The Tale of Two Crowds

1 04 2015

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

That is the opening line of “A Tale of Two Cities” written by Charles Dickens in the 1850s. It was about the two very different worlds of the rich and the poor during the time leading up to the French Revolution and the brutality of those two worlds colliding.

The idea of two different worlds colliding is what it feels like in the week leading up to Easter. Palm Sunday shows one crowd praising Jesus.  Then, just a few short days later another crowd is shouting for his death.

When Matthew tells the story of Palm Sunday, he mentions a prophecy told in Zechariah 9:9. It is a great reminder that God’s plan will never be swayed by the crowd. Events were unfolding according to God’s will to redeem humanity.  (Matthew’s account is found in Matthew 21:1-11)

While God may be unchanging, we are very easily swayed by the crowd. If you ever read social science experiments you will see that under the right conditions we can be made to do almost anything. It is kind of scary. Just last year Facebook got in some hot water when it was revealed that they had been manipulating news feeds to see how it would impact people’s posting habits.

That leads to our second crowd. Mark 15:11-15 tells us that the people who shouted “crucify him” had been stirred up by the religious leaders. Even though Pilate knew they were being manipulated, he went along with it and satisfied the crowd’s insistence to kill Jesus.

It is a stark reminder we live in a fallen world. We actively and passively rebel against God and we can be lead down that path very easily. Of course, we always believe it will not happen to us.

That is what Peter thought. In Mark 14:29-31 he said even if everyone else deserted Jesus he would not. I believe Peter had very good intentions but as we watch the story unfold those good intentions fail. He falls asleep when Jesus needed him to pray (Mark 14:33-40). He got violent (John 18:10) and he denied him when the pressure was on (Mark 14:66-72).

Peter is just like you and me. We often have good intentions but in the pressures of life we find ourselves defeated just as Peter did.

Luke 22:31-32 gives us more insight into what happened with Peter. Jesus warns him that Satan wanted to shift Peter like wheat. Jesus also told him that he had prayed for him. What an amazing picture! Jesus praying for Peter.

On this side of the Easter story the picture becomes even more amazing. Hebrews describes Jesus serving as our mediator (8:6, 9:15, and 12:24).  Paul will remind Timothy of that reality in 1Timothy 2:5. We have access to God in a profound and powerful way. WOW!

This is what we are celebrating on Easter. Jesus did the work to restore our relationship with His Father conquering both sin and death.

My prayer for each of us is that we will pause and reflect on the significance of Easter. It will require facing our part in crucifying him. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate the one who was not swayed by the crowds but instead focused on his Father’s Will and extends an invitation to us for a new life and the privilege of being in His crowd.





Humbled

6 04 2012

As a Christian I believe Easter is the greatest event in human history.  Jesus demonstrated the full depth of God’s love and full extent of God’s power.  I believe God first hinted at his plan to redeem humanity as he faced the reality Adam and Eve’s disobedience.  He said to the snake, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  He intended on defeating sin and death in complete and powerful way.

God began laying out his plan in the Old Testament. When Peter wrote about the Old Testament he said:

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12)

I love the idea of angels longing to look into what God was planning.  Before Jesus people had faith God could redeem.  In fact there were lots of examples of God redeeming and demonstrating his power.  After Jesus we know God can fully and completely redeem.  We say actions speak louder than words.  Easter was God’s actions shouting and confirming what had been said.

The author of Hebrews captured it well:

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9)

God demonstrated that sin not only hurt us but it hurt him as well.  When God asks us to be obedient, he is not asking us to do anything he has not done.  Easter is both powerful and humbling.

The night Jesus was betrayed he said to his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)

Jesus knew facing the cross would be the hardest thing he would ever have to face but, by facing it, he knew what would be accomplished.

My prayer is each one of us would have an opportunity to reflect of the deep meaning of Easter.  I pray we would encounter a loving and powerful God who redeems.  As we experience that redemption God invites us to follow him.  May our actions speak louder than our words as we humbly follow Jesus.