Continuing the opening theme of confession within our focus on the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Andrew Peterson, once again, steps up to the plate for this week’s selection.
Today’s song takes the question of “Why did God have to die in the first place?” and the answer that Page CXVI gave us last week (“You bled by our hands…”) and brings all of it further in and all the way through to the ultimate conclusion: God died. We put Him there. But God did it anyway, because He is King of our lives and our hearts! The “further in” part has to do with Peterson’s humbling and cutting confession as a fallen child of God that we could/should all claim for ourselves. But listen also to the hinting and foreshadowing of victory that this song offers:
I am tangled up in contradiction. I am strangled by my own two hands. I am hunted by the hounds of addiction. Hosanna! I have lied to everyone who trusts me. I have tried to fall when I could stand. I have only loved the ones who loves me. Hosanna!
O Hosanna! See the long awaited king come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Come and tear the temple down. Raise it up on holy ground. Hosanna!
I have struggled to remove this raiment, tried to hide every shimmering strand. I contend with these ghosts and these hosts of bright angels. Hosanna! I have cursed the man that you have made me, as I have nursed the beast that bays for my blood. Oh, I have run from the one who would save me. Save me, Hosanna!
We cry for blood, and we take your life. Hosanna! It is blood, it is life that you have given.
You have crushed beneath your heel the vile serpent. You have carried to the grave the black stain. You have torn apart the temple’s holy curtain. You have beaten Death at Death’s own game. Hosanna!
O Hosanna! Hail the long awaited king, come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Won’t you tear this temple down, raise it up on holy ground. O Hosanna! I will lift my voice and sing: you have come and washed me clean. Hosanna.
This song is set primarily within the story of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey and being hailed as King of the Jews by the people (Matthew 21). This triumphal entry occurs only a week before the same masses would cry out, “Crucify Him!”
The irony that the Gospel authors allude to (and Peterson picks up on in this tune) is that Christ is indeed Israel’s “Saving King” but not in the way that they expected. The Jews hoped for a physical saving from Roman oppressors, but God meant His Son to be a spiritual savior. Nevertheless, Christ will reign over all realms in the end and the cry of “Hosanna!” is and will be completely answered.
The other beautiful symbolism in this story is Jesus clearing out the Temple shortly after His regal welcome to the city. Again, Jesus drives the point towards the spiritual focus that His mission was always centered on. The Temple is symbolic for our bodies and our man-made religious efforts. And so the lyrics of our song today rightly call us to plea with God, saying “Come and tear this temple down. Raise it up on holy ground. Hosanna!”
In order for Jesus to do this, He had to die. This song captures the riveting defiance that we pit against the immeasurable offer of sacrificial love given to us by God through Christ.
The word Hosanna in the Greek literally means, “save now!” What a succinct way of defining both our great need and the great hope that Jesus Christ is exactly the One who can save us. May we continue to better understand exactly what we are to be saved from (ourselves, the wrath of a holy God, etc.) and Who is doing the saving. May the cry of “Hosanna!” be written on our hearts over this Lent season more and more.