Greater Salvation
By Anthony Casperson

“Twelve?” Neil squeaked.

Gemma—the DM—winced, “Sorry.” She trailed wiggling fingers up one arm, “Amid the chaos, the party sees the gray coloration creeping over Thragnor’s body spread. The callused dwarven skin hardens even more, as it turns to stone.”

The three other players around the table groaned.

Sudden realization dawned over Neil’s face, “Danny, save me. You got Lesser Restoration prepped, right? That should do the trick.”

Failing the real-world equivalent of Perception checks, the players missed the fact that Gemma bit back a correction.

Once it reached Danny’s turn in the initiative, he said, “I put my hand on the Thragnor statue and cast Lesser Restoration.”

“A white glow radiates from your outstretched fingers,” Gemma narrated, “but as it fades, you see that it was to no effect.”


Not even missing a beat, Gemma continued, “Don’t forget to mark off that spell slot, Danny.” Then she turned to Neil, “What Thragnor needs isn’t what you asked for. Something ‘greater’ would work to save him.”

I know, some of you are probably asking why I put this little scene as the intro. Well, with Palm Sunday being tomorrow, my thoughts were on the cry for salvation that the crowds called for through the word “Hosanna” as Jesus rode the young donkey through the gate that Sunday long ago.

And while looking at “Hosanna,” the thought came to mind that the salvation the crowd thought they needed was very different from the salvation that they actually needed. Just like Neil in the above scene, the crowds called for the wrong kind of salvation. However, unlike Danny, Jesus knew the real way to save the people in front of him. And would perform that act of greater salvation about a week later.

Each of the Gospels records this original Palm Sunday. And they all hint at the misaligned perspective of the crowd. We can see the type of salvation they thought they needed in what they called Jesus. Luke and John state it a bit more plainly when they show the crowds calling Jesus as king. Matthew and Mark couch the plea in the language of “Son of David,” which is just the roundabout method of calling Jesus a king.

The salvation that the crowds wanted was for a king to step on the scene and conquer the Roman Empire, which had held sway in the land of Israel for quite some time. A king was the only thing they thought could save them. But no mere conqueror could help them with their real problem.

They needed a greater salvation. One brought by a crucified lamb.

But how could they mistake the purpose of their Savior? Especially when they were quoting the very Word of God in that moment?

Matthew and Mark both show the crowd quote more of Psalm 118. See, their cry of “Hosanna” is a strange amalgamation of the words in verse 25 of that Psalm: “Save us, we pray, O Lord. O Lord, we pray, give us success.” And the crowd’s statement of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” comes from verse 26, showing that they indeed were calling upon this Psalm in their cry for salvation.

But there are a couple of interesting things that I saw about Psalm 118 in my research for this blog that showed me how much the crowd’s desire for immediate and lesser salvation caused them to miss the greater salvation offered to them through the cross.

The first interesting detail comes from the fact that just a few verses above the crowd’s quote is a statement about the rejection of Jesus. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Several authors of the New Testament point to this verse as a prophecy of the rejection of the Messiah, especially at the hands of the cultural and religious elite.

And all that this bible-quoting crowd had to do was look up less than a handful of verses to see the truth that had been going on around them, and would culminate in a week’s time.

But the second interesting detail shows that our perspective can cause us to see what we want rather than what is written in God’s Word. And it’s found right in Psalm 118:25.

Do you see that end part of the verse? “O Lord, we pray, give us success.” Success. Victory. Good. The crowd around Jesus desired earthly blessing. They wanted positive results in everything they put their hands to. As if it is God’s job to pay out blessings like a broken slot machine.

However, there’s an older understanding of the word translated as “success” (which is prevalent in the writing of 1 and 2 Samuel, and therefore would be known by the most likely author of this Psalm—David). And this definition is described as something like “rush upon” with a leaning of connotation toward suddenly being enveloped in something. Like a fire rushing upon a house, or the Holy Spirit rushing upon various Judges, including Samuel.

Thus, what the Psalm might be calling on God for is not success, but rather God’s Spirit to empower the people in order to perform the work God has called them to. After all, that’s what it meant for the judges who had the Spirit rush upon them.

So, the crowd’s perspective was for God to grant them blessing and freedom from oppression, because that’s the narrow reading that they could see of Psalm 118 given their circumstances. But God was about to show them the fullness of what it means to be a Spirit-empowered person.

The salvation that Jesus offers is far greater than mere political alteration. It grants us the ability to act in line with the purpose we humans were made for. And heals us from the brokenness brought about by sin.

But all of this consideration of what the crowd meant when they cried “Hosanna” and what Jesus really offers, makes us have to ask ourselves the question:

“What do we mean when we cry out for God to save us?”

Is it our lesser salvation that holds blinders on the context of God’s word and uses definitions that we prefer? Or is it something greater?