35 They brought the donkey to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Jesus stumbled to the ground.
His eyes were heavy with sadness. Tears and blood dripped to the ground.
Things had changed.
Five days ago he had entered Jerusalem. Five days ago the people had been thrilled to see him. Five days ago, crowds lined the streets and spilled out of the second story windows. People got up on the rooftops to see him. Excitement filled the air!
People threw their coats on the ground -- a red carpet without the red carpet -- so that his donkey didn’t have to get its hooves dirty. They picked up giant palm branches to wave in unison as he rode into town. The shouted with joy as he passed by them: “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus clenched his eyelids shut through the next strikes.
That time had filled him with joy. He saw God’s people acknowledging Him as the Savior. They understood what he came to do. They were speaking as if they understood his Work of salvation. That crowd sounded like his disciples!
But now…now things had changed. Jesus winced as the fourteenth strike raked his already raw flesh.
Instead of waving palms, the crowd was waving rude gestures in his directions. Instead of throwing their coats on the ground, the were hurling insults at him. Instead of a few pats on the back, he was about to get 30 lashes with a 7 strapped leather whip – tipped with a sharp, triangular ending. Instead of shouting Hosanna – the crowd was shouting for his death!
Hosanna…Crucify Him...Hosanna…Crucify Him...Save Us…Die!
Good Friday and Palm Sunday. Two different days. Two different crowds. Today as we look at the next step in Jesus’ journey to the cross we will examine one very important question:
I. Which Crowd are You in?
It’s kind of like high school. There are a lot of different crowds in high school – Which one were you? The popular kids. The unpopular kids. There’s the jocks and the chess club. The gamers & the computer nerds. The academic stars and the slackers. The band geeks. The cool rockers. The drama club. The drama between boyfriend and girlfriend club.
It’s interesting how we flock to certain groups of people because they fit our interests. It still happens only the groups are a bit different: Soccer moms. Stay-at-home daddies. TurboTax users. Lawn care specialists.
And…Spiritual crowds. That one is more important. Which spiritual crowd do you fit into?
1) The Not-with-Jesus Crowd
This is fairly simple. This crowd consists of all those who don’t want anything to do with Jesus.
Like the Pharisees. They hated Jesus and they were fairly clear about it. They mocked him. They challenged him. The rebuked him. They were the ones who led Jesus to the Roman governor’s palace seeking his crucifixion. In fact, they had been planning his death for over a year!
They were unapologetically against Jesus. In spite of having met hundreds of people he healed, in spite of having seen a lame man made to walk, in spite having heard God the Father’s voice identify him as his Son, in spite of having spoken personally with Jairus, whose daughter had died and Jesus made alive, in spite of having seen with their own eyes… Lazarus who had died and whom Jesus had made alive again. They were unapologetically against Jesus.
If this is you, be careful. Careful, because sometimes people in this crowd aren’t there upon their own accord. Look at what the Pharisees did. The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask…to have Jesus executed. (Matthew 27:20) Suddenly, the Good Friday crowd is chanting for Jesus’ death simply because that’s what everyone else was doing.
I don’t think Christianity is the cool thing these days.
I don’t think it’s what everyone else is doing.
As a result, I do think many are a part of this group without even learning who Jesus is and what his main message is.
If that’s you, would you be willing to rethink your stance?
2) The Undecided
Of course, you might not feel like you fit into a group. You might think: Pastor, that’s a really big question. There are a lot of different opinions. I don’t really know if I’ve come to any concluding thoughts on Jesus. He seems influential enough not to immediately discount him, but strange enough that I don’t know if I buy it.
That’s Pilate’s crowd – the Roman governor.. He didn’t really have an opinion on Jesus. He didn’t think he was worthy of death, but he definitely wouldn’t have considered himself a follower of Jesus. It seems safe to stay undecided, but…
Ever had one of those messages pop up on your computer that says, “Changes needed. Restart NOW? Or delay 15 minutes?” Those make a person panic. “What should I do? Do I want to make that change? Will I mess everything up? Do I have the time to download that?”
Of course, if you select delay over and over and over again – eventually it just does it for you. Usually – when you’re right in the middle of a promotion considering, PowerPoint presentation at work.
If you haven’t decided on Jesus yet – know that the time is coming when it decided for you. If you aren’t on any side at that time, it means you aren’t on his side either.
3) The Palm Sunday Crowd (at least on Palm Sunday)
Some of you might be in the Palm Sunday crowd. A really easy answer when you are at church on Palm Sunday.
I just lifted up a Palm branch. I just sang God’s praises. I just said “Hosanna – whatever that means.”
But….if you’re in the Palm Sunday crowd – where are you the other days of the year?
Think about it -- Where was Original Palm Sunday crowd on Good Friday? Scripture doesn’t say. Some may have been in the Good Friday crowd chanting for his death. But others were nowhere to be found.
In fact, there isn’t a single record of anyone standing up for Jesus to try and stop Jesus’ crucifixion except for Pilate -- who didn’t even believe in Him!
Just when Jesus needed his people the most – none of them were anywhere to be found. That still happens today – just when Jesus needs us the most – we retreat and aren’t anywhere to be found.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except at work because people don’t like me to talk about faith there.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except with my family, because they get annoyed with me fairly easily.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except when Pastor tells me to invite my unbelieving friends to Easter…That’ll be awkward.
If you aren’t on Jesus’ side all the time, are you really on Jesus’ side?
Take a look at this parable from Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. But while they were in the net, no one could tell what fish were good to eat and which were bed. Which were delicious salmon? And which were disgusting dogfish? When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.
