4-16-00

 

WATCH OUT FOR THE CROWD!

EXODUS 23:2

MATTHEW 20:29, 31

MATTHEW 21:8, 46

MATTHEW 26: 47

MATTHEW 27:20, 24

 

INTRODUCTION:

The crowd loves a winner –– but it despises a loser. Every sports season gives us new evidence of this. The winning team and the winning coach are held up as heroes, but the losing coach wll very likely lose his job. And the sentiment of the crowd can change from season to season. In the winning season, the winning coach can do no wrong, but the same crowd will call for his dismissal if he begins to have a losing season. You better watch out for the crowd! You cannot trust the crowd to do right!

 

Jesus never had difficulty attracting a crowd. They were drawn to Him by His strong personality, His many merciful deeds of healing, His feeding of the multitudes, and the things that He had to say to the crowds. Where ever He went He could anticipate there would be a large crowd present. This was true even in the last week of His life. When He passsed through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified, He was accompanied by a large crowd from Galilee and neighboring areas. They made their way up from Jericho to Jerusalem with Him.

When He made His grand entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Galilean crowd was joined by many from Jerusalem and Judea so that a vast multitude of people were present that day. It was a most impressive sight to see that multitude waving palm leaves, casting their coats down in front of Him, and to hear them singing out His praises as the Son of David. For the uninitiated, it must have looked like the kingdom of God had indeed come to Jerusalem.

 

In less than a week, however, the crowd has changed completely. On the night of His arrest, there was a crowd there, but they were not singing His praises. On the morning of His condemnation, there was a crowd there. They were calling for His crucifixion and for the release of the common criminal, Barabbas. Some of the crowd pressed behind Him all the way out to the place of His crucifixion and sat down to watch Him die. The crowd as a whole was of the opinion that He was getting what He deserved.

 

This makes the warning found in Mosaic Law very pertinent. God warned the people through Moses not to follow a multitude to evil. The law was particularly concerned that they not get swept up in the emotion of the moment and become a part of an unjust decision. Oh, that the citizens of Jerusalem had listened to this word of counsel from God to Moses! This was precisely what they did. As a crowd they condemned the Prince of Glory to a shameful death. You and I must watch out for the crowd!

 

I. BECAUSE OF ITS POWER

One of the things you learn about a crowd is that it has its own unique personality. The personality of the individual becomes absorbed into the personality of the group and a group profile suddenly becomes obvious. This is especially obvious as we look at these passages concerning the crowd in the gospel of Matthew. As such a corporate personality of the multitude has tremendous power.

 

1. The power to do evil.

The crowd at Jerusalem carries a heavy weight. Jesus Christ would never have been crucified if it had not been for the crowd. There is solid reason to believe that Pilate would have ignored the Sanhedrin and their unjust decision would never have been carried out. It was not until the leaders of the Jews was able to agitate the crowd that the decision to crucify Jesus was made. It was the crowd that began to chant for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. It was the crowd that got the ear of Pilate. He knew that he could handle the men who made up the Sanhedrin, but he was afraid of the crowd. He knew that an angry crowd could turn on him and bring the downfall of his rule in Jerusalem. So, you can put up over the cross of Jesus the words, "Condemned to death by a crowd!" This would be a just evaluation of what happened that dark day.

 

You need to be aware of this. The sentiment of the crowd has turned against Jesus and His people in our day. While His name was once deeply revered in our society and culture, it is now held up to ridicule. He is no longer the respected figure of history with the crowd of our day that He was in former days. You need to be ware! The crowd has the power to lead you to do evil.

2. The power to suppress a conscience.

Without doubt there were persons intermingled with the crowd who had once been admirers of Jesus. There were people there who had benefited from His ministry in some way or least some member of their family had benefited. If they had been standing alone, they would never have been a part of what happened that day. Someway they were sucked into the crowd and before they knew what happened they were over-riding their conscience. They were ignoring the internal warnings of conscience that said, "Have nothing to do with the death of this man!"

 

There are some of you who could bear testimony to the power of a crowd. In generations past across the West and the South there were many instances of mob violence. In some cases they involved the lynching of a black person, or the hanging of an accused horse thief. Individuals participated in those decisions that under normal circumstances they would never have been a part of such. But the emotion of the crowd over-rode the internal voice that was calling for caution. This is the reason the law of God thunders against following a multitude to do evil. There is a real need in our day to be sensitive to the power of the crowd.

 

If you follow the crowd, you will end up bringing shame upon yourself and upon others.

 

II. BECAUSE OF ITS FOLLY THE CROWD CAN DO FOOLISH THINGS.

I remember reading of an incident during the racial riots of the late 60's and early 70's.

A mob was going down the street in Detroit and was torching house after house. They were throwing Molotov cocktail bombs into home after home until it looked like the whole city was going to burn down. One man drew back and threw such a bomb through a front window only to realize that he had thrown it through his own front window. He was overheard to cry out "Oh, my God! What have I done? I have burned my own house." That is the kind of folly a crowd can produce.

 

1. In the fickleness

One of the mysterious things about that last week in Jesus' life is the change in the attitude of the crowd. On Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowd was ready to crown him as the King of the Jews. On Friday, when Pilaate is trying him, the crowd is calling for His immediate crucifixion. Is this the same crowd?

