“Don’t Rain on the Parade”

(Please read Luke 19:28-44 & 23:32-34.  I quote the NIV.)

Message: At Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and crucifixion are examples of people who did and did not understand.

  1. The crowd celebrated (19:28-38).

The details of the account in vs. 28-35 are there to tell us that Jesus prepared this parade. The details of the colt and the code phrase are not meant to describe some sort of miracle. Instead, they demonstrate Jesus’ control over the situation; He prepared to enact a symbolic entry into Jerusalem that the pious pilgrims would immediately understand.  When Jesus set this parade in motion, He was doing so under the orders of God the Father.  We know that’s so because Jesus said that He did not do anything except what God told Him to (John 5:19).

Verses 36-38 tell us the people were joyous participants; they understood perfectly what Jesus was demonstrating, knew the symbolism, and responded enthusiastically.  Their part was spontaneous.

We wonder how, a week later, the crowd could turn on Jesus and demand His crucifixion.  The answer is that these were two entire different groups.  Let’s make this clear.  The group that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem we’ll call “the crowd.”  The group that shouted for His death is “the mob.”

The Crowd was made up of out-of-towners; pilgrims, religious tourists; faithful folk who had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  They came from all over the ancient world.  A faithful Jew was to return to Jerusalem once a year; most of them chose to return for the Passover.

The Mob was made up of locals; residents of Jerusalem fully allied with the priests and other leaders, ready to do as ordered.  When the religious leaders thought a mob threatening to riot would influence the Roman governor, they called upon their faithful flock to turn out and coached them on what they were to say.

  1. The complainers crabbed (19:39-40).

Their complaint was that the crowd was out of control. Luke identifies the complainers as PHARISEES.  Let’s review who these people were.

– They were the most religious people around: they had probably memorized the entire OT, and tried to keep all the details of the Law, and in addition the 600+ interpretations of the Law that teachers had added over the centuries and which they considered on a par with Scripture.  Because they were so legalistic, they could easily keep the letter of the law but neglect the weightier matters of the Spirit.

– The common people both respected and hated the Pharisees, and the Pharisees treated the people with contempt, especially “sinners.”

– They were dogged protectors of the status quo.  Thought they chafed under Roman rule as much as anyone, they defended the power, authority, prestige, and money the system provided them.

– These are the reasons the Pharisees so frequently put themselves in opposition to Jesus, why they feared Him, and why they conspired to kill Him.

So you can understand how they were upset with Jesus.  They saw this whole episode as a threat.  On this occasion, their opposition was particularly petty; “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”  They told Jesus to end this parade and get these unruly pilgrims under control.  (Notice how that word comes up!)  They sought control and probably thought they had Jesus right where they wanted Him; He could either be defiant or shut them up.  Either way, they won!

But Jesus’ response denied them control.  He took a third option and effectively responded, “God is in control.”  God is so much in control, and the parade was so much His will that if the pilgrims did not shout, then He would do something miraculous and make the stones under their feet shout out praise!

  1. The crowned Christ cried (19:41-44).

This event is unique to Luke’s Gospel.  It fits perfectly with his theme, that Jesus came to find and save lost sinners.

It also fits in the sense that it is in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus three times pronounces a woe on Jerusalem.

– The first is in Luke 13:34-35 = “O JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM, YOU WHO KILL THE PROPHETS AND STONE THOSE SENT TO YOU, HOW OFTEN I HAVE LONGED TO GATHER YOUR CHILDREN TOGETHER, AS A HEN GATHERS HER CHICKS UNDER HER WINGS, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING!  LOOK, YOUR HOUSE IS LEFT TO YOU DESOLATE.  I TELL YOU, YOU WILL NOT SEE ME AGAIN UNTIL YOU SAY, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD’.”

– The second is here in chapter 19.