II. Why It Matters
Of course, you might be wondering, "Why does any of this matter?" It’s like picking your NCAA Tournament winners. Some teams you pick to go all the way (UNC & Duke) and it matters if they win or not. Other games, 8 versus 9 – you think – they’ll only last one round it won’t be a big deal who I pick.
Or it's kind of like the romantic female version of the tournament – The Bachelor! Does it really matter if you’re team JoJo or Team Lauren B? In the end, he’ll break up with whoever he picks.
Take at what Pilate did though. He understood the ramifications of what killing Jesus might mean. He understood – especially when they told him it was the Son of God. Pilate washed his hands and he said “I am innocent of this man’s blood!" As if that would somehow wash away the fact that he was the Roman governor, that he had the final say on legal executions and that he had the Roman soldiers to back up any decision he made.
But the Jews? Look at their response – “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Hold us personally responsible for Jesus’ death. We’ll sign our names on that petition. We’ll take the credit.
But…did they really want the credit?
Have you ever had to babysit someone else’s pet? It’s a big deal. You want to take good care of them so nothing bad happens to them. Pet the dogs so they’re happy; leave the cats alone so they’re happy; feed the fish…so they’re happy.
Because if you forget to feed the fish, they die! If these fish are your friends, you don’t want to disappoint them. Who wants to say to a friend – “Sorry, I forgot to feed your fish. I have goldfish blood on my hands!"
How do you think God will react when you kill his Son? Because if you are against him or not for him or not standing up for him – you’ve got blood on your hands!
I’ll tell you from personal experience – that blood can’t be hidden. It screams at me – You didn’t stand up for Jesus. You didn’t care about him. He died for your sins and that means it’s your fault he’s hanging on the cross. He knows. He knows that you’re guilty.
But…when the devil gets a bit loud and the guilt is heavy, remember this: Jesus’ blood is on you!
Wait? Isn’t that the exact same thing? Did you make an error? Did you just copy and paste pastor?
I did, yes; but it wasn’t an error. Look at 1 John it says, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sins." Look at what it says: ALL SINS. NOT most sins. NOT some sins. Not the little tiny sins – all sins!
Because Jesus’ blood is like Purell. It cleans; it disinfect; it destroys 100% of sins it comes into contact with. It isn’t like Febreeze where it just takes care of the stank. Julianna tells me that doesn’t actually work, I have to wash my clothing. Jesus’ blood does so much more. It completely and absolutely removes sins.
You come into contact with Jesus' blood by faith. By believing in Him – your soul has been disinfected. Even if you’ve been on the wrong side of the crowd for your whole life, Jesus’ blood is that powerful. It cleanses from all sins. It cleanses you from all your sins.
You are forgiven. Jesus wants you in his crowd.
III. What Now?
If you are on Jesus’ side and you want to stay there, three important Scriptural truths to keep us in his crowd.
1) P4 (Partake in Positive Peer Pressure).
What happens if you exercise alone? It’s very, very hard to keep exercising. You need a buddy. Someone to text you for the next workout. Someone to try and keep up with. Someone to encourage you when it gets hard. Someone to send you a sad emoji when you don’t workout.
The same thing is true spiritually. You need a crowd – someone to keep you in check. Someone to keep you in God’s Word. Someone to keep you on Jesus’ side; someone to lovingly rebuke you when you get off the path and someone to pray for you when you need encouragement.
THIS IS A SHAMELESS PLUG: I know of such a place. It’s here.
If you aren’t a part of our church, I’d love to have you. I really want you to be a part of our family. I want you to join us in sharing in this incredible message of Jesus.
Because this is a place where we partake in the words of Palm Sunday:
Blessed is the King who comes! And He comes every Sunday – to speak of his loving rules for us!
Peace in heaven! – Because you have been forgiven from all of your sins
Glory in the highest – Because Jesus has added to his crowd of followers – someone he loves dearly….
2) P42 (Provide Positive Peer Pressure)
Once you have that peer pressure affecting you, it’s contagious. You’ll want to share the love of Jesus and you’ll want to encourage others in it. In fact, it’s Jesus’ command to us! He says, “Go and make disciples…” Go and tell others about the incredible benefits of following Jesus!
What’s positive peer pressure sound like? Like this:
“Let’s go to church today. I can’t wait to be filled up with God’s love.”
“Did you want to join me for a Bible study? I could use a faith strengthening.”
“Easter is coming up. I really want you to join me for this event.”
That ain’t hard to do. Simple phrases like that will encourage people to seek the true peace, joy, and love that only Jesus brings.
3) Be #AlwaysRepping
In this year’s NCAA tournament, a lot of the teams have this on their team shirt. “AlwaysRepping.” I didn’t know what it meant so I researched it. It means “Always Representing.” It’s a reminder that every time they step foot on the floor they are representing their school. That means they will work hard, they will play hard, they will be good sports – they will do the things that embodies what it is to play for that school.
Same thing for you. If you’re in Jesus’ Crowd, remember you’re #AlwaysRepping.
There is nothing that kills Jesus’ momentum more than one of his followers being a jerk. Saying rude comments. Calling political people awful names. Letting racism and hatred get the best of them.
Don’t. Don’t because that’s not what Jesus represents.
Be #AlwaysRepping. Show love. Stand for truth.
And remember what Jesus went through for you to be in this crowd ---
His body fell into a heap. The thirtieth lash had connected with his blood stained back. He was faint. He was dizzy. He only heard jeers and mockery in the background.
But…he forced a faint smile. It was all worth it. Worth it because this was the only way his friends could be a permanent part of his crowd. Worth it because it was the only way he could be with you.
May the love which brought us into his crowd, keep us in his crowd until we hang out with his crowd in heaven. Amen.