Matthew 21:1-11 1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
Matthew 27:15-17 15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
Matthew 27:20-2320 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Matthew tells us one story in two separate chapters. It’s the story of the the Palm Sunday crowd that turned into a mob. It’s the story of people who were all-in one day and all-out the next. It is the story of people who hailed Jesus King one day and chanted “nail Him” the next. What is that about? I’ll call it spiritual instability.
This crowd wasn’t unlike other crowds who followed Jesus…until they didn’t. In John 6, a crowd of at least 5,000 had come to Jesus. They were following Him because of the miraculous signs they had seen Him perform. Jesus could help them. So, the crowd followed Him. And the crowd wasn’t disappointed. Using just five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus fed them all! Over 5000 people got full (for a few hours anyway). John 6:14 says, “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Isn’t that the purpose of a miracle? Isn’t it to point people to the truth about Jesus, to His Messianic identity? Sounds like it was working. Curious is the very next verse that says: “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” John 6:15
Make Him King by force? That’s absurd, right? In their opinion, Jesus wasn’t going to move on. He was going to find a throne and sit down, and He was going to meet their every need. He was going to be the kind of King they wanted. He would do as He was told. I guess many are good to follow Jesus as long as He becomes the kind of King they approve of, the kind of King they desire, one who will heal them and feed them and sort of be at their beck and call.
As the story continues, the next morning the crowd found Jesus again. They were looking for Jesus to perform for them some more; to feed them some more. Jesus said in John 6:26-27, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” Jesus made it clear that they were seeking the wrong thing. They needed to be seeking the eternal life that Jesus could provide, something that wouldn’t spoil, something that would last forever. They needed to experience the life-giving power Jesus had that would change the way they lived every day. What they needed from Jesus was Jesus, Himself! Jesus didn’t come to give people a temporary satisfaction, like the satisfaction that comes from food or even from a healing that doesn’t last forever, but He came to give us Himself.
They didn’t get it. They started talking about food again. They talked to Jesus about their forefathers and how they had miraculous manna when they were in the wilderness. Jesus tried to help them understand He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water. He can fill every heart and satisfy every thirst. The crowd wasn’t happy with His response. They weren’t hearing out of Jesus what they wanted to hear. Is that why some turn away? Is it that why some follow Jesus until they no longer hear what they want to hear?
Jesus wasn’t backing down. The words He responded with were even harder to hear. “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”
They were done after hearing that. No good Jew would eat someone’s flesh or drink someone’s blood! That was forbidden by the law. The bottom line is they just heard what they wanted to hear, and they didn’t want to understand what Jesus was saying. They didn’t want to be challenged to go beyond their interest in Jesus for physical blessings. What Jesus was saying was simply, “Just as you take food and drink within your body and it becomes a part of you, so you must receive ME within your innermost being so that I can give you life.”
Here is the sad commentary of the next verse.
John 6:66 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
The same people who had wanted to make Jesus King by force, deserted Him.
I get that Jesus’ message was hard to hear and harder to understand, but they didn’t even try. Are we like that? When the message is unclear or difficult to understand, do we just give up on Jesus and look for something more accessible? Do we just want some external physical benefit from following Jesus or are we willing to take Him into the inner most part of our being? Here is what I know: Miracles last for a moment, but Jesus is forever. Seek that which lasts forever. Seek a relationship with Jesus each and every day. The benefits of knowing Him will exceed any miracle, sign or wonder you could dream of!
Some follow Jesus for a possible healing. Some follow Jesus for material blessings. Some follow Jesus out of curiosity because His teachings have weight and power. Some follow Jesus merely for the hope of Heaven. But those who are spiritually stable, those who will live in victory, those who will be transformed, those who will be used of God to change the world are those who follow Jesus for Jesus!
HE is the reward! HE is the treasure! HE is the “Pearl of Great Price.” Heaven is just a bonus!
What happened to that Palm Sunday crowd? Why did so many people turn on Jesus? An answer is in Matthew 27:20: “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.”
The enemies of Jesus persuaded the crowd to crucify Jesus. The enemies of Jesus put pressure on the crowd to turn on Him and to walk away from Him. When the question comes to each of us, “What do you want to do with Jesus?” what will be our answer? How do we handle it when we come under a little pressure for being a Jesus-follower?
Are we comfortable with just being one of the crowd this morning? You know, you can be in a crowd on Sunday morning and not really be committed to Jesus.
Are we hanging around with Jesus out of mere curiosity? While that is a start, when will it become more?
Are we comfortable with just praying for miracles and hoping to make it to Heaven? What about the work Jesus wants to do in us and through us?
Are we merely including Jesus in our top ten important things in our lives list or is He truly first?
Are we good to be called a disciple until it requires something has to change?
Are we walking as closely as we can with Him, or are we leaving room for speculation about where we stand?
Are we praising Him on Sunday and denying Him on Monday?
Are we committed as long as there is no pressure to live otherwise?
Does Jesus just have your attention, or does He have your heart?
Don’t be like the crowds that ditched Jesus because they didn’t want more than a miracle and didn’t want to understand the truth.
Don’t be like the Palm Sunday crowd who was easily persuaded to give up on Jesus.
Don’t relegate Jesus to only being a miracle giver. Let Him be your Lord. Let Him be your ALL. Let Him be your every day obsession. Give up spiritual instability and find the power, peace, grace, strength, purpose, and transformation that comes from letting Jesus have full control of you from the inside out!