– The third is in Luke 21:20-24 = “WHEN YOU SEE JERUSALEM SURROUNDED BY ARMIES, YOU WILL KNOW THAT DESOLATION IS NEAR.  FOR THIS IS THE TIME OF PUNISHMENT IN FULFILLMENT OF ALL THAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN.  THERE WILL BE GREAT DISTRESS IN THE LAND AND WRATH AGAINST THIS PEOPLE.  THEY WILL FALL BY THE SWORD AND WILL BE TAKEN AS PRISONERS TO ALL THE NATIONS.  JERUSALEM WILL BE TRAMPLED ON BY THE GENTILES UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES ARE FULFILLED.”

Still, this pronouncement against Jerusalem comes at an unexpected time.  Jesus stood before a group of people cheering for Him when He stopped and cried for Jerusalem, bringing a prophecy o/t city’s doom.  Imagine the emotional effect of “Santa Claus” stopping the Thanksgiving Day parade, climbing down from his float, kneeling in the middle of the street and pronouncing a tearful prophecy of New York City’s destruction.  What a down beat!

Jesus cried because He foresaw their rejection of Him and what it would cost them; it broke His heart.  Jesus did this because He had knowledge. He knew their present condition.  He knew they were arrogant, rebellious, and stubborn and that they were going to reject Him.  He also knew their future condition: He had already repeatedly predicted the downfall of the city.

As importantly, Jesus wept because He had had heart.  Though they deserved the wrath that was going to be poured out on them, it was still heart-breaking for Him to see His people and their great city come to an end.  God’s vengeance and wrath are not occasions for rejoicing, no matter how richly deserved – Jesus wept.

  1. The crucified Christ forgave (23:32-34).

They knew exactly what they were doing in the sense that His crucifixion was according to their plan.  The religious authorities and the residents of Jerusalem acted in secret because they did not want the pilgrims to find out and riot on Jesus’ behalf.  The betrayal of Judas allowed them to act under the cover of darkness and their conspiracy pushed the Roman governor to the action they wanted.

However, they did not know what they were doing in the sense that they did not know who they were crucifying.  Their intent was to eliminate a threat to their control, their sense of orderly life.  They thought Jesus was just a man who’d vaguely threatened the temple, another nut job who’d stir up the common folk and bring down another brutal Roman retaliation.  They had rejected the notion that Jesus was the Messiah.  They found Him guilty of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God.  They clearly did not know who they had put on t cross.  They did not know what they were doing.

Demonstrating the love and grace that should been seen in every one of His disciples, Jesus prayed to God the Father, asking Him to forgive them.  The reason He gave was true; they didn’t know what they were doing.

Though they acted out of hatred and self-righteousness, their evil act was accomplishing God’s will.  (Remember what Isaiah wrote; “It was the LORD’s will to CRUSH him.”)  God is so powerful He can turn evil to good and accomplish His will!

The application of this passage is three-fold but simple:

#1 = DO BE LIKE THE CROWD; worship Jesus as your King.  Get excited!  The crowd was so happy to see Jesus they inconvenienced themselves to go and cut palm branches to wave at Him.  They thought so much of Jesus and so little of their worldly possessions that they laid their cloaks on the road to honor him.  (A person’s cloak was a prized possession, especially for a traveler!)

#2 = DON’T BE NASTY LIKE THE CRABBY PHARISEES.  Obviously, not all Pharisees were like that bunch, but the name “Pharisee” has come to be a byword for hypocrites, control freaks, and nay-sayers.  It’s ironic that they were the most religious people around and yet the people who incurred the sharpest rebukes from Jesus.

#3 = DO BE LIKE JESUS; He is our example in this passage in three specific ways.

a = How he dealt with the Pharisees.  Dr. Jay Carter refers to this kind of behavior as “invalidating,” and the people who practice it as “invalidators.”  Those Pharisees were saying that the procession was an invalid assembly and ordering Jesus to disperse the crowd.  He refused to play their game or even to take them seriously.  He turned to God.

b = What Jesus took very seriously was the outcome of His people.  He looked upon the city with the eyes of God, saw their tragic future, and was moved to tears.  We tend to get things backward: we’re moved to tears by invalidation and miss entirely the real threat: rebellion against God.

c = Most importantly, when He was on the cross, at the moment of the most gross injustice, Jesus was gracious and pleaded to the Father for the forgiveness of His persecutors.  We need to seek the graciousness and gentleness of Jesus.  The ends do not justify the means.  Being right does not always mean that we have the right.  We need to look on all people with the eyes of God to love and forgive.

