Today, we begin the walk to calvary with Jesus. The cast of characters in this drama were all unique, but they had one very important thing in common. They had to make crucial decisions that would not only affect their lives, but the lives of others.
In a movie, the crowd might be called “extras”, implying they have just small roles to play. Often “extras” are not even identified by name in the credits. But together, they contribute to the story in a major way. In fact, the crowd is not one force. It is the voice of many, who have chosen to stand together at a crucial moment in time.
Let’s look at the crowds who followed Jesus. You may be surprised to find familiar faces in the crowd. You may even see yourself!
From early in His Ministry, Jesus seemed to be the center of attention of groups of people. His birth was attended by angels, shepherds and wise men. As a youth, He spoke to groups of teachers in the Temple. His first public miracle was recorded as happening at a wedding. A crowd witnessed His Baptism by John the Baptist.
His public ministry included His small group of disciples, but it also attracted large crowds of people. Why did they come? Perhaps curiosity initially. But, as word spread about the unconventional things Jesus was saying and the amazing things He was doing, the crowds increased.
Besides curiosity, many in the crowds wanted something from Jesus. He could do what no one else had been able to do. He could heal the incurable. He could raise people from the dead. He could even cast out demons. The crowds wanted to be healed!
And Jesus did not disappoint them. Scripture says, “He healed them all!” And while He was at it, He fed them physically and spiritually. So everyone loved Him, right? Well, strange to say, the answer was no.
The teachers of the law were offended by His Teaching. At one point, a crowd sought to throw Him off a cliff. When demons were moved from a man into pigs, who ran over a cliff, the pig farmers were none too happy. And there were times when Jesus actively left the crowds of people, who were clamoring for His Attention. No doubt they were not happy.
But, on what we remember as Palm Sunday, a crowd came together in jubilant praise of Jesus. They followed Him, waving palm branches and singing hosannah! It sounds like He was firmly in place as a definite crowd pleaser.
Now let’s cut to a short few days later. There were likely some of the same people in the crowd, but something had gone dreadfully wrong. Had Jesus’ Message or Actions changed that quickly? No! But the crowd had changed.
Now they were yelling, “Crucify Him!” They were demanding the release of another prisoner and the death of Jesus. Such is the nature of a crowd. A crowd can become a force for good or a force for evil in just the twinkling of an eye. Why?
When our internal life is not very strong, we tend to listen to whoever is talking loudest on the outside. Our individual thoughts become muffled. The majority opinion starts to sound right to us. We love the feeling of belonging to the majority. Being a dissenter can be lonely and frightening. Why fight the waves when you can ride the waves?
Those in the crowd of those calling for Jesus’ death may have had a momentary thought that it was wrong, but perhaps they believed it was too late to turn back. The venom of the crowd could have just as easily turned toward them.
Not everyone in the crowd called for Jesus’ death. The soft underbelly of the crowd is neither seen nor heard. There are those in the crowd, who are silent. They do not actively pursue evil. They stand back silently and observe it and do nothing.
Jesus’ disciples were in the crowd. Jesus had taught them that there is no Greater Love than a man being willing to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus had assured His Disciples that He no longer called them servants, but He called them friends. And yet not one of the disciples stepped out of the crowd, willing to die, if necessary, for Jesus.
There was a crowd, who witnessed the crucifixion in its full horror. They heard the Words Jesus spoke. They heard the words of the thieves dying on each side of Jesus. They were present when the world turned dark. They heard the proclamation of the soldier, who said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
What would you have done if you were in the crowd? We, in fact, are members of the crowd of humans, now living on planet earth. Today, just as much as in Jesus’ Time, there is great reason to praise God. Are our voices among those singing hosannah? The voice of evil reverberates throughout the earth, as well. How do we respond? Turn away? View it silently with curiosity, apathy or compassion that moves us to action?
Jesus was once a part of a crowd. On that day of His Baptism, Jesus could have chosen to remain in the crowd. But He didn’t. He boldly walked forward and humbly asked John to baptize Him. He made a crucial choice that put Him clearly on the road to calvary. He made the same choice on that day as He would make every day, including the day He hung on the cross. Jesus chose surrender, not to the crowd, but to His Father. His Father was so delighted He opened the doors of Heaven for Jesus to see what was waiting for Him.
Would you like to see it too? Step out of the crowd and surrender to the Will of the Father for your life. His Response to you will be the same as His Response to Jesus!
At that moment, Heaven was opened,
and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.
And a Voice from Heaven said,
“This is My Son, Who I love; with Him I am well pleased.”