Jesus’ popularity with the people came and went. Once he had a group of more than 5,000 that followed him out into a wilderness region. No building, no music, no food, no port-o-potties, but they stayed with Jesus for days. He was ‘in.’
Suddenly the crowd was gone and Jesus was back to his small group of 12 disciples. All it took to turn the people away was for Jesus to teach them the truth. He was ‘out.’
On another occasion excited crowds of thousands of people were singing Jesus’ praises. It was almost time for the great Passover Feast. The city of Jerusalem was filled to overflowing with worshipers from all over.
Jesus traveled from Galilee to attend the feast. He walked the entire way, as he always did. But once he was near Jerusalem he insisted on riding a donkey into the city.
Jesus wanted to make a point. He was fulfilling a prophecy spoken by God through Zechariah, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look! your king comes to you meek and riding on a donkey, on the foal of a beast of burden.’”
One day God’s promised Messiah, the Anointed King of Israel who would rule forever, would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This was that day and Jesus was the man!
The crowd spread their garments on the road in front of Jesus’ donkey, along with branches cut from nearby trees. This was their version of the ‘red-carpet treatment.’
They also cried out in praise of Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They openly acknowledged him to be God’s chosen ruler, King of Jerusalem, King of Israel.
People in the city were stirred up by the commotion and asked, “Who is this?” The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” So, not only did they recognize him as God’s chosen king, but they also realized that Jesus was God’s chosen spokesman, the prophet.
One thing they missed: Jesus came gently, riding on a beast of burden to show that his mission was one of a servant, the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah. John the Baptist said it this way, “Behold! the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus was king, prophet, and priest. And not just any priest. This priest was also the sacrifice. Days later when Jesus stood before Pilate, he was ready to die. The crowds were no longer friendly. “Crucify him!” they cried out. What happened?
The crowds wanted a king to defeat their current political enemy: Rome. Romans occupied and ruled their country and Israel wanted liberation. But Jesus came to bring spiritual freedom and eternal life, not temporary political relief.
To stay popular, Jesus would have to change his mission and do what the crowd wanted. But Jesus’ mission was greater. Praise God, Jesus stayed with his God-given mission and did not succumb to the pressure of popularity!
Popularity still calls out today. Many will do almost anything to please the adoring crowds, to gain more followers, to get more ‘likes.’ But the crowd’s goals are rarely in step with God’s. The only ‘like’ we really need is the love of God. The only followers we need to make are disciples of Jesus.
May God’s Spirit keep the eyes of our hearts on the things above,