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Hugh Otter B. Fruitful

(Read Acts 2:42-47.)

        A woman in Alabama was to bake a cake for her Baptist Church ladies’ bake sale, but entirely forgot about it until she awoke on the morning of the sale.  Rifling through her cupboards, she found an old angel food cake mix and threw it together.  While it baked, she dressed for work.

        When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured.  There was no time nor resource to bake another.  Not wanting to lose face among the church ladies, she hurriedly looked around for something she could use to build up the center of the cake.

        She settled on a roll of toilet paper which she put in the droopy center of the cake and then covered the whole thing over with icing.  Standing back to admire her handiwork, she pronounced it “Beautiful!”

        Before leaving the house to drop the cake off at the church on the way to work, she woke her teenage daughter and told her to be at the bake sale precisely when it opened at 9 am, buy t cake & bring it home.

        You may be surprised to find that the drowsy daughter didn’t make it to the church exactly at 9 am.  When she did arrive, she found that her mother’s cake had already been sold!  She called her mother to deliver the horrifying news.  The woman spent the entire day and a sleepless night worrying about who had purchased the faux cake.

        The next day an elegant bridal shower was being held at the home of a fellow church member.  While she wasn’t particularly friendly toward the hostess – she considered her a snob – the woman felt obligated to go.

        She was horrified when her cake was presented as dessert!

        She was about to take the hostess aside and confess when one of the other guest exclaimed, “What a beautiful cake!”

        The snobbish hostess grinned with pride and said, “Thank you, I baked it myself!”

        The woman thought to herself, “God is good.”  She sat back and watched as her hostess grabbed the cake knife…

        We naturally think god is good when the other person gets their “just desserts,” but are less likely to think that way when it’s us.  Getting what we deserve is what Jesus called the “fruit” of our character.  Decisions made repeatedly become character and the outcome of all that reveals the character within each of us.

        What’s true on an individual level is also true on a church level.  What we look like on the outside does not determine what fruits we bear, it’s what really exists under the icing. We must choose Christ to bear Christian fruit.

(George Goldtrap, as quoted in The Joyful Noiseletter, Vol. 27, No. 4, July-August 2012.)

THESIS = The First Church enjoyed fruitful ministry because they were faithful followers.

Vs. 46-47 (NIV) = Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

WHERE they met reveals a lot about the First Church.

        They met publicly in the TEMPLE.  Because the temple courtyards provided a large open space where their mega-church could gather.  The courtyards were accessible to Gentiles and frequented by Jews.

        Originally they saw themselves as practicing the Jewish faith completed by Jesus.  Therefore the temple was still God’s house; it was still sacred in their lives, their faith and practice.  They shared the pride godly Jews felt about the Temple and all it represented.

        It was a familiar place and a physical focus of their faith. When in Jerusalem, a godly Jew went to the Temple three times a day to pray.  Living elsewhere, a godly Jew faced the direction of the Temple to pray.

        The courtyards of the Temple were the customary place to meet for teaching.  Later, as the Church was dispersed from Jerusalem, they took this practice with them and met in the local synagogues.

        They also met privately in their HOMES.  They held services in courtyards  of private homes (see Philemon 2; Colossians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 16:19).  This was a practical solution and good stewardship.  Buildings require resources.  the practice kept the local churches smaller & more personal, like our “cell groups” today.  It was customary for Jewish feasts (i.e., the Passover) to be observed in homes.

