The People - Fickle or Faithful?

Mar 25 2018



That must have been quite a gathering of people who lined the way as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. It was a special time of year, the Passover, when Jews traditionally made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to the Holy City. They came from all corners of the Jewish world at that time. They came because it was tradition. They came because it was the thing to do. They came, some of them, because it was a great chance to party!

Some of them might have heard about a new prophet named Jesus. Some of them might even have heard him teaching the crowds. There might even have been one among them who had been healed by him or had a loved one healed by him. But whatever their reasons for coming, it was a perfect setting for crowd mentality to take over.

It was not unusual for individuals claiming to be a king or a messiah to preach around Jerusalem. It was also not unusual for these individuals to make an entrance. But in this case, the religious authorities and the political authorities viewed the entrance of Jesus as a huge threat to their authority. Those who called themselves messiahs and kings had been crucified before. Jesus knew what the results of his actions would most likely be.

So Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna. Bless is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the son of David. Hosanna in the highest.” The minute the religious authorities heard “Son of David” it translated to them as a new king, and one with authority who would not hesitate to challenge them. In one Gospel account, the crowd threw their cloaks on the road in front of him. And we call it “Palm Sunday” because supposedly palms were ripped from the trees and also thrown on the road or waved to herald the king.

But wasn’t their behavior the behavior of those who were caught up in the moment. After all, this was one of the most religious holidays of the Jewish year. It was Passover. They were there for religious reasons. So when a new prophet came riding into town, they cheered! But did they really know who they were cheering or why? Probably not! I think many of them got caught up in the moment. It was a parade; people were cheering; why not take part in the fun? That’s called crowd or mob psychology.

Perhaps there were some who knew exactly who Jesus was – some who knew his teachings – some who had heard his message of love. But I bet most of them were in the minority, or if they cheered, they cheered because it was safe. It was a crowd. They couldn’t get in trouble! And, it happened all the time!

People can hide in crowds. People can sometimes do what they secretly had hoped for years they could do. People can say anything they want to in a crowd and then simply write it off by claiming they were caught up in the action of the moment. Crowds give people courage to do things they may not have the courage to do if they were alone.

If it wasn’t a case of crowd mentality or psychology, what else can explain the fickle turnaround later in the week when the crowd is hollering, “Crucify him.” Maybe it wasn’t the same people. Maybe we can assume that it was two entirely different crowds, but I don’t think so. Crowds love a spectacle. A triumphal entrance or a chance to see those crucifixions they had heard so much about. It didn’t matter. A spectacle was a spectacle.

But when the spectacle was finished, what happened then? Did the members of the crowd have an opportunity to reflect on their actions? Could they face their actions, or to many, did the events of the week fade as soon as they left Jerusalem? Did some go back home and anxiously share the events they had witnessed in Jerusalem? The parade? The crucifixions they had heard so much about? Could they forget, did they want to forget, or didn’t they realize the fickle nature of their actions?

And what about the faithful ones – the one who truly shouted “Hosanna,” but cringed at the other events of the week? Where were they in all of this? Evidently they could not come forward to defend Jesus. Even his disciples ran. But isn’t that the nature of the human psyche when confronted by fear?

Very few people have the courage to buck the establishment even when the people know in their hearts that they are right. Very few people can muster up the courage to rebel against unjust regimes and decisions.

Probably the closest we will come to a triumphal entry is a ticker tape parade in New York City. But the possibility is always there that there will be many who will seek personal power for themselves and attempt to sway the rest of us in the process. At those moments, those moments of truth, when we are all confronted with choices, it is important that we stay grounded in our faith and faithful to the teachings of Jesus. It is important that we remember our responsibilities to other people. It is important that we can get up in the morning, fully understanding what we believe, look ourselves in the mirror, and like who is looking back at us.

It is not easy to fight the urgings of the crowd, the masses, and our friends. If it were, the Holocaust in WWII would not have happened. It is not always easy to do what is right. But in those moments when we have a chance to quietly reflect, a chance to really examine our beliefs, we ought to do it. So if we are ever faced with the proverbial moment of truth, we will have the courage and the conviction to do what is right.

For many of us, there may never be one defining moment. But for the rest of us, there will be that one moment when we are faced with a decision, fully knowing, that once the decision is made, our lives will change forever. Currently, that defining moment for many teenagers came when a high school in Parkland, Florida lost 17 students and staff to a shooter and the students are crying, “Never again!”

Our defining moment is the moment we may look back at many years into the future and remember with pride that when we were faced with the odds, we did what was right. 

When it comes to our faith, we have the choice to be fickle, or faithful. We have the choice to live with it or disregard it when we exit the doors of the church? What will we choose – to be fickle, or to be faithful, to who we are, to our beliefs, and to the teachings of Jesus? Amen.