The Coming of the Blessed One

You know how it is when you get a song in your head. It sticks. The Hallel, which included Psalms 113-118, was sung by the people of Israel as part of the Passover celebration. (It was probably the hymn Jesus and his disciples sang, Mark 14:26.) The crowds in Jerusalem had going through their heads the words which would be sung a few days later. No wonder they used some of them, especially those in Psalm 118:25–26, to welcome the messianic King!

Cry “Hosanna” to the Son of David! Hail the Messiah who saves you. “Save!” became an exclamation of praise. The cry looks back to the deliverance God had given his people. The Psalm likely is post-exilic and celebrates the salvation the Lord has provided for his people. It may grow out of either the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:27, 31, 45, 46), or the dedication of the rebuilt temple (Ezra 6:16–18). In the face of tremendous opposition the people had gone about the task of rebuilding. The cry looked back to God’s deliverance, but also forward to his continued meeting of his people’s needs. The sense of need for God’s saving work shifted over the years. With the growth of Pharisaical self-righteousness, the people began to see the primary problem, not as their own unworthiness before God, but the oppression of the occupying Roman army. For the crowd welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday, “Hosanna” or “Save” may have been more a cry for political freedom than a recognition of a need for God. That was one of the reasons that the hosannas of Sunday could modulate into shouts of “Crucify him!” by Friday. What is the content of your cry to the Lord? Is it a search for success by the world’s standards? Is it a hope that God will be your comfort and encouragement when life gets really difficult? Or do you recognize that you are in daily need of your Lord’s forgiveness? Do you ask God for what you want, or for what you really need?

“[T]hey misread their own Scriptures. They are looking for a Messiah who does miracles, and have long ago closed their ears to a Messianic sermon which preaches redemption from sin and restoration of God’s justice.”

K. Schilder, Christ in His Suffering, pages 123–124

If you do recognize your need, trust Christ’s death and resurrection in your place. Christ’s entry was triumphant. He was entering the holy city of Jerusalem in fulfillment of the hymn of Psalm 118:19, 20. He justly received the acclaim of the crowds, for he was, and is, the messianic King! At the same time, his humiliation is evident. Instead of a warhorse, he is mounted on a donkey’s foal. He is the stone the builders rejected, Psalm 118:22. The King will triumph in Jerusalem, but before his triumph he will pass through a most un-royal suffering. Both the suffering and the triumph are held before you in the Lord’s Supper. He instituted the meal on the night of the Passover, the night in which this Psalm was sung by Israelites looking for the coming Messiah. He offers his disciples himself, his body and his blood. But the supper does not only look back to his death. As you participate by faith, you continue to be fed by Christ’s Holy Spirit. And your participation is a proclamation of his death until the day of his return. When you recognize your need of a Savior from sin, then you can trust this One entering Jerusalem. You can trust him for what he really is.

“Zechariah predicted… that Israel’s king would arrive on a donkey, symbolizing a peaceful rule. But such a peaceful rule is the result of a battle previously waged by Israel’s Messiah: ‘See, your king come to you, righteous and victorious‘ (Zech 9:9a). Jesus has come to destroy Israel’s enemy — not Rome but Satan — and lead his people out of spiritual exile (Zech 9:16)…. By singing Psalm 118, the pilgrims identify Jesus as the coming deliverer who would liberate them from bondage. Psalms 113–118 are referred to as Psalms of Hallel (hallel means ‘to praise’)….”

G. K. Beale & Benjamin L. Gladd, The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament, p. 62

Bless the approaching Messiah. Bless him from the house of the Lord. The house of the Lord is the point from which the blessing issues. The blessing comes ultimately from the Lord himself, Psalm 134:3. The blessing is pronounced by the people of God as they have gathered to worship him. It is appropriate that the crowds, gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, used this verse to hail Jesus. It is fitting that you, the church of the risen Lord, gathered in the house of the Lord (in fact, you form the house of the Lord!) call your Savior blessed. That blessing him involves speaking. It includes the confession that Jesus is your Lord, and that he is the blessed one. But it also involves the commitment of your life to him. Live to his glory in all you do!

Bless him because he comes in the name of the Lord. The Messiah comes in the name of the Lord. He is the One, who, with God’s help, has defeated his enemies and the enemies of his people. But he is not only the One who has God’s help, he is God himself. He came, in a temporary, provisional way, repeatedly in the Old Testament. He was there as David defeated Goliath. He accompanied Hezekiah as the Assyrians fled Judah. He protected the returning exiles in Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. But Psalm 118 looked forward to the full coming of the Messiah in the name of the Lord. He came this time to defeat, not just an earthly foe, but to conquer sin and the power of Satan. The crowds may have had in mind a political Messiah, but the words they spoke were truer than they realized. He was coming to redeem all of his people. The glory of his coming is an event in which his people share. The Savior who entered Jerusalem came in the name of the Lord to suffer and die. But because he come in the Lord’s name and to do his will, he was raised again triumphantly. A greater glory was his as, from a hill outside Jerusalem, he ascended through the glorious gates of heaven. And, from heaven, he assures his body on earth, the people who form the house of the Lord today, that he is coming. That theme resounds through the last chapter of Revelation as the Lord prepares to call his church to the new Jerusalem, the new Garden of Eden. He says, “Behold, I am coming soon!” Revelation 22:7,12, and echoes “Yes, I am coming soon” Revelation 22:20. This time he appears, not on the humble donkey, but on the white horse, and proclaims his name as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” Revelation 19:11,16.

When you, by the eye of faith, see that King in his majesty, exclaim with John (who also witnessed the triumphal entry), “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Sing the Hallel with richer meaning than the Old Testament saints realized, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”