        This “multi-site plan” is a comprehensive approach to ministry we can find useful and worth copying.  The temple gatherings were primarily evangelistic in nature, but also met worship and service goals.  The “living room” gatherings in private homes had a primary purpose of discipleship, but also met worship and fellowship goals.  Of course, the extraordinary stewardship exhibited in the First Church empowered both.

WHAT they did AS they met reveals more.

        The text informs us they BROKE BREAD and ATE TOGETHER.  BROKE BREAD refers to both a meal and the Lord’s Supper: the eucharisto.  This Love Feast was THE means of worship and service, & feeding the underclass.

        They were PRAISING GOD daily.  Every activity of the church should be a service of worship, celebrating God before all people.  If not for God we wouldn’t be here!

        They enjoyed THE FAVOR OF ALL PEOPLE.  I wonder what that feels like.  It might mean that people know where we’re located, at least!  This was a church full of joy: because they spread it about, they enjoyed wide favor.

HOW they did it sets an example for us to follow.

        They met EVERY DAY.  Any mention I make of daily worship falls on blank stares and deaf ears.  “Not realistic,” people inform me gravely.  Both clergy and lay people alike think the notion of daily worship is as quaint as togas.

        Let me provoke your thinking on this subject with two questions.  Is it possible that we are over-invested in our personal, private lives?  If we restore balance by investing more in God will it result in a better blessing?  If the answer to either of those questions is “Yes,” we’ve got to re-prioritize.

        They had GLAD and SINCERE HEARTS.  Every Christian ought to have a GLAD heart.  When done right, the Christian faith is fun.  Joy is an inevitable result of true discipleship.  If church is boring, uneventful, or unfulfilling, the fault is not with God.  In the original language, the word  SINCERE means “without stones to trip on.”  With nothing false in their character, they gave no excuse to trip others up.

WHY did God do this?  Simple: to build His Church.

        The phrase THE LORD ADDED TO THEIR NUMBER is a needed reminder that it is God who saves.  Our part is to create a space where God is made known.  If we are faithful, God will make us fruitful.

        This is also a way God shows His approval of a church.  If a church is worthy of His trust, He will place new believers in their care.

        It also reinforces the necessity of true faith being the qualification for membership. This phrase summarizes New Testament teaching that makes a distinction between those who are converts in appearance only & those who are a new creation.  Human eyes can’t always telling the difference, but God knows.

        I hope I’ve clearly placed an emphasis on the sovereignty of God.  That doctrine is no excuse of inactivity or even passivity, however.  God calls us to be more than consumers.  We are to be producers as well.  One part of discipleship is producing fruit.  The outcomes of a faithful life are two-fold:

  • See Matthew 28:19, where Jesus identifies disciple-making as our mission. That includes producing new converts and maturing existing ones.
  • See John 15, where Jesus teaches that LOVE is both a means and an end to discipleship. Real disciples love more often and more deeply. 

        OK, I admit to being guilty of making this word my soap box.  Don’t miss the word DAILY in the text. Does anyone really think it is a coincidence that they met daily and the Lord added to their number daily?  I’d suggest we are seeing a spiritual principle at work: “Whatever you sow, you shall reap.  If you sow sparingly, you shall reap sparingly.”  The greater sacrifice opens the door to greater blessing.  That’s biblical.

        Who was the Lord adding to the First Church?  THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.  “Being saved” is a curious phrase.  What’s that imply?  A Greek word for “church” means “the called-out ones.”  Who is doing the calling?  God.  We don’t  call ourselves.  So again we are reminded that salvation is 99.9% an act of God.  It is not by any work that we are saved, but only by a faithful acceptance of the work of God.

        I believe that phrase is also meant to throw us back upon our dependence on the Holy Spirit.  It is God’s Spirit who empowers everything we do that is godly.  For a wonderful and unique description of this, see Judges 6:34, where it is written, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CLOTHED HIMSELF WITH GIDEON.  The Bible also says that the Spirit is within us, but I prefer this reading because it places the emphasis squarely on the Holy Spirit.

