Crowds of the Heart/Palm Sunday 2017


You have often heard here that we have no real reason for assuming that the crowd that welcomed Jesus in the Triumphal Entry and the crowd that was gathered to scream for His crucifixion were made up of the same people. Those two events, just days apart, are often pointed to as evidence of “the fickleness of crowds.” But there is no good reason to identify the crowds with one another, and a number of good reasons not to. But there are still complexities.

The Texts:

“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

“Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him” (Mark 15:14).

Summary of the Text:

We have two crowds, exhibiting two completely different attitudes toward Jesus. One crowd wanted Him lifted up . . . on a cross. The other crowd wanted Him lifted up . . . in praise. One crowd was manipulated by men. “But the chief priests moved the people . . .” (Mark 15:11). The other crowd had no earthly leader—although it did have an earthly focus. The crowd just appeared, rejoicing as they came. One crowd wanted blood—“crucify Him.” The other crowd wanted gladness and rejoicing. One crowd wanted a regicide. The other wanted a coronation.

Divided Jerusalem:

Now each crowd was unified in what it wanted. Each crowd had a very particular focus. Each crowd was single-minded. Each crowd had a defined goal. But they were going in decidedly opposite directions. But they were both Jerusalem crowds, and this meant that Jerusalem was divided. Each crowd was not divided, but the city was therefore necessarily divided. But in the struggle between the crowds, we must realize the city was making a decision. The city was in the process of making up its mind. One of the crowds chose wisely, but the city chose poorly.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37).

This passage is sometimes cited by those Christians who believe we have the capacity to withstand God’s sovereign election, but note carefully what Jesus says. He does not say “I wanted to gather you, but you would not.” He says “I wanted to gather them, but you would not.” The problem with Jerusalem was in the leadership. In this corruption, as with so many corruptions, the rot came from the head. And they successfully held onto their control of the city, running it into an overwhelming judgment. We are talking, in this passage, not about the salvation of individuals, but rather the damnation of a city.

You Are a City, Not a Monad:

But there is still a lesson for individuals here.

Many Christians make simplistic assumptions about themselves. A monad is an indivisible unit, and we think of ourselves that way—with a brake and an accelerator, and simple steering wheel. Life should be that simple, right?

But then you actually get into the turbulent life of your own soul, and discover that it is a lot more like Byzantine politics during a coup than like driving on a straight road in Nebraska. And you don’t know what side anybody is on.

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Prov. 25:28).

So if you deal with the consequences of your political turmoil, while clinging tenaciously to the idea that you are simply driving on a straight road, your confusion about what is going on will be massive. But if sanctification is more like a new king learning the lessons of crowd control, and it is understood to be such, that clarity can be enormously helpful.

Double-Minded or Single-Hearted?

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8).

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deut. 6:4–9).

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

What God wants from us is simplicity, not duplicity. What He wants is singleness of mind. But this singleness of mind begins with the recognition of where you are actually starting from. Part of you wants to quell the riotous disturbances in your soul. Another part of you wants to throw bottles and run off with big screen televisions.

The Basics of Rule:

The word for rule in Prov. 25:28 carries the meaning of restraint, or holding back. The mobs of your heart, the ones from the bad side of town, are the parts of you that want to tip over cars and set them on fire. There are sections of your heart that want to throw rocks at the riot police.

Are you going to rule like Josiah, tearing down all the idols (2 Kings 22:2)? Are you going to rule like Manasseh, given over to wickedness (2 Chron. 33:3)? Or are you going to try to split the difference like Asa did (2 Chron. 15:17)?

So What Do You Make of Jesus?

So then bring it back to the two Jerusalem crowds. Everything came down to just one thing. What do make of Jesus? Do you want Him to die, or do you want Him to reign? If you want Him to die, then you want Him to stay dead (which He refused to do), and thereby stay out of your life. If you want Him to reign, that is good, because He is going to reign regardless.

And this brings us to our foundational confession, which is that Jesus is Lord.

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