Palm Sunday Sounds of the Passion, Part 6 “Shouting Mob”
April 2, 2023 Matthew 27:15-25
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ, [ READ text ] (SOUND)
One thing a person quickly learns about large groups of people – is that they have little common sense; they can change direction in a moment. Like at a sport event, one moment they’re cheering, & the next moment they’re booing. Or a celebration turns into a riot. Back in 2021, after a soccer match in Indonesia, at first the winning side was cheering; and then the losing side began to riot. And after the crowd stampeded to an exit, 135 people were crushed to death. A cheering crowd can quickly turn into an vicious mob.
There was a joyful crowd of people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem that Sunday for the Passover festival; shouting ‘hosanna to the son of David; …blessed in he.’ And then on Friday the crowd was stirred up & angry, shouting ‘crucify him.’ Whether these were the same people in both crowds is debatable. But our SOUND of Jesus’ Passion this morning is the ‘shouting mob’. (sound)
During Passover week, Jerusalem’s population mushroomed from about 20,000 people to as many as 200,000 people. The Romans stationed extra troops in & around the city to make sure tempers didn’t flare into fights & violence. After 3 yrs, a lot of those people coming in from outlying areas had seen or heard-of that miracle-working-Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth; & they had high hopes in Him. It’s no wonder that the priests & Pharisees feared to arrest Jesus during the feast, lest the people riot.
The first time the crowd shouted was on Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode in on a colt. The crowds saw Jesus coming, and the words of Zechariah 9 sprang to mind: “See, your king comes to you . . . riding on a donkey.” Suddenly, the crowd had an urge to ‘roll out the red carpet’ for Jesus. Some think that that idea goes back to the Greeks about 500 yrs before Jesus.
But, since no one thought ahead about bringing a big red carpet, they took off their coats & laid them on the ground. Others ran & got palm branches, and placed them on the ground as Jesus rode over them. Someone was the first one to shout those 2 words from Ps.118:
‘hasha–anna’ meaning: ‘save, please’. ‘Jesus, please deliver us.’ Soon the whole crowd was shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9).
The priests were mortified. You don’t apply a Scripture verse to just anyone! And the coats & palm branches meant that the people wanted to lay their lives & their nation at Jesus’ feet. To welcome Him into the holy city meant that they wanted Him to be their king, and to rule over them on David’s throne. This crowd was looking to Jesus for salvation. But salvation from what? If the Romans looked at this & thought that Jesus was leading a rebellion to kick the Romans out of Jerusalem, the Jews were in real trouble because the Roman army could crush them all, & the Jewish leaders would be held responsible. They had to get this crowd under control.
So the Pharisees pushed their way thru the crowd & got to Jesus. They said: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Lk 19:39-). Maybe most in this crowd didn’t realize how right they were to welcome the Messiah the way they did, but Jesus accepted their praise just the same. God Himself knew that the hour of salvation was at hand. (sound)
Of course, the crowd’s idea of salvation, and the salvation Jesus was bringing, were two different things. Too many people had believed the false teaching of the chief priests and were looking for an earthly Savior. They expected Jesus to get off his donkey & get on a horse, & to take off His rabbi robe & put on a general’s armor. David’s throne would defeat their earthly enemies; and this One who taught with authority & did miracles could certainly be that king.
For those who had actually listened to what Jesus had been teaching, it didn’t fit that Jesus was going to take over Jerusalem by force. True & lasting salvation – from the real & spiritual enemies of man – would have to come in a different way. Isaiah had prophesied it: salvation would come, away from the cheering crowds, as the Suffering Servant was abandoned under God’s wrath, cursed on a tree.
Thanks to a confidential informant, late Thursday night, the chief priests managed to arrest Jesus away from the crowds. And once they officially condemned Jesus in their court, and sent Him off to Pontius Pilate before anybody could prevent it, they knew they had things under control. Pilate would cooperate with them, as he had done before, and carry out a death sentence for them on a man they said was guilty.
Except…, except that -this time- instead of Pilate simply taking the priests’ word for it, he wanted to find out for himself what this man was guilty of.
Pilate took Jesus inside, & the priests got worried. Pilate might figure out that Jesus wasn’t the dangerous radical they’d made Him out to be. So, to prevent Pilate from setting Jesus free, they would use the fickle crowd to pressure him. Pilate was a politician, being graded on how well he govered this big ‘crowd’ called Judah. Politicians listen to crowds; they listen to the surveys & to the polls; if they want to be reelected, they listen to the majority.
To OUR shame, we can all act like politicians at times, not listening to God’s true teachings, morals & values; but we go along with the crowd. We cave-in to the wrong majority; we excuse our sin because ‘everybody is doing it.’ It takes a real faith & a firm trust in God to live a life that stands against the fickle crowd.
