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Archive for April, 2012

The Old Testament readings of the Sunday before the Passion Week, in the churches of the East are very poignant. The first reading is from Genesis 49. It is a narrative, where the patriarch Jacob gathers together his sons and prophesies to them regarding things, which will happen in “the last days.” (Gen. 49:1). In Hebrew this phrase, Acharit Hayamim, is a Messianic term, and appears at crucial junctures in the whole Hebrew Bible. Genesis 49:10 reads, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will hear him.” This sets the tone for the expectation of a Messiah, who will be a global, kingly Messiah. The readings from the prophetic books underline this. Micah 4, e.g. proclaims the futuristic prophecy of Micah, “It shall come to pass in the latter days, Acharit Hayamim, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’  For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

It is quite clear from these, and other lectionary readings from the Old Testament, that the prophets constantly talked about a Day of the Messiah, in the Last Days, when a Messiah King will come. He will establish universal peace and justice.  The question still remains, “What kind of a king will this be?”

This Sunday is called by many names, most often the Palm Sunday, or the Sunday of the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Yet, the songs and cries of the common people on the streets of Jerusalem do not give this picture.  They sing passages from the Old Testament, which proclaim him to be the king of justice, (Hebrew. Tsadiq). He brings about complex, spiritual, physical, social, racial, Yeshua, Salvation (Matthew 21:5).  He bears the image of poverty and slavery, (Hebrew, ‘Ani). These common poor people cry out, “Hoshiana! Hoshiana! Save us! Save us! Oh, Son of David” (Matt. 21:9). This is not a triumphant cry, as is so often portrayed in songs of the churches in the West, but is rather a cry for help and salvation.

This picture of the Messiah King is quite an enigma. Is he the triumphant king, or is he the humble king of the persecuted, poor and enslaved?  This is the dilemma faced by the people- then and now.  The problem also lies in the solution- then and now. The religious leaders then expected a Triumphant King, who would give them political power, wrested from the Romans.  Even today, this Sunday is called the Sunday of the Triumphant Entry, of the Triumphant King. The ancient liturgy simply calls this the Hosanna Sunday.

This Sunday defines the kind of King Messiah proclaimed throughout the Bible. Jesus the Messiah hears the heart cries of the people for salvation- “Hoshiana! Please cause your salvation to come, Oh Lord!”  Jesus, the humble Messiah King, heard their cries and died for their salvation.

He hears the cries of the poor, the enslaved, the persecuted . . . even today!

 

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