Summary: It is a blessing and very important for our faith to consider what kind of crowd we have merged into, what we hold in our hands, and what we are shouting.
John 12:12-13, “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!”
In my sermon today I want to focus on and examine the crowds that were present during Holy Week, because the crowd is the place where we will stand this Holy Week following Jesus on his way to the cross.
A few years ago I was walking down Prague´s Wenceslaus Square when I coincidently, without realizing it, found myself in the middle of a protest.. It was so easy to blend with them, to get into their middle and march with them, but once I tried to leave that mob, step out and continue on my way I couldn´t. Bodies around me prevented me from getting out of the way despite all of my efforts. After I finally extricated myself from the crowd of protestors I realized how powerful and influential even a small group can be, how easy is to follow the masses without thinking about where it would lead me.
Looking at the crowd which welcomed Jesus there are three things we should always consider.
1. It is very important to look around and consider what kind of crowd I have merged into. – For some people, the number of participants is a guarantee that they will follow in the right direction. They excuse themselves by saying, “so many people cannot be wrong and if they are, what can happen to me? I was just one of many in the group.” Yes, when influenced by mass hysteria it is easy to lose individuality, the sense of right and wrong. People influenced by a mob often do things they normally wouldn’t do.
We all know about the crowds which hailed Hitler. We have heard about crowds which celebrated the communist regime. I vividly remember times when we as students had to march in front of platforms full of communist bosses crying out, “With the Soviet Union forever and never otherwise.” – And where are Hitler and the Communist Party today? They are gone. – But the people who felt embarrassed about being part of those crowds are still among us. – Therefore it is very important to consider what kind of crowd we have merged into. What crowd might we be a part of?– The crowds around Jerusalem headed towards Jesus. He was the object of their celebration. Those who stood in that crowd were blessed. . – Therefore we also should look around carefully and consider if the crowd we have merged into is on the way to meet Jesus.
2. It is very important to look around and consider what I hold in my hand. – The crowds around Jerusalem held green palm branches and maybe flowers. It was an ancient custom used to welcome a king. In this manner they showed favor, respect and, subordination to their ruler. Taking a closer look at those waving branches, we can see what genuine honor was given Jesus. The branches expressed the peoples’ attitude of honor towards Jesus.
A few days later another crowd came to capture Jesus in the Gethsemane garden. Those people were expressing their attitude to Jesus as well. They also had something in their hands. Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me...” And so, we remember the Palm Sunday crowd and consider what was held in their hands, in comparison to the crowd in the garden and what was held in their hands. What are our hands holding to celebrate our Lord?
3. It is very important to look around and consider what I am shouting. The crowd in Jerusalem cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” – I doubt that all of these people were convinced about what they were shouting. But when some other people shouted they simply joined them. They imitated the crowd.
Palm Sunday reminds us to consider what we say because our salvation is very important. Jesus warns his disciples, “Let what you say be simply Yes or Not” (Matt 5,37) and also he says, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt 12,36), because from every empty word you will give account on the judgment day. Further on, the Lord stresses, “For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12, 37) – It is very important to look around and consider what we shout pronounce, or speak.
Brothers and sisters it is a blessing to consider what kind of crowd we have merged into, what we hold in our hands, and what we are shouting. – In a few days, on Good Friday, we will hear another crowd crying out, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” Maybe some of those people, who shouted “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday, will be influenced by the masses and mix in with the crowd which wanted to kill Jesus. Maybe they will change their hearts and minds, and participate in crucifying Him.