Summary: A sermon about Jesus and popularity (Main thought from a Christology class; outline from Jon Johnston's book, Will Evangelicalism Survive It's Own Popularity?)
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:66-68. To go from over 5,000 followers to 12 for many this would be a disaster. Jesus main ministry was not to gather large crowds. Jesus had them but that was not his main goal. For Jesus this was just a part of the Passover Plan.
Last week we saw 3 occasions where Jesus’ enemies wanted to seize or stone him. Not the only times this happened. How did Jesus get away without a scratch? Might be miraculous, but Mostly Jesus used the crowds to get away.
Jesus was a popular figure and there were always crowds that followed him and wanted to be near him. To be honest, there were times when Jesus did not want a crowd but there were other times when Jesus used the crowds to his advantage.
Jesus apparently took measures to thin out his crowds on occasions when he perceived problems that could interfere with his ministry.
Sometimes crowds were so large that they interfered with Jesus’ movement and safety risk.
“Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.” Mark 3:9, 10, NIV.
“Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another...” Luke 12:1, NIV.
Sometimes the large crowds wanted to to manipulate Jesus into doing what they wanted.
“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.” Luke 4:42, NIV.
“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” John 6:15, NIV.
Sometimes the crowds would not allow Jesus privacy when he desired it. “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” Mark 7:24, NIV.
At times Jesus chose to avoid areas with large crowds. “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” Mark 1:45, NIV.
During his final week in Jerusalem Jesus retreated each evening to his friends in Bethany.
The Jewish leaders had circulated an “arrest warrant” for Jesus during his final week in Jerusalem. “But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.” John 11:57, NIV.
During the day Jesus moved about Jerusalem in the safety of large, sympathetic crowds.
Each evening he sought safe haven a couple of miles away in Bethany. “The chief priests and the teachers of the law ...began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city.” Mark 11:18, 19, NIV.
Saturday evening- “Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” John 12:1, NIV.
Sunday evening- “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” Mark 11:11, NIV.
Monday evening- “And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.” Matthew 21:17, NIV.
Tuesday evening- “When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” John 12:36
Jesus was silent on Wednesday. Not in town, away from crowds, probably getting ready
Thursday is Last Supper. Jesus spent that night with his disciples celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem. This is the occasion when they seized him. Jesus orchestrated all of these details.
Jesus many times avoided a premature arrest and execution by moving about in large crowds that had sympathy for him and a distrust of the Jewish leaders.
It was protection of the crowd that allowed Jesus to teach in the temple each day of his final week without being apprehended by his enemies. “They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” Matthew 21:46
It was also the protection of the crowd that forced his enemies to resort to paying Judas for advance information regarding an occasion when Jesus would not be in a crowd. “Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas Iscariot--went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” Matthew 26:14-16