        While we may be assuming too much from a single portion of a sentence, I believe this oddly passive-voiced verb without a clear temporal reference is also meant to remind us that salvation is a life-long process.  BEING SAVED is like saying, “Under Construction.”  Kind of like the streets and highways of our land during the summer months…

        “A wealthy lawyer walked along a crowded sidewalk in London when he felt a hand slip into his pocket.  He whirled around and seized the thief by the wrist.  ‘Why did you try to rob me?’ James Henderson demanded sternly.

        “‘Because, sir,’ the would-be pickpocket said, ‘I am out of work and hungry.’

        “‘Come along with me,’ Henderson said.  He took the penniless man to a restaurant and ordered two meals.

        “When they had finished eating, the man told how he had been in prison and found it difficult to obtain a job because of his bad name.  ‘I have no name,’ he said.  There is nothing left to return but to return to the old life of crime.  What can a man do without a name?’

        “The man’s story and question greatly impressed the lawyer.  After some thought, he said, ‘For forty years I have borne the name of James Henderson unsullied.  You say you have no name?  I’ll give you my name.  Take your new name out into the world and keep it clean and honorable.’

        “‘Do you really mean it?’ cried the thief brokenly.

        “‘Of course I mean it,’ said the lawyer.  ‘And to prove it, I’ll recommend you, in the name of James Henderson, to a manufacturing firm with whom I have some influence.’

        “The lawyer found a job for the former thief and kept in touch with him for many months.  However, through travel and a change of residence, he lost contact with his namesake.

        “Fifteen years later he was told a visitor awaited him in the reception room of his office.  He was startled to read the name ‘James Henderson’ on the man’s business card.  Entering the reception room, he met a tall, strikingly handsome man dressed like a gentleman. 

        “As they shook hands, the visitor said, ‘Sir, I have called to tell you today I have been made partner in the firm to which you recommended me fifteen years ago.  All that you see me to be, I owe to your noble generosity; and above all, to the gift of your name.  The name of James Henderson is still unsullied.  God bless you, sir, and reward you!’

        “The thief was offered a new name and made a new start in life.  We, too, have been offered a new name – Christian.  And it is the plan of the One who has given us this new name that we make a new start in life.”

(Desmond Hills, Signs of the Times, June, 2004.)

Faces at the Cross – #6 – The Crowds

Thesis: The people greeting Jesus at His Triumphal Entry weren’t the ones who cheered His crucifixion.

             “News from AMES, Iowa, on April 10, 2014 — The president of Iowa State University canceled a 92-year-old weeklong spring celebration Wednesday after the student-run event turned violent overnight.

            “On Tuesday, thousands of people gathered around 11:30 p.m., flipping over at least two cars, tearing down two light poles, ripping out four stop signs and pelting police officers with rocks and full beer cans, officials said. One student, who has not been identified, sustained severe head injuries when one of the light poles struck him; he was in stable condition Wednesday afternoon at a Des Moines hospital.

            “The name of the annual celebration  — Veishea — is an acronym of the Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics and Agriculture; the colleges at the university at the time of its inception. Officially, Veishea is a weeklong promotional showcase — an open house of sorts to highlight the campus. Events include both education and entertainment programs. But violent acts among drunken young adults have been a problem numerous times in the past 30 years. In 2004, an overnight riot caused tens of thousands of dollars of property damage and led to dozens of arrests.

            “The crowd appeared to get out of control after officers broke up a large party. A second crowd gathered a block away. The two groups converged and that’s when officers moved in, were pelted with beer cans and rocks and saw others start to pull down light poles.”

(Contributing: Regina Zilbermints and Sharyn Jackson, The Des Moines Register. Abridged from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/09/student-celebration-riot-iowa-state-university/7497989/ on 411/14.)

          The difference between a crowd and a mob can be very slight.  This gathering in Ames, for example, was intended to generate a crowd but it became a mob.  Today we’ll take a look at both in Matthew’s Gospel and see how they impacted the ministry of Jesus.

