The whisper brushed through the crowd on a breeze. “He’s coming.” Palm branches rustled as the throng of people lined the streets from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. Heads craned to see Lazarus, the disciples, and finally, the prophet from Nazareth. Fathers hoisted children onto their shoulders as their wives stood on tiptoe. Children waved frantically, their palm branches swatting the nearest bystander. A carpet of cloaks muffled the clop-clop of the humble donkey’s hooves. Questions rained on the disciples.
“Does Jesus truly heal the blind?”
“Do demons cower before him?”
“Where’s Lazarus? Did he really die?”
The crowd quieted in spots as the disciples responded.
“Hosanna! Hosanna!” Praise erupted from the mass of onlookers. The cry spread. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” Children jumped up and down, echoing the shouts of their elders and waving their branches so furiously they threatened to snap.
The crowd surged as Jesus appeared. He clucked to the donkey and paused. Heads turned, trying to glimpse His focus. The city spread before them, a living map. The Temple Mount, the Roman fortress, Golgotha. Jesus bowed his head. When he raised it again, his eyes glistened with tears.
What could be troubling the man? This week meant feasting. Celebration.
A time to be thankful.
A time to remember their deliverance from Egypt.
A time to worship.
What could this rabbi from Nazareth have to worry about?
The Crowd of Palm Sunday:
The crowd of Palm Sunday. Had the event occurred today, it may have gone viral. In the city of Jerusalem that day, for all practical purposes, it did. Total strangers fought the mass of humanity to catch a glimpse of the miracle worker. The city’s seams strained as pilgrims journeying for Passover stretched Jerusalem to its breaking point. Yet the people rejoiced in spite of the crowds, the noise, the Romans. Passover brought a welcome break from work to worship and catch up with friends and family. Why not see this Jesus?
For most, by Friday, the novelty of the miracle worker had faded into the background. Passover preparations, Roman occupation, and Temple sacrifices took center stage.
For some, Friday revealed a twisting of soul and spirit as they cried, “Crucify him!” with the corrupted religious leaders.
The Crowd at the Cross:
Luke records the reaction of the crowd at the cross:
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” . . . When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (Luke 23:35, 48-49 NIV).
The crowd at the cross consisted of six groups:
- Onlookers: Uncommitted, just there to be part of the day’s drama.
- Enemies: Opposed, just there to rub it in.
- Simon of Cyrene: Unexpected, just there to attend the Passover.
- Centurion: Appointed, just there to do his job.
- Disciples: Scared, just one there—John.
- Women: Committed, just there because to leave Him was unthinkable.
All stood before the cross. Unaware that the Savior bore their sin, they watched, some repulsed by the scene, others in deep grief.
No one left unaffected.
Where were you when you saw Jesus for the first time? Who is your crowd counterpart?
I’ve walked in each one’s sandals at some point in my life. I’ve played the faithful Jew, the self-righteous Pharisee, and the dutiful centurion.
Now? I find myself with the ladies. Unable to leave. No matter the cost.
Workout of the Week: Crowded Part 1
Memory Verse: When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (Luke 23:48-49 NIV).
Meditation Passage: Luke 19:28-44
Do It: Sit with the ladies at His feet.