Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
"And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
-- Matthew 21:9
"Pilate said to them, Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all said, Let him be crucified!"
-- Matthew 27:22
Charles Dickens famously wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Moving in the Gospels from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is much like moving from London to Paris in "A Tale of Two Cities." Dickens' story is a gospel story, and even more so is Matthew 21 and 27.
The first crowd was composed of pilgrims from Galilee. They were very familiar with Jesus of Nazareth, since most of His ministry had been performed in front of them. They came to Jerusalem for the Passover. After the Seder on Thursday, they arose early the next morning to return to their homes.
This second crowd consisted of mostly Judean Jews. They were steeped in the self-righteous religion of the Pharisees. They had not warmed to the kingdom teachings of the carpenter's son from Galilee, the rural region that was above them geographically but beneath them socially. They delighted in His arrest, participated in His mock trial, and cast their vote to cast Him off the face of the earth.
The first crowd consisted of followers, worshippers, and givers. Shunning pride and independence, they followed Jesus for much of His three-year public ministry. They had witnessed the miracles, listened to the parables, and anticipated the kingdom of God. They were dedicated to following the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost.
They uttered words of worship, like "Hosanna," which were direct Jewish references to the Messiah, the only person worth worshipping in this world. In that day, all most people really owned was the clothes on their backs. They gave them to Jesus to be used as saddle and shock absorbers. This crowd understood that if Jesus' works were worthy of following, if Jesus' person was worthy of worship, then the cause of Christ was worthy of giving yourself, all of yourself, and even all you own, for the sake of the gospel.
The second crowd was a different crowd. They gathered to finish the job begun by the Jewish High Priest and the Roman Governor. This was a caravan of fools, not followers. I know it is not nice to call someone a fool (ref. Matthew 5:22). But God said it is a fool who denies God (ref. Psalm 14:1; 53:1). To deny the deity of Jesus Christ and the exclusivity of His gospel marks you and makes you a fool in the eyes of God. You don't want to belong to a crowd of fools, do you?
This was a crowd of selfishness, not worship. For selfish people cannot worship anyone but themselves. This crowd was a taking crowd, not a giving one. You will find no one here giving anything to Jesus, except false accusations, flagrant injustice, and a final death sentence.
Please know that the crowd you belong to now will determine the crowd with which you spend eternity. Followers, worshippers, and givers will be separated eternally from the fools, selfish, and takers. Believe me, eternity itself is a great tale of two crowds!
So let us learn a lesson from Dickens, who wrote of an imperfect man laying down his life for others. The gospel is written about the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for all those who will believe in Him. It is He who can truly say, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." And you can join Him, forever, if you simply run with the right crowd.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]