The crowd is loud and excited. Their enthusiasm grows as they catch a glimpse of a man riding a borrowed horse. Some have seen him do the unbelievable. Most have heard the stories.
He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, raises the dead, feeds the hungry and proclaims good news to the poor. He looks at women not as objects, but as human beings created in the image of God. His idea of being a neighbor is not limited by race, religion, social status or politics. He invites everyone to the table and eats with anyone no matter how scandalous his or her past might be.
For those who have eyes to see, He is the Messiah, the Christ. For those who cannot see Him – in the face of a hungry child, a thirsty man, a sick girl, a boy in need of clothes or an imprisoned woman, He is nothing more than a troublemaker, a problem in need of a solution.
Today, this crowd sees. Given what they see, the whole multitude praises God with great joy. Never in their entire lives have the hopes of these people been so close to becoming reality. No longer able to restrain themselves, their hopes and dreams pour out. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Some who are in the crowd, but not of the crowd, tell the man of the borrowed horse to quiet the crowd. Their words have become dangerous, even treasonous. Everyone knows that there can be no king but Caesar. All the shouting could very well displease the Roman occupiers.
The results of such displeasure would not be welcomed by those who had made their peace with the powers and principalities of this world. So they tell Him to shut the crowd up. They do not understand that if the crowd is quiet, then the stones will start shouting.
In just a few days, the shouts of another crowd will fill the air. A crowd, which may well include some of the same people from the crowd that wanted Jesus to be king, will shout this time for His death. They will call for a cross instead of a throne and treat Him as a criminal instead of a king.
Looking back at those two crowds, one wonders how the public attitude about Jesus changed so quickly. From the perspective of one who seeks to follow Christ, one wonders how the second crowd could have been so wrong about Jesus. What happened in those few days to turn the opinion of so many against him? Granted, political and religious leaders had already made up their minds about Jesus, but the people still seemed to look at Him with hope.
As tragic as Good Friday is, it is not the end. Easter will come. Resurrection will happen. Unfortunately, that is not enough to convince most that Jesus is the Christ. So through the years, Jesus continues to be not so much crucified as remade.
He is remade into a more palatable figure, one who tends to agree with our way of thinking more than to challenge it. He is fashioned as a Messiah who saves those that deserve to be saved and who condemns those that the crowd has already condemned. He is worshiped as the Christ who bears the unmistakable image of the interpreters, editors, preachers and politicians who have, through the centuries, softened His hard sayings and radical demands.
What is to be done? Is Jesus, riding on a borrowed horse, to be our king, or would we prefer to exchange him for someone more to our liking? Which crowd will be our crowd?
Serious questions to ponder while we wait for Easter. Even still, the stones are shouting: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Ed Sunday-Winters is senior pastor of Ball Camp Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. He blogs at Just Words.
Ed Sunday-Winters is pastor of Greensboro United Church of Christ in Greensboro, Vermont.