently in the life of the church today and translates as ‘God be Praised’ or ‘Praise the Lord’. It is a shout of praise and thanksgiving. You may think it interchangeable with Hosanna – but in fact, we begin with Hosanna and we must go through the events leading to Easter Day before we can reach the Hallelujah.

Some of the people who shouted ‘Hosanna!’ on Palm Sunday with faith that Jesus was about to save them would indeed be saying ‘Hallelujah’ just a week later, but they had to experience great sorrow in between.

What must they have felt like between the Hosanna and the Hallelujah?  Friday came, and the one they had called to save them was hanging on a cross, and for many of them the promise of better times may have evaporated. Things were not going as they had envisioned; the king was supposed to save them, and now it seemed like he was gone.

We, too, live between the Hosanna and the Hallelujah. Each of us finds ourself somewhere on this continuum between seeking help, experiencing trials and then rejoicing with thanksgiving.

Perhaps you find yourself in a ‘Hosanna’ moment? There is something that you are facing, something you don’t know how you are going to get through and you need God to save you, because you cannot do it on your own. If today you are in a ‘Hosanna’ moment, take heart, because the hope and joy of Easter is coming.

Or maybe you have reached Good Friday; you have prayed, you have asked God for help. You have cried hosanna, but the story is not going as you planned it. Perhaps you are like those people on Good Friday – staring up at the cross, wondering what happened. We can take heart because Easter is coming.  But we cannot shout the praise of Hallelujah without journeying to the cross and acknowledging that our Saviour did ride into Jerusalem to be crowned King – but first he had to die.

Holy Week is the final part of our journey to meet Jesus at the cross.

May your journey through Holy Week bring you to a place of joyous Hallelujah!