We recently entered the Lenten Season. In a few weeks, Easter will once again be celebrated by the faithful who follow behind as Jesus, the Christ, leads. During Lent, our thoughts often turn to praise. We think of all the things Jesus did for his church, and we make human attempts to mimic his work, denying self and giving up the eating of preferred foods. We change habits of the heart, that we might honor Him. We also use this time to reflect upon the blessings we enjoy; first and foremost the knowledge that our Jesus is Savior of the world. Today, as I was reading from Matthew’s gospel, I was impressed by the statement Jesus made in response to these shouts of Hosanna:
“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, YOU have perfected praise.”
What an odd thing to say in response to all that was going on that day. Why that statement…why that proclamation? I wondered where the reference came from, so I did a search using the phrase, “out of the mouth of babes”. What I found was this verse from the 8th Psalm, a Psalm written by the apple of God’s eye, his own King David:
“ O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. Psalm 8:1 & 2
Look with me at the fuller passage recorded in Matt’s gospel.
“And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Matt 21:9-16
Wow, there it is again–that odd statement. In this text, we see Jesus surrounded by a group of commoners, entering into Jerusalem for what would become holy week. Men, women and most notably, children, have come from everywhere to form a sea of humanity that is now rolling into Jerusalem like a spiritual tsunami of praise. These people, children among them, are elated to be so close to the Miracle Worker. Worshipful, animated in their gesturing (can’t you see the children kicking up their heels and dancing in circles amid the more stalwart adults?), dizzy with excitement, expressing themselves with cheers, shouts and moans these people cast their clothes beneath the dirty feet of a donkey colt–so moved are they by the presence of Grace among them.
To say they are excited is an understatement. Yet, as they move through the crowded streets of the holy city, crying “HOSANNA to the son of David, ie: Hosanna to Jesus Christ, they create a problem that no scribe or Priest worth his salt would dare ignore.
The literal translation of Hosanna in Jesus’ day was, Save, I pray! It could also have been translated Save Now!, or Save, we beseech! It implied the action of God unto salvation for those who uttered the phrase, and in this instance favor and gratitude to Him upon whom it is thrust.
When people cried out Hosannas prior to Jesus’ arrival, it was to God they directed their plea. After Jesus came, shouts of Hosanna were as often recognized as pleas for salvation and shouts of adoration. Heading into Jerusalem that day, Jesus was the object of affection and the One to whom they cried out, some even recognizing Him as God. Here, from the mouths of babes, Jesus is named as One possessing strength unto salvation, and worthy of all praise.
Think about the revolutionary overtones implied in this event and why our God might have ordained that the weakest and most unlikely among us be chosen to make his point. What a brilliant God we serve. He knows how affected we are by babies and children. After all, who hasn’t been stopped in his tracks by the cooing of his own baby girl? Who doesn’t think neck sugar is the sweetest treat? We melt when a newborn is placed in our arms for the first time. In fact, I defy any of you to say “no” to your grandbaby when he looks up with that cherub face and asks, “Can I sit on your lap?” This is heart melting, life changing stuff we’re talking about here—the product of true genius!
As you continue on through the Lenten Season, think about the wee ones, won’t you, and say a prayer. A most encouraging note in our world, what with all the wars and rumors of wars we’ve heard lately, is that love still blooms and babies still sing God’s praises. Sounds like a divinely inspired way to silence the opposition to me. Who’s going to listen to those airbags and neighsayers when a baby is twirling in circles and crying Hosanna at the top of his or her lungs? Not me. I have better things to do, like praising God.