So shouted the celebrants on the first Palm Sunday, and so sang we in church this morning, two thousand years later (we’re not big shouters at my little Baptist church). We were, of course, getting Holy Week started the way Christians typically do: remembering the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one week before the real triumph was to be had.

“Hosanna,” in case you’ve missed it along the way, means “save us!”[1] We’ve grown accustomed to the celebratory sound of the word, and since we typically sing it with peppy accompaniment, I suspect we miss its desperate nature. But think about it: in what contexts would we wave our arms and shout “SAVE US!!”

You see what I mean.

It’s true that the crowds lining Jesus’ path to Jerusalem were celebrating—they thought the Messiah had arrived to throw off their oppressor and set up His kingdom. So, yes, they were ecstatic, but it was a desperate ecstasy. A desperate joy. Save us!

The people that day would’ve settled for salvation from Rome, but that’s not why the once-for-all Savior came. He came because He knew better than they how deep their desperation was—and He alone could save them, could save us, from sin and all the wretchedness it wreaks. Sin ruins us from the inside out.

Maybe you sang “hosanna!” today. I hope so. And maybe as you sang it, you celebrated the salvation Jesus came to bring. You should have. But as you go through this holiest of weeks, remember that you still need saving. I still need saving, even with my sins forgiven and my name writ in heaven. I need saving from myself and the messes I can make. I need saving from you and the messes you can make. I need saving from any number of assailing troubles that cross my path simply because I live here.

“Lord, save us!”

The good news is that He has, and He does—both really good reasons to keep singing with desperate joy. Hosanna!

[1] Technically, it means something like “save! Please!” though by the time of the New Testament, the word seems to have morphed into a shout of joy that belies its original meaning of desperation. So, while the Palm Sunday crowd may not have been thinking “save us!” as they shouted, the Old Testament background of the word helps us understand why “hosanna” would have become associated with the anticipated Messiah–the one who would save them.

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