How do you respond to the crowd? For some (usually extroverts) crowds can be an important part of recharging themselves. For others (usually introverts, which I am), crowds are okay, but then there is a need to withdraw. For such people, recharging comes away from the crowds.
As we look at Jesus’ ministry, we discover something interesting. He would withdraw from the crowds. But something more happened.
But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, (Matt. 12:15)
Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. (Matt. 14:13)
So despite Jesus withdrawing from the people the people would not withdraw from Him. Amazingly, Jesus continues to care for them, healing, teaching, comforting them.
Palm Sunday: The crowds
Palm Sunday in one way is the peak of Jesus’ popularity. The crowds greet His arrival in Jerusalem as the new king, much in anticipation of the new David, King. Matthew noted the Old Testament prophecy related to preparation for His entry into Jerusalem.
“Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King comes to you, Humble, and riding on a donkey, On a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Matt. 21:5)
The actions and words of the crowd reflect this anticipation of someone great, like a new King.
A very great multitude spread their clothes on the road. Others cut branches from the trees, and spread them on the road. The multitudes who went before him, and who followed kept shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:8–9)
And the crowd begins to put the pieces together.
When he had come into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” The multitudes said, “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matt. 21:10-1)
Post Entry to Jerusalem
The attention to Jesus doesn’t end there. Jesus goes into the temple area and causes quite a stir.
Jesus entered into the temple of God, and drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money-changers’ tables and the seats of those who sold the doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers!” (Matt. 21:12-13)
On the one hand, the Jewish leaders are very concerned about this agitation of their little kingdom. On the other hand, Jesus is very concerned about the agitation caused by changing and defiling the temple and God’s work through it. Not only that, but Jesus heals many in the crowds (Matt. 21:14-15).
Jesus continues His ministry to the crowds
In the rest of Matthew 21, we see Jesus continuing what He had been doing in previous years: teaching the people (crowds), healing them, while also confronting the Jewish leaders.
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his illustrations, they knew that he was talking about them. They wanted to arrest him but were afraid of the crowds, who thought he was a prophet. (Matt. 21:45–46)
The crowds still follow Him, listen to His teachings, and receive His healing gifts. Jesus is doing what His Father had sent Him to do.
His crowd ministry never stops
The reality is that Jesus came into this world —for the crowds, even the enemies within the crowds. While needs time to be alone with His disciples, he never fully withdraws from the people. He knows their concerns, their hurts, they challenges, and their brokenness.
He continues to live out His ministry in fulfillment of Psalm 34:17-18:
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.
The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.
So we see that Jesus has much to do. In the days following His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. His crowd work will dramatically change focus on Maundy Thursday. He will begin the care for His followers of the future.