April 10, 2022

Faces In The Crowd

Passage: John 12: 12-19

incident that evoked different emotions in his mind. He was walking down Prague's Wenceslaus Square when suddenly he ended up in the middle of a crowd. There was a politician that came to speak and people flocked together. Some were supporting the politician, but others came to protest. And then there were those who didn't really know why they were there. They were curious to see what was going on. Tillinger said that the faces in the crowd would always stay with him. Some faces looked confused; others looked friendly and receptive to the politician, but then other faces were angry and intimidating. That made Tillinger to break free from the crowd at the first opportunity that came. After that incident Tillinger thought about the Palm Sunday when Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem. He thought about what Jesus saw – different Faces In The Crowd. There were the faces of those who welcomed Him and there were the faces of those who were out to get Him. Then there
were the faces of those who want to try and make sense of what was going on.

From John 12: 12-19, we first consider The Faces Of The Bystanders. We read in verses 17-18, “Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that He had performed this sign, went out to meet Him.” Some
of the people in crowd were merely drawn by curiosity. They wanted to see for themselves the famous Miracle Worker Who brought a dead man back to life. You will agree with me – today thousands of people would have come to Jesus if He was doing miracles from region to region. If the word had gone out about Jesus at a certain place, curiosity would have set in. Some would say, “There is nothing wrong with being curious. That's how things start for many people.” But we all have to agree – curiosity has to develop into something concrete. There has to come commitment. You can't just be curious and look from a distance. But you see my friends, for most people in the world there will be no commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ. They want to keep their distance. Now and then they want to hear about the work in the church of Christ, but they will not get involved. There is a question Jesus wants to ask us, “If Chilliwack was today where I would sacrifice my life, and I was to walk through the
neighbourhoods to the cross, how many of the city's population would walk by my side? Wouldn't the majority just be bystanders and not identify themselves with me? The Season of Lent reminds us each year that the path Jesus went on became our path the moment we
committed ourselves to Him. And since we have become more than bystanders, after Lent we will stay committed. Then we make the confession like Ricky Nelson in his song, “I will follow You” :
I will follow You
Follow You wherever You may go
There isn't an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away
I must follow You
Ever since You touched my hand I know
That near You I always must be
And nothing can keep You from me
You are my destiny

Jesus saw The Faces Of The Users. We find them in verse 13, “They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” “Hosanna” is a Hebrew word which means “Save now” and not “Praise God!” as many believe. As we all know – during the time of Jesus the Jews have been under the oppressive rule of the Romans. They have been wanting to break free from the yoke of their oppressors. And so, they shouted, “Save now! Now is the time for You to be the Conqueror, overthrow the Romans and establish Your Kingdom.” As the jubilant crowds welcomed Christ into the city, they waved palm branches shouting “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord” - a chant taken from Psalm 118: 26. A hundred and fifty years before the time of Jesus Christ while the Jews were under Syrian rule, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers led an offence and took Acra from Syrian control. He used palm branches as his symbol and Psalm 118: 26 were the very verse chanted by the Jerusalem crowd when they welcomed back Judas Maccabeus from his
victorious campaign against the Syrians. Therefore, the use of palm branches and the singing of Psalm118 were highly charged with nationalistic sentiments on Palm Sunday. Those people in the crowd looked up to Jesus as their Warrior and Deliverer from the
Romans. But Jesus wasn't anything more to them; He wasn't the Saviour He wanted them to believe in. All they wanted was to use Jesus for their freedom here on earth. They wanted to use Him until His “military career” was over and after Him another conqueror would come to deliver them. My friends, we read in the bible that Jesus cried over Jerusalem; He wanted to deliver His people forever, but they were so slow to comprehend that. No, it was, “Jesus,
only for now we need You. Deliver us and then exit the scene.” Do you think Jesus is used by people in our world today? The answer is yes, because some keep our Lord in a show case like you keep china in a show case. When they need Him they turn to Him. He will
never be satisfied with that. No, He wants ownership all the time of people's lives, because He earned the right to be the Everlasting King. He entered Jerusalem to go and set His people free. He purchased them all in His precious blood.

There were The Faces Of Jesus' Enemies in the crowd. In verse 19 we read about the vipers, as Jesus referred to them, “So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” There were also the chief priests and others who conspired against our Lord. Can you imagine what the faces of all His enemies must have been like when Jesus saw them standing there on the side? They had such hatred against Him; they were waiting for the right opportunity to seize and kill Him. And they did, just a few days later. Jesus knew what was coming. Can we just try to comprehend what must have gone through His mind when in the midst of cheering, there were animosity and hatred that took His life in the end? O my friends, even though it all happened more than 2000 years ago and the world had all the time to come to terms that He was and is the Friend of all, there are still His enemies on the pathways of life in our time. There are those who make it their life mission to oppose Jesus Christ. Can you recall what our Lord said, “You're either for me or against me.” Matthew 12: 30. What does it mean?
There is more to it than just to say, “I don't believe in Jesus. It's my choice not to believe in Him” No, when you don't believe in Jesus, you're His enemy. I know, thousands of people will now cry out - “I don't agree with you.” But didn't St. Paul refer to them as enemies of the cross and the Lord of the cross? My friends, we have to be sure that we are indeed Amigos de Cristo – Friends of the Lord.

That brings us to the last group in the crowd – The Faces Of Jesus'
Companions. Verse 16 says, “At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that these things had been done to Him.” His closest companions were there and they must have been moved by the warm reception their Lord received. Perhaps they thought that He now was received by the people of Jerusalem and all those who came to the city. Perhaps it was going to spread to all the other regions. Everything wasn't in vain!

Jesus' teachings and His healing at last made a difference. But no, it didn't. Before they could blink their eyes, their Lord was nailed to a cross. Though they didn't understand they were there, close to Jesus. You know my friends, there are many things we don't understand either, but our place is close to Jesus. Like the disciples there will come a time when we will fully comprehend all the mysteries in God's kingdom. Today we place ourselves next to the
disciples on Palm Sunday and say, “Lord Jesus, we are Your companions; You have our loyalty.” I would like to close with an illustration – After the famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti
finished his training, he was torn between being a singer and becoming a voice teacher. He asked his father what he should do. His father said, “Luciano, when you have two chairs before you, you have to choose on which one you want to sit. If you try to sit on both, you will fail and end up on the floor between them. You have to decided which chair is the right one for you.” I think on this Palm Sunday there is a word Jesus brings to all the people in the world – “You have to choose or affirm what you have chosen already – will you come and follow me, even when it leads to the cross?” We all have to affirm – “I'm a companion of Jesus and I will follow Him wherever the road leads me.”

Rev. Willem H. van de Wall