The Pharisees knew that if Pilate was convinced that enough people wanted Jesus crucified, then he would give-in. So the priests gathered their own crowd that Holy Week. They spread the word that Jesus was a blasphemer, a fake, & a weakling. When Pilate came out with Jesus, he found a huge mob of angry faces shouting for Jesus’ blood. (sound)
During the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, Americans saw video of huge crowds screaming, “Death to America!” Later, media crews reported that those crowds were silent until they saw the red lights of the television cameras come on. Then, right on cue, they would begin to scream & shout; it was a ‘show.’ That still happens today with those news talk shows on TV. The crowd is handpicked to have only like-minded people there, and they use an applause sign so that even when the host gives a factually wrong opinion, the crowd will errupt in claps & cheers. And that is supposed to persuade you, the viewer, that you should go along with the cheering crowd & agree with what was said, even tho it’s wrong. (how many christians are turned against God’s ways by this manipulation?)
That’s what happens with every cultural moral issue: /with pro-choice abortion, /gun control, /climate change, /systemic racism, /defund the police, /open-borders, /drag-queen story hour in schools, /LGBT+ rights, /& so-called affirming care for so-called transgender children. The shouting crowd is supposed to persuade us to ignore God’s teachings for this life, and agree with them = =even tho it’s wrong.
When you were growing up, did your parents -or pastor- ever warn you about blindly following the crowd? They should’ve. With regard to God’s right things – the loudest voices & majorities of this world are often wrong when compared to God’s inerrant written Word of truth.
Don’t follow the unbelieving crowd; follow God’s Word. On that Good Friday, the foolish mob had been stirred up by the teachers of the law so that, on cue, they would shout for Jesus’ crucifixion. (sound)
When Pilate came outside & the crowd shouted ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate couldn’t believe his ears. Crucify him? Why? On what charge? But the only reply he got was ‘Crucify him!’
Pilate didn’t want to crucify Jesus. He offered to let one prisoner go: innocent Jesus or a well-known thief & murderer Barabbas. Crowds don’t think; someone shouted ‘Barabbas’, and the frensied mob joined in. Pilate could see the mob-psychology at work; but he also knew something about psychology. He decided to have Jesus beaten; because actually seeing blood has an effect on people. He also let his soldiers mock Jesus by dressing him up in a purple robe & humiliating this Jew with a crown of thorns. It was worth a shot: if they saw
a fellow Jew disgraced by the hated Romans, maybe that would stop this brain-dead mob.
Bringing Him out, Pilate pointed to Jesus & said: ‘Here’s your man!’ (Jn 19:5b). But the psychology didn’t go his way; seeing Jesus beaten & bloody only made them want the job finished. ‘Kill him! Away with him. Crucify Him!’ So Pilate gave up trying to negotiate,
he washed his hands as a sign that he was done; he didn’t need a riot. He caved-in to the pressure of the mob instead of doing what was right.
When we look back & hear the shouts of those two different crowds =one shouting words of praise, the other screeching words of death= we cheer the one and condemn the other. But it’s not an exaggeration to say that we are part of BOTH crowds. In faith we praise our Lord and acknowledge His mercy & grace toward us; and in sin we join the crowd of unbelievers who disobey Him & ignore His holy ways for living. ‘Hosanna’, and ‘Crucify.’
In our thoughts, words & deeds, our lives are fickle & inconsistant. We may not want to be part of the ugly mob – but the crowd is persuasive; sometimes we go-along because we’re afraid of being turned-on by the crowd, & rejected & abandoned.(by neighbors,family,friends)
What does it mean to sin and to disobey God? In one sense, it means that we don’t care that the price to be paid for our sin is the price Jesus paid on the cross. When we hurt someone, curse them, lie, cheat, & steal from them, we’re letting the voice of fallen man persuade us to reject God, & go with the crowd on that wide road to destruction.
Every sin we do is the cry of ‘Crucify Him!’ because every sin we do could only be atoned for with innocent Jesus being crucified.
But then, by God’s grace, we are also part of the right Palm Sunday crowd. /When we are shown our sin, /when we admit our guilt, /and when we see again our Lord led away to the cross, we are trusting the promise that by His cross He has won for us God’s mercy. ‘Hosanna!’, ‘save us, please!’ Humble King Jesus, Messiah, Savior of the world, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, hosanna, have mercy on us! And He does.
God hears all our shouts; but for Jesus’ sake, He honors our cry for mercy. Jesus said, ‘as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.’ He was lifted up and He calls us to His forgiveness, so that we will continue to call out in faith ‘Hosanna! and Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Great is He who was crucified for us; and blessed are we because of His forgiveness & grace to save us.’
In this Christian faith, He has called us into that greater crowd that will be made up of repentant believers from every tribe, people, nation & language who have called upon that One Man -Jesus- to deliver us out of sin and into eternal life. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And we will praise Him evermore. (sound)
Matthew 27:15-25 NIV
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.
16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Barabbas.
17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. ….
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”