The CROWD at Jerusalem’s gates (MTW 21:1-11).

          The situation is important to note.  The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was 17 miles long and rose 3000 feet.  This entrance to Jerusalem stood about 100 feet higher than the others; it had a great view of the city. It was THE ideal place for a parade. The Passover feast was THE time to be seen in Jerusalem; the population swelled to 2.5 million.

          This was the one time Jesus allowed the masses of people to worship Him. The message Jesus was sending can be discerned in the details.

          The DONKEY AND HER COLT, for example, fulfill the messianic prophecies of Zecariah 9:9 & Isaiah 62:11. The colt had never been ridden; sacred animals had to be previously unused.  Kings rode donkeys when they came in peace (Judges 5:10; 1 Kings 1:33), a horse when they came to make war. Also, the title LORD is one Jesus had not yet used to refer to Himself.

          There are at least purposes we can see in Jesus’ making this demonstration.  One, to demonstrate His true identity; He was their Messiah and King. Second, to give the Jewish people one last chance to receive Him as Messiah and King. Three, to force the hand of the Jewish clergy; to get them to arrest and crucify Him.  After all, there’s nothing more influential to a politician than a crowd: Jesus put the pressure on.  Timing is everything; Jesus set these events in motion to be killed before the Passover.  It worked!  JHN 12:19 records the Pharisees’ reaction; “THIS IS GETTING US NOWHERE.  LOOK HOW THE WHOLE WORLD HAS GONE AFTER HIM!”

          Who was this CROWD? These faces wore joyous expressions; they were delighted to see Jesus and worshiped Him. Their belief in His kingship is evident in what they did.  Spreading their cloaks and palm branches on the road – as for King Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13 – demonstrates this belief.

          Their belief in His messiahship is evident in what they said. “HOSANNA” means “save.”  It is crying out to the Messiah for deliverance from trials. “SON OF DAVID” refers to Jesus’ royal lineage and God’s promise that the dynasty of David would reign forever. “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” was the way pilgrims typically greeted one another. “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST” = Praising God for sending the Messiah.

          NOW – the crucial difference that is the key to our understanding these three groups as being distinct from one another.  Vs. 10+11 show that the locals and the pilgrims (the “religious tourists” come to observe the Passover) did not see Jesus in the same light. The WHOLE CITY asks, “WHO IS THIS?”  They hadn’t seen anything like this in hundreds of years. THE CROWD answered them, “THIS IS JESUS, THE PROPHET FROM NAZARETH IN GALILEE.”  Obviously, this is not a real conversation, but an exercise of artistic license to summarize countless conversations in Jerusalem that day and to characterize the difference between Jerusalem residents and Jerusalem visitors.

The MOB at Pilate’s court (MTW 27:11-26).

          These faces wore looks of anger.  Why?

          Because their religious leaders had persuaded them to demand Barabbas’ release & Jesus’ crucifixion (see verse 20). These faces not only wear a different expression; they are different faces.  As we’ve already noted, the visitors to Jerusalem tended to favor Jesus; the residents of Jerusalem did not.

          Part of the reason for the differing reactions is that the people of Jerusalem saw themselves as being better than their country cousins. This caused them to be prejudiced against Jesus, a Galilean.  It also explains why the pilgrims’ “reply” in 27:11 named “NAZARETH IN GALILEE;” they were reminding the city folk that Jesus was a country boy like them.

          Another reason is that the difference existed at the convenience of the Jewish leadership. The Jewish clergy had a great deal of influence over their people.   If they needed a mob who’d do their bidding, they’d create one.

          Let’s take notice of what they said.

          In verse 21 they demanded the release of Barabbas.  This would not have been Pilate’s choice, as Barabbas was probably a Zealot, one of the political parties we talked about two weeks ago.  The Zealots resorted to violent means to overthrow Roman rule.  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call Barabbas a “terrorist,” especially from the Roman point of view.  This man’s name means “son of the father.”  It’s only a last name, not a first name, and not a real last name at that.  My guess is they didn’t know his real name.

