Jesus walked this earth at a time when travel was by foot or horseback. Nobody had Twitter, Facebook, or cell phones to spread news about things He did. Still, He was known around the area and people followed Him. Twelve men had been chosen by Him for the special purpose of being His close disciples. These men were just regular people, but Jesus knew they would learn from Him, spread the Gospel, and lead the lost to salvation.
Some were fishermen. “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
One was a tax collector, which was a less than honest profession. “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Matthew 9:9).
Those men each left much behind to follow Jesus. It wasn’t always an easy crowd to be in. They traveled on foot to many places, and sometimes they faced danger. Jesus was straightforward with the disciples. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Those twelve men had no idea how true those words were. Among that crowd of twelve men was one who followed Jesus, heard His words, and saw His actions. In spite of all he saw, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
Jesus’ love and compassion drew crowds. He healed many infirmities and spoke words of hope. The people wanted to hear more. “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).
The message Jesus shared was not one of condemnation or religious rituals. He gave hope. When He saw people possessed by demons, He didn’t send them to a psych ward, but cast the demon out. When a woman was accused of adultery and brought before Him for condemnation, He didn’t condemn her but forgave her and told her to stop living a sinful life. When He saw a widow whose only son had just died, Jesus brought that son back from the dead.
“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise” (Luke 7:12-14).
It’s no wonder that the crowds loved Him.
There were Pharisees among the crowd that followed Jesus. They kept a close eye on His activities because they wanted to find fault with Him. There was a feeling in that day that the Messiah was in the world, which troubled the religions leaders. They made it their duty to discredit anyone who claimed to be the Messiah. Their suspicion weeded out false messiahs, but blinded them to the true Messiah. Jesus threatened their control over the people.
One Pharisee decided to come to Jesus with an open mind and came by night to find answers. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:1-2).
Nicodemus was in a crowd by himself. While he was seeking truth, other Pharisees were looking to discredit Jesus. They followed Him and argued with Him. They called Him names and wanted to stone Him to death. Why did they want to stone Him? Jesus claimed to be God, which was blasphemy. Jesus didn’t just claim to be God…He was God.
“Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:32-33).
The Pharisees were too blind to see the truth and wanted to kill Him. When the time was right, Jesus would willingly go to the cross, but the Pharisees would have to wait.
Finally the time came for prophecy to be fulfilled. It was the time of year when many people crowded into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This year the Passover Lamb would change the world. A prophecy given by Zechariah described the Messiah entering Jerusalem:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, the King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus fulfilled this exactly, as He rode to Jerusalem and the crowds praised Him. “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:8-9).
Had the people in the crowd seen the miracles Jesus had done? Had any of them been cured of deafness or received some other healing? They praised Him as “the Son of David” which is a title of the Messiah. This was not lost on the Pharisees who were in that crowd. They told Jesus to silence the people.
“And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).
What a day that was! The crowd praising their Messiah, the Pharisees becoming more and more angry, and Judas Iscariot plotting to betray Him.
It didn’t take long until the mood of the crowd changed. A few days after entering Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna, Jesus was arrested and illegally put on trial. It had to happen because the time had come for prophecy to be fulfilled. Another crowd gathered, and this time they weren’t praising their Messiah but calling for His death.
During the Passover celebration it was customary for a prisoner to be released. Barabbas and Jesus both stood before the crowd, and Pilate asked which prisoner he should release. “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus… Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:20 & 22).
How many of these people had praised Him a few days earlier? Had He healed any of them? On this day the cry of the crowd was “Crucify Him.” There was no court of appeals and no lingering on death row for years. Jesus was to be crucified that day. “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers” (Matthew 27:27).
The crowd this time was a band of soldiers who proceeded to mock Him and abuse Him. They placed a scarlet robe on Him and crown of thorns on His head. “…and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” Matthew 27:30b. They spit upon Him and beat Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him.
There was a small crowd at the foot of the cross. Of course, the chief priests and scribes were there to mock Him. The soldiers were there and gambled for His garments. Some of the crowd there didn’t mock Him, but were brokenhearted over this horridness event.
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:25-27).
The disciple was John, who cared for Mary until she died. Where was Peter? He was hiding in fear. Where were the other disciples? The crowd at the cross was thin.
The story didn’t end there. Jesus chose to die on the cross and shed His blood for the salvation of all who will accept His sacrifice.
“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst… When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:28 & 30).
The nails didn’t hold Jesus to that cross… it was love that held Him there. He chose to give His life so we can live. The crowd who wanted Him to die felt they had won a victory. The crowd that loved Him would soon understand that He had conquered death.
“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:1-2).
The crowd at the tomb grew. The stone had been rolled away and the body was gone. All that was left were the grave clothes.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Jesus had risen from the dead!
Each one of us today needs to ask, “Which crowd am I in?” The religious crowd should have recognized Him but their words and actions showed their true heart. Maybe you just follow the crowd and praise Him when you’re with Christian friends but yell “Crucify Him” when you join with your secular friends. Are you in the crowd of the disciples, but deny Him like Peter did? Maybe you’re more like Judas and outright betray Him. Whatever crowd you’re in, remember that there is forgiveness when you come to the cross. When Jesus looked down from the cross, He only felt love for the sinners there.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a).
Love held Him to the cross. No matter what sin has kept you from turning to Him for salvation, you will find forgiveness there. Come to Him and repent. Join the crowd of the redeemed.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.