Once a crowd begins to move, it’s hard to hold it back. Once you get caught up in a demonstration it’s very difficult to get out of it.
But crowds are very fickle, and it only takes a few professional agitators to stir things up. Didn’t we see just this, a few days ago in the Bristol riots?
And so it’s easy to see that the same crowd which welcomed Jesus on that first Palm Sunday were, just a few days later, stirred up by the religious authorities to shout for his execution.
As we think about the crowds surrounding Jesus both on Palm Sunday and later in the week, we do well to remember the part which they played in all of those events. The emotions which were such a strong part of the gatherings led many of them down paths which they wouldn’t have chosen by themselves.
As we enter Holy Week, can we recognise ourselves in the characters around Jesus? Are we fickle and easily manipulated? Are we hard hearted towards the sufferings of others? Do we ever secretly relish the spectacle of violence, or mock those whose faith we don’t understand?
There’s a striking contrast between the obedient, trusting nature of Jesus and the petty, destructive behaviour of those around him. In the Passion of Jesus, we see our own failures mirrored in those characters; but we also see the costly self-giving of God in Christ.
So, this is a good time for us to stand back from the crowd and examine our own faith.
We need to be fully aware of just how much like everybody else we actually are. But we also need to be satisfied that despite all of our imperfections and failures we can still come to Jesus, with or without a crowd. We need to be able to ask him in the silence of our own hearts, to transform us to be like him. To give us the mind of Christ, so that we too might learn to trust God completely, and give ourselves generously, just as he did.