Meaning of The Crowd’s Shouts (When Jesus Entering Jerusalem)

The crowd welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, yelling, “Hosanna.”

Or at least that’s what is recorded in three out of four of our sources: Matthew, Mark, and John.

Luke is an exception, recording much different shouts of praise than the other gospels. But more on that later.

The challenge is hosanna is not a common word. I cannot recall the last time I yelled Hosanna in everyday life. Possible at a church service, but that’s a much different setting.

Leaving me pondering, what does hosanna mean?

There are two common understandings of the meaning of hosanna. One is a shout of praise to God, the other is a plea for help, please save us.

When trying to understand Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, we must ask what the crowd was thinking.

Was the crowd praising God for the arrival of the Messiah or pleading for Jesus or the mysterious “son of David” to save them?

Let’s start with some etymology regarding hosanna.

My journey of discovering the meaning of hosanna with a little dramatization. Of course.

What Did Hosanna Mean in Jesus’ Time?

The word “Hosanna” is a fascinating example of a term found in English Bibles that has traversed three different languages and cultures while maintaining its original pronunciation. This linguistic journey adds an intriguing layer of depth to its significance and historical context.

The original gospel writers and subsequent translators chose not to translate it but rather to recreate the sound using the letters of the new language. Hebrew to Greek to English.

Leaving us with an English word without an English meaning. Requiring us to search for a Hebrew definition of our English word.

“It is a Greek word “ὡσαννά” that most scholars believe is the transliteration of two Hebrew words- יָשַׁע- “yasha” which means “to save or deliver” and אָנּאָ – “anna” which means “please, I beseech.” Other scholars believe its Hebrew roots come from a different verb tense of “yasha” הוֹשַׁ֣ע which means to cause or to bring about salvation. In this tense, hosanna becomes a command to bring about or cause salvation.”

In short, “Hosanna” is a transliterated Hebrew word, meaning “please save us.”

Psalm 118:25, translated similarly in many English Bibles as the NIV, is a good example.

Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

Another common translation is how the NASB puts it, including the sense of petition, with “please.”

Please, O Lord, do save us;
Please, O Lord, do send prosperity!

Interestingly, many Bibles cite Psalm 118:25-26 as the source of the crowd’s cry when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

But in this context, many have given it a different meaning than “please save us”

” In him the age-old cry, “Lord, save us, ” has become the glad doxology, “Hosanna, ” which equals: “Praise God and his Messiah, we are saved.”


Having the people yelling in excitement, praising God and his Messiah as Jesus rode past.

John Piper puts it this way.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” means, “The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!”

And “Hosanna in the highest!” means, “Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!”

Desiring God

They are not alone in their understanding, as it is the most common one I have encountered while researching.

Choir Singing Hosanna

The New Living Translation (NLT) leans this way in its translation, replacing ” Hosanna ” in the welcome chorus with “Praise God.”

Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!’

Matthew 21:9 NLT

Doing the same in Mark and John also.

Enduring Word also sees this as the shout of the crowd.

“This was open Messianic adoration of Jesus.”

Enduring Word

The crowd proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah as he entered the capital of Judaism.

But this understanding misses the Hebrew meaning of Hosanna; please save us.

Maybe it is better to return to the basic Hebrew definition. As Study Light Does.

“When the people shouted Hosanna it was not a cry of praise to Jesus, which it often sounds like when we quote it. It was a cry to God to break in and save his people now that the Messiah had come.”

Study Light

This understanding is consistent with other Old Testament texts. In them, the person is always pleading to be saved, not praising the person.

Two examples are 2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26. In each, a woman petitions the king with “Hosanna.” Asking the king to save her.

There are 9 other times in the Old Testament where hosanna means simple save.

When discussing Matthew, Study Light provides a straightforward and precise explanation.

“The phrase, “Hosanna in the highest!” must mean, “Let even the angels in the highest heights of heaven cry unto God, Save now!”

Study Light

The people are simply crying out, “Save us, please, while blessing the person who comes from God.

Gospel of Matthew

What About Matthew’s Additional Phrase?

You may have noticed that Matthew’s opening line differs from Mark’s and John’s.

Adding a twist.

“to the Son of David”

Then, along with Mark, a few lines later, add.

“Hosanna in the highest”

John leaves this out.

Between these two lines, quotes verse 26 of Psalm 118.

“Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord”

Which all except Luke include. Luke has transformed their words more, substituting “king” where the Psalm and the other gospels only have “who.”

The challenge is with Matthew adding “Son of David.” A simple English reading makes it sound much more like praise to the son of David the Messiah.

However, this definition can still work if we interpret “to the” not as who they were shouting Hosanna about, but rather to whom they were shouting Hosanna.

The phrase in English is “Save us please, Son of David.”

The crowd was petitioning the Messiah, the Son of David. Jesus, who was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Making “Hosanna in the highest” is a plea from heaven to get involved.

Or another way it could be understood is.

Son of David, whom we bless, please save us in the highest place. In Jerusalem, the temple was built on Mount Moriah, the highest place of the ancient city (2 Kings 12:3, 14:4, 15:4, and 15:35).

This was partly due to ancient ideas that worship and sacrifice should happen on high places. Thus, Solomon built his temple on the highest point of his capital.

This may be why all except John have Jesus going to the temple after entering Jerusalem “cleansing the temple.” He was attempting to “save the people” from their distress in their high place.

But the more common understanding is simple: they are invoking heaven in their plea for help.


Looking back after Jesus has been called the “Christ” for two thousand years, it can be easy to read this meaning into the crowd’s shouts. Excitingly welcoming the Messiah to Jerusalem.

But reading their words within the context of their time.

It is more probable that they were calling out for help.

Seeing Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, they cried out for him to do something.

Hosanna, please save us!

This may be why Luke omits Hosanna in the crowd’s cry as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. They praise God and bless Jesus for his miracles.

But Hosanna doesn’t communicate this. Hosanna is a cry for help, not praise.



Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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