          In verses 22-23 they demanded Jesus’ death. The Jewish clergy had tried to get Pilate to condemn Jesus on their charge of treason.  When that didn’t work, they made it appear that a riot was going to happen.  This whole mob scene was staged. “Plan B” worked.  V. 24 = WHEN PILATE SAW THAT HE WAS GETTING NOWHERE, BUT THAT INSTEAD AN UPROAR WAS STARTING,” he gave in. Confrontations like this were actually common during the Roman occupation.

          In verse 25, after Pilate charged them with responsibility for Jesus’ death, they replied, “LET HIS BLOOD BE ON US AND OUR CHILDREN!  Given the seriousness with which these people usually held blessings and curses, it boggles my mind that they would make a statement like this.  And they passed their guilt along to their children.  Sometime later, the Apostle Peter held them accountable for this very act; read Acts 3:13-14.  Moreover, consider that they chose a murderous terrorist like over a peaceful preacher who commanded love for one’s enemies.

The PASSERS-BY at Golgotha (MTW 27:33-40).

          These faces wore looks of contempt.  Why?

          Unlike the contrived MOB at Pilate’s court, these people are THOSE WHO PASSED BY. They were walking by the scene of the crucifixion as they went into or out of Jerusalem.  They were not there for the executions, only to use the road that lead by them. They were more likely to be residents of the city going about their who were puzzled by Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into their beloved city, resented Jesus’ “cleansing” of their beloved temple, His opposition of their respected clergy, and the interruptions of their routine.  Not all the passers-by acted this way; the ones quoted were cruel people who added to the torment of someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t defend Himself.

          I’m attempting to explain, not excuse their behavior.  I believe Satan was behind these insults as a last-ditch effort to provoke Jesus to save Himself.

          Let’s take notice of what they said in v. 40.

          They showed their ignorance.  When Jesus talked about destroying the temple and restoring it in three days, He was talking about Himself, predicting His death and resurrection. They misunderstood this as a threat.  “SAVE YOURSELF!” is based on the mistaken assumption that Jesus was trapped on the cross.  He was not.  He refused to save Himself, so that He could instead offer His life in payment for our sins.

          They also demanded a sign, a  miracle, that Jesus was unwilling to give them.

“COME DOWN NOW FROM THE CROSS, IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD.”  This is a taunt, not a promise.  They expected there was no chance Jesus would come down from the cross, so there was no chance they would have to accept Him as God’s Son.

          It must have been a constant temptation for Jesus to use divine power.  However, the salvation of humanity could only be accomplished by His death and so Jesus endured the torment of their taunts.

          A young man who was a recent college graduate decided to be a short-term missionary and went to Venezuela.  It was his first time out of the States and he struggled with the language. On his first Sunday there, he visited one of the local churches and sat in the front row.     

          So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He settled on the man sitting next to him in the front pew.

          As the congregation sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary clapped his hands, too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary stood up, too. When the man sat down, the missionary sat down.

          Later in the service, the man next to him suddenly stood up again, so the missionary hustled to get on his feet too. A hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. The missionary looked around and saw that no one else was standing. His face turned beet red and he slid back down to his seat.

          After the service ends, the missionary greeted the preacher. “I take it you don’t speak Spanish,” the preacher said.

          The missionary replied, “No, I don’t. It’s that obvious?”

          “Well yes,” the preacher said. “I announced that the Acosta family had a new-born baby boy, and I asked the proud father to please stand up.  He was seated next to you.”

          When will we learn that following the crowd will get us into trouble?  Actually, it’s a matter of knowing which crowd to join, isn’t it?  Palm Sunday sets the choice before us – we can join the mob who jeered or the crowd who cheered Jesus.  You can be one of the people who welcomes Jesus as Messiah and Lord – known today as the Church.  Join the parade!  Give yourself to Jesus and make this Holy Week celebration the very best of your life!