On Palm Sunday Jesus rode a young beast of burden into Jerusalem to applauding cheers. The crowds cried out, “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:9) Five days later the crowds cried out, “Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:22)
It has been popular for preachers in the past to identify the crowds as the same, a lesson about the fickleness of men and mobs. It has become popular these days for more preachers to distance themselves from such a simple platitude, as if it was silly even to suggest the crowds were the same.
There’s no need to throw the baby out with the palm branches, so to speak. We don’t have to say that every single person who praised Jesus on Sunday then cursed Jesus on Friday. We also don’t have to say that no single person who praised Jesus then cursed Him, which requires proving a negative. What’s more, Jesus’ own teaching, and Jesus’ own disciples, point toward the possibility of flaking out.
In His parable of the sower one type of person heard the seed of the word and received it with joy and then at some point later, the story doesn’t stipulate the amount of time, the same person got tired of troubles associated with that word and fell away (Matthew 13:20). Why couldn’t a mob be rocky soil? A mob could be overwhelmed with hate after being overwhelmed with joy. And every one of Jesus’ disciples, those who had been following Him for three years, abandoned Him, at least temporarily, when their shepherd was struck (Matthew 26:31, 56).
A couple things: First, as a church we have affirmed the faith and joy of some who then turn against Christ. We baptized them as believers, and sadly, some have later denied that profession and have fallen away. We pursue their repentance according to Matthew 18, and yet some must be removed from being under the spiritual protection of the church (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) and are no longer welcome to share the Lord’s Table with us. It is always sad, even if it isn’t surprising.
Second, the problem with the crowd on Palm Sunday was not their praise, the problem with the rocky soil was not the joy in the word, the problem is not with professions of faith. The problem was not living by faith. So, Christian, keep praising, keep receiving the word with joy, and keep feeding on the true bread of life and drinking the true drink of Jesus’ blood. Keep abiding in Him and you will live forever (John 6:52-58).