The crowd in Jerusalem was a fickle bunch. On Palm Sunday they welcomed Jesus as a new king coming to lead the Jews to throw off the oppression of Rome and establish Israel as God’s great kingdom on earth. By Friday morning they were yelling for Pilate to crucify Him. How could they change so fast? I know the easiest answer is that the Sunday crowd and the Friday crowd were not the same. Maybe that’s true, but if it is, what happened to the Sunday crowd? Why didn’t they show up on Friday when the heat was on Jesus?
Actually, this kind of sea change is often seen in congregations. Pastors are welcomed with great fanfare. They are invited to lead the congregation. The church believes that he can get the congregation off a plateau or bring it back from near death. The people can’t wait to see their church return and perhaps surpass its glorious past. They are sure that soon things will right themselves and it will be just like the good old days. This pastor is a leader and they know if they just have a leader their congregation will succeed.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the crowd were sure He was the king they wanted. Even though they were greatly outnumbered by the Romans, a King Jesus could heal their wounded and restore their dead to life. If their supply lines got thin, Jesus could multiply rations like He did with the loaves and fishes in Galilee.
It didn’t turn out that way. Instead of rousing the crowd against the Romans, He went to the temple and deliberately irritated the temple authorities. He even went so far as to disrupt their money-changing operation. When He should have been getting people mad at the Romans, He criticized the Jewish authorities that He needed to legitimize His kingship. Jesus was leading a revolution, but not the revolution they wanted. So … “Crucify Him!” “Crucify Him!”
The new pastor turns out not to be what they thought. He has some strange ideas about how things ought to be done. He makes big changes in the music. He brings in guitars and drums, and not just on youth Sunday, but every Sunday. The choir is down to singing only once a month and the only time the organ is heard any more is at a funeral. He’s got somebody leading some kind of recovery group and a few of those people have been showing up in church. Somehow he got the board to let him remodel the children’s area with all kinds of wild color schemes and decorations. It looks more like a fun area than a classroom. And there are so many kids running around making noises and messes … It’s not at all like it used to be. Sure, the attendance is coming up, but those people aren’t like us. They don’t know how to dress for church. They have tattoos and some of them smell like tobacco. He doesn’t seem to care about the way things have always been done and doesn’t think he needs the approval of the long-time lay leaders. The church may be growing, but it’s not growing the way they want. The pastor is a leader, but he’s not leading the way they wanted. Someone get up a petition; let’s get rid of him. In effect, “Crucify him!” “Crucify Him!”
The Holy Week crowd got rid of Jesus and preserved the way things were, but in a relatively few years the temple system was destroyed. The local lay leaders usually get their way too, and while they may preserve the traditions of their congregation, the church dies in a few years. Sometimes, the pastor survives and leads another congregation to growth. Too often, he’s so damaged that he decides to walk away from pastoral leadership.
Jesus was just doing what God sent Him to do, and the crowd reversed itself. In the same way, the pastor was doing the Lord’s assignment too, and the congregation turned on him. It’s a small consolation for the pastor to realize that he faced the same thing Jesus did. The congregation, like the Holy Week crowd, couldn’t trade their pipe dream of the future for God’s vision. They couldn’t submit to God.