It wasn’t a parade, it was a procession. It was also a coronation of sorts. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem the multitude walked with Him, some going before and others following after. They cast their cloaks down upon the road before Him and cut branches from the trees to lay them down as well. They shouted for joy. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Their words were both an acclamation and a cry for deliverance. If we had been among the disciples, we too would have thought that Jesus had finally come into His own. God’s people had recognized their king.
Yet in less than a week a different cry would go up. The crowd that gathered to watch Jesus’ trial, now more mob than multitude would howl for Jesus’ blood. For a short time, Pilate allied Himself with Jesus and tried to set Him free. “Here is your king!” he declared to the crowd spread out on the pavement before his judge’s seat. This was more or less what the multitude had meant when they had cried Hosanna. Now they changed their tune, incited by the jealousy of the religious establishment. “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” they shouted. Pilate, who was no friend, after all, acquiesced. He turned Jesus over to the soldiers to be crucified.
Watching all of this from a comfortable distance of more than two millennia, I am shocked by how quickly the celebrating crowd turns into an angry mob. How is it that they can move so quickly from apparent devotion to denunciation? But then I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at all. That is the nature of the mob. They are quickly moved and easily incited. We see it all the time on the Internet in our day. I should not be surprised by their inconstancy, I should be shocked by my own. For I find that I am more like Pilate than the screaming mob. Like him, I too can move from acknowledgment to acquiescence in seconds.
Sometimes it’s the crowd that compels me. I am more attuned to their sensibility than I am to the motions of the Spirit. I don’t want to stand out. I’d rather fit in. Or maybe I am falsely persuaded by the force of their enthusiasm and make the rabble choice. But more often it is my own heart that turns traitor. In the blink of an eye and in the quietness of my own soul I make the choice. I still know that Jesus is my king. But with a look or a word or an act I surreptitiously take up the mob’s rebel’s cry, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”