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Love-hate gathering: From Palm Sunday to the Crucify Him mob

Christ Presented to the People by Quentin Massys (c. 1515). Image courtesy of 120 Great Paintings of the Life of Jesus edited by Carol Belanger Grafton
Jesus. Either you loved the guy or you hated him.
It depended on a couple of things: how well you knew him and what the natural disposition of your heart was.
The major Easter events featured two crowds: one a jubilant fan club, the other a lynching mob.
Palm Sunday’s shiny, happy people waving palms loved Jesus.
They were on a special religious holiday in the big city and they had that good vibe feeling.
Having a wonderful, miracle-working, teacher come along really added to the emotional buzz.
But the true fans in the crowd had spent time with Jesus in their own countryside. They were mesmerised by what he said and how he said it.
They loved him for what he did for the afflicted.
It brought tears to their eyes to see how he cared.
There had never been a teacher like him before.
The effect he had on them when he listened to them is hard to explain.
But their lives were changed.
If you had a heart with openness to the possibility of love, Jesus was your man.
He spoke about loving God, loving others, loving enemies, and loving yourself.
You believed, you hoped, you converted, you changed.
Your soul expanded.
So when these good country folk saw Jesus coming, they were genuinely glad to see him.
By now, they knew him and loved him.
But there were other people in the crowd too.
Some hoped Jesus would use his influence and power to bring about a worldly kingship.
“Come on Jesus, lead us to war against the Romans!”
They were cheering and waving palm branches to gee him up.
They’d be right behind that kind of Messiah, if only he would sound the battle cry.
They didn’t know Jesus.
For starters, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Then he looked over the city and grieved at its unwillingness to embrace peace.
He prophesied a future battle the Jews would lose, and lose thoroughly.
Jesus was not coming to liberate the Jews from the Romans.
Wave as many branches as you like, it wasn’t going to happen.
Meanwhile, people who knew nothing at all about Jesus saw the commotion and asked, “Who is he?”
“This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee,” the Palm Sunday believers answered.
Love him or hate him, Jesus sure could pull a crowd.
But the other mob that Jesus drew only a few days later was charged up with hatred. They wanted him dead.
Love your enemies.
Turn the other cheek.
Go the extra mile.
A heavenly kingdom of the heart.
Peace and goodwill to all men.
The warmongers hated that stuff.
A new spiritual freedom.
Break free from the institutionalised, deformed religion that Judaism had become.
Follow Jesus instead.
The Pharisees hated that stuff.
What right did Jesus have to speak like this?
Did he think he was God?
This blaspheming, miracle-working teacher had to go.
Before the whole world started to believe in him.
Before a rebellion was sparked that the Romans would surely crush.
Before the powerful religious hierarchy lost any more respect.
Better that one man die for the people than the whole nation be destroyed.
Last time Jesus was in Jerusalem they tried to grab him  and stone him, but he got away.
This time Jesus came right to them, right to the temple.
He flipped over the tables in fury.
Worse still, he healed the blind and the crippled.
Every day, he was back to teach the people.
He impudently, loudly, clearly condemned the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees – right on their own turf!
Was Jesus asking for it or what?
At night time, when all good people were asleep, a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sponsored by the chief priests came to arrest Jesus.
The violence begins.
Mock trials.
Clumsy lies.
But only the Romans had the legal right to put a man to death, so it’s off to Pilate.
Try as he might, Pilate’s will can’t overcome the hate-lust of this crowd.
An angry, hate-filled mob desperate for the death of Jesus overpowered him, chanting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
There was no reasoning with them.
They were out of his control.
The pressure group brought it to the boil.
The hot blood spilled over.
And Jesus was crucified.
The angry mob got their way.
And somehow, surprisingly, unexpectedly, so did we.
The resurrection!
Salvation in Jesus’ name.
Jesus’ Spirit infuses people across the whole world.
In the Love versus Hate battle between the Palm Sunday crowd and the Crucifixion mob, who do you give the true victory to?
What effect did either of those Easter crowds really have over the final outcome? Who really pulled the strings?
Whose was the victory?

Tom Kerr is the Queensland Synod Young Adult Ministry Coordinator

Photo : Christ Presented to the People by Quentin Massys (c. 1515). Image courtesy of 120 Great Paintings of the Life of Jesus edited by Carol Belanger Grafton