Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “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!” – Mark 11:9-10 (NRSV)
At this point in Lent, pastors find themselves in a bit of a twilight zone. I am putting the finishing touches on Palm Sunday, which is the last Sunday in Lent, even as I am finalizing the Maundy Thursday service for Holy Week. At the same time, I am already planning Easter worship and thinking about what we will focus on during Eastertide. In this one moment, I am reflecting on praise and passion, death and resurrection, ascension and discipleship.
The Scripture passages we read during this season are some of the most familiar to us. As I consider what I am called to say on them this year, I find I often rush through them. I assume that I know the main point.
As I reread the Palm Sunday text we are using this week at the beginning of the service, I was going to focus on the shouts of the crowd for the pastoral prayer. Hosanna is, after all, a prayer meaning “Save us.” But as I looked at the beginning of verse 10, I saw something new: Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting.
It was a crowd, after all, and the streets of Jerusalem are narrow. It makes sense that there would be people ahead and behind. But as I put myself in the narrative, I wondered where I would be.
I always imagined it was the Twelve who went ahead, like heralds announcing the King’s procession. For the most part, those going ahead would know what they were talking about: if not the Twelve, then maybe those who had been healed. These hosannas would be shouts of praise.
But what about those who followed? Maybe these were the curious and the ones who had always stood on the edge, not getting too close to Jesus. Or maybe these followers were the near-hopeless in need of healing. Like the women who had bled for twelve years, they just want to get close enough to touch the hem of his cloak. These hosannas would have been quieter pleas.
When it comes to Jesus, I have been both one who goes ahead and one who follows; sometimes a herald, other times needing to be healed. How about you? As you stand in the crowd saying Hosanna this Sunday, are you going ahead of Jesus or following behind? What is your Hosanna prayer this year?
Here is the Pastoral Prayer:
Jesus, our King and Lord, we join the crowds in Jerusalem shouting:
“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!”
As we place ourselves in the crowd that day, we can see that there are those who went ahead and those who followed. And we know that it is the same with us.
For those who went ahead of Jesus, heralding the coming of the King, we join in their praises. We witness with our words and actions that God saves:
We give thanks for the acts of re-creation that each spring season brings. With joy, we see the grass becoming greener, daffodils and tulips close to blooming, leaf buds ready to burst on the trees. These serve as a reminder of your goodness and faithfulness – as well as a witness to the re-creation you have done in our hearts and lives.
As ones who have received the first fruits of your compassion, we pray for those who continue to struggle under the weight of their sin. May they experience, as we have, that your yoke is indeed light. We pray for our own faithfulness to lighten the yoke of others through forgiveness and compassion. May our life be a proclamation of Hosanna.
For those who followed behind Jesus, praying that God would save, we join in their prayer of hope:
Like the woman who bled for twelve years, we pray that those in need of healing would touch the hem of your cloak. Like the lepers who suffered not only physically but also the emotional separation from their community, we pray that they would be restored. Like Paul who persecuted you in his persecution of those who claimed your name, we pray that your light would shine within those consumed by law rather than mercy. And for those being persecuted for claiming your name, we pray that your presence would overwhelm and comfort them.
We also pray in particular for the people of Syria – especially those who are simply trying to survive in the midst of a cruel regime, the dangers of rebellion, and the collateral damage of outside forces trying to support some form of justice. May their cries of “God save us” bring peace and forgiveness.
In our times of praise and pleading, our prayer is always to you, Lord. It is in your name and in the hope of our faith that we join our voices saying the prayer we learned as children: Our Father…
 Mark 11:9-10 (NRSV)