 

Some Biblical scholars have sought to distinguish between the crowds. They see the crowd on Sunday as being made up primarily of Galileans. They see the crowd on Friday as being made up of primarily of Judeans and citizens of Jerusalem. However, no such distinction between the crowds is necessary. Anyone who knows anything about a crowd knows that they have a tremendous capacity to be fickle, to change their mind, to take a different course of action almost immediately.

 

A lot of things happen between Sunday and Friday. Instead of setting up a throne and organizing an army, Jesus had cleansed the temple. Instead of challenging the powers of the Roman Empire, He had spent the week sitting around the temple and around Jerusalem responding to questions and giving lessons. As the crowd had watched Him during the week, they had begun to have questions about Him. Then the word swept across Jerusalem that He had been arrested and was actually being placed on trial by the Sanhedrin. And then the word began to circulate across the city that the Sanhedrin had found Him guilty of blasphemy and it was a short step from there to a complete change of mind on the part of a crowd. The crowd is so fickle, so changeable! This is the reason that God warns us to watch out for the crowd!

 

If you are going to base your conclusions concerning Jesus on the latest poll, you are in trouble. The polls not only change from day to day, but there is evidence that they may even change from hour to hour. What appears on the 5:30 news can completely change the direction of a poll. One little incident, such as a George Bush speaking at Bob Jones University, can suddenly make a dramatic change in the polls. The opinions and attitudes of the crowd are always fickle. Watch out for the crowd.

 

2. Its bad decisions - crowds rarely ever make good decisions.

Individuals make the best decisions after careful thought and contemplation. The crowd gives no place to thought and contemplation but is rather driven by the emotion of the moment. Out of such emotional responses come these bad decisions.

 

The crucifixion of Jesus provides the best example of this that you will ever find. There can be no worse decision than that made by the crowd in Jerusalem. Instead of giving to Jesus the honor that He rightly deserved as the Messiah of Israel, they foolishly cried out, "May His blood be upon us and our children!" What a frightening appeal! They were actually declaring before Pilate that they were ready to accept full responsibility for His death. They were declaring themselves to be responsible for the outcome of His death. Can you imagine that? What a foolish decision! It is terrible to have the blood of any man upon your hands, but it is unthinkable to have the blood of the Messiah of Israel, the Son of the Living God upon your hands.

 

Can you imagine the kind of folly that is involved in a person making a decision to reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? And they make that decision primarily on the basis of the sentiment of the crowd! It is not that they have come to such a firm conviction concerning Jesus, but rather they listened to the crowd because the crowd has no place for Jesus, they refuse Him a place in their lives.

 

Watch out for the crowd! Their folly must be a warning to us.

 

III. BECAUSE OF THEIR DESTINY.

Early in his ministry in the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke such a warning. He declared, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are a few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). This word of warning addresses every one of us.

 

1. The crowd is destined for destruction.

If you follow the crowd, it will be deceptively easy. It will require no thinking, no soul searching, no painful decisions. All you have to do is just fit in and go along. It will seem like it is so natural and right that it will be an utter surprise to you when you find yourself someday at the end of the road facing utter destruction. But that is the destiny of the crowd.

 

Can you imagine the shame of those in Jerusalem who became a part of the crowd that crucified our Lord when they found themselves standing before Him in eternity? What had seemed so right was suddenly discovered to be so wrong.

 

That word "destruction" really says it all. It is a synonym for Hell. Hell will be populated by people who allowed themselves to be swept along with the crowd. They never found the courage to separate themselves from the crowd and come to an independent judgment about Jesus. They just suppressed their conscience, refused to listen to the Holy Spirit, refused the witness of their friends, and plunged along toward a certain eternity without God.

 

2. The way to salvation is away from the crowd.

 

Jesus said, "Few there are who find it." Few? Few? Is Jesus serious about this? He is as serious as death itself. He knew what we must all know - in order to become His disciple you have to turn your back on the crowd and come follow Him.

 

The story of His death has a notable example of this. Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy Jewish businessman. He sat in the place of authority among the religious leaders of Jerusalem. When it became obvious that Jesus was going to be crucified by the crowd, he did not go along with their decision. He was not able to thwart or to frustrate the decision, but as soon as Jesus was crucified, He let His decision be known. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He took the body down from the cross with the assistance of a friend name Nicodemus, who was also a ruler among the Jews. These two men, who had become disciples of Jews secretly, tenderly took the body down from the cross and buried it in a tomb that Joseph had bought for himself. It became rather well known across Jerusalem that they had buried the body of Jesus. It was the crossing of a line of demarcation for them; there would be no turning back! They had become identified as one of His sympathizers, one of His followers.

 

Are you going to follow the multitude to do evil? Are you going to allow the crowd to determine your decision? Or will you for yourself make the decision to go through the narrow gate and begin to walk the narrow way? Will you let it be known that Jesus Christ is your Lord and your Savior and your King? Will you do this regardless of what the world may say about it or how the world may feel about it?

 

Watch out for the crowd! They crucified the Son of God!

Dare stand alone! Confess Jesus as Lord regardless of what the world says. It will bring to you life and salvation.