“On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written…” John 12:13-14
We will soon be celebrating Palm Sunday. Just recently something has been bothering me about this story. We read a large crowd had come to the feast and when they heard Jesus was arriving they took branches out to meet Him. They started shouting Hosanna! They were all excited and happy to see Him. It seemed to be festive. Everyone was shouting and singing. I think people were caught up in the excitement. I think people were passing by and heard what was going on and was persuaded to join in.
Years ago I attended basketball games, football games and even band competitions. I can remember getting caught up in the excitement and cheering just as loud as everyone else. There have been several times I have been in large crowds and got caught up in the excitement of what was going on. It was fun being a part of something exciting.
A few days later there is another crowd forming. Another crowd is getting caught up in what was happening at the time.
“But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:18-25
The thing that has recently bothered me is this: were the same people in both crowds or were they different people? My friend who I often ask such deep questions of is on vacation. So, I turned to the internet. I get both answers. Some articles say they were different crowds of people, others say they were the same people. If they were the same what changed their mind? Why cheer one minute for someone and then turn on them later?
Most of what I have read and what I have learned is that they were expecting a political king and when Jesus did not overthrow the government and take over they were disappointed in Him. They didn’t want a Savior they wanted a king. They didn’t realize what they needed. It was all about what they wanted.
Pretty cut and dried right? But I think there was more to it. I realize just as I can get caught up in the excitement of shouting and singing in a festive atmosphere I can also get caught up in an angry mob if I am not careful. I think (just my opinion) some of the folks were just caught up in the uproar and wanted to be part of something. We have cheerleaders at ballgames to help us get excited and cheer, just maybe the chief priests and Jewish leaders were in the crowd to help them get caught up in all of the excitement.
I think about our politicians of today. How many of us cheer and stand behind certain politicians. We think the man we chose for office is great and will be so good for us. He gets into office and then things begin to change. We suddenly don’t like what’s happening and we turn on Him.
I was also thinking of the young man who we have heard make some derogatory remarks on a bus through his singing. If you notice he had the attention of a whole bus…a small crowd. I believe there were people on that bus that knew it was wrong, but they got caught up in the crowd and went along with what was going on. None of those in the crowd is seen standing with him today. They have all left him hanging by himself.
For me this is a warning that I need to be careful not to get caught up in the crowd. I need to be aware that I can be easily persuaded to follow the crowd instead of doing what I believe is right. I need to learn to shut out the crowd and listen for the one true voice that will lead me in the right direction. I also need to be reminded that Jesus once told a crowd of men that the one without sin should throw the first stone. Instead of turning on someone so quickly maybe I should look at myself first and see the sin that’s in my own eye before I condemn others.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2 The Message)
Just as this scripture says, I need to be careful about not being so well adjusted to this world that I just go along with the crowd and follow their ways. Instead I need to fix my attention on Jesus and respond in the way that He’d want me to respond. I need to let God bring out the best in me and develop me into the person that will not follow the crowd, but stand up for what is right.
When is the last time you were caught up in a crowd and followed right along? Maybe it’s time we stop running with the crowd and start listening to the one true voice that will never lead us in the wrong direction.
Dear God only you know if the people in the crowd were the same people or if they were different ones. I pray I may not be like them and stand with the crowd and get caught up in what’s going on. Help me to fix my attention on you and listen for your voice to lead me. I never want to be swayed by this world, but swayed by you. Help me to be strong and stand up for what’s right. Thank you for the lessons you teach me and for giving us the Bible that we may learn and grow closer to you. Amen.