Mob mentality: when faith counts

Scriptures: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11

I realize that football is not that big a deal around here. But I’m wondering how many of you have ever been to a college or professional football game. Coming from Nebraska, you know, it’s big.

I’ve always been fascinated by football games. I used to go, not to watch the football, because if I wanted to watch the football, actually I prefer to watch it on TV where they have the replays and the slowmo and all that sort of stuff. I went to watch the people, because it was always amazing to me the way people would act when they were at a football game.

I mean, you know, you’ve got folks that are Green Bay Packers fans, when it’s freezing cold outside and their shirtless with paint all over their bodies. You’ve got folks that, when you win the championship, they come down and tear down the goalposts.

Did you know that it was the Cornhuskers that created the Wave? They were ahead by 42 points and they were really bored. So they started this thing where they were getting up and seeing how many times they could get it to go around the stadium.

It’s always amazing to me what happens when you get a huge number of people together. Think about Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and the celebration that goes on then. Or any of these Million X – whatever it is – marches. Million Moms, Million Dads, Million this, million that.

I went through the Standing in the Gap with Promise Keepers, back in 1997. We were in DC, and there were roughly a million guys there. It was something. Even when it was a focused, targeted assembly, more so, I would say, than just a mob gathering. Having that many voices, all raised as one to sing a hymn or say a prayer or whatever it might be, was just something else.

And of course, everybody likes to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. People gather together. They line the streets. How many of you have ever been to a parade that had many different things in it, from bands, floats, drill teams and more?

I know we’ve got Chief Wapello Days here. I tried to look up, I wasn’t sure how many people attend the Chief Wapello Days and their concomitant events, the rodeo and such. I would have been interested in knowing.

When I was up in Michigan, we had Tip-Up Town. The permanent population of the town was about 5000. On the two weekends of Tip-Up Town, sixty thousand people would come in. Most of the full-time residents just stayed in their homes and hid. But there would be so many different things going on, and people would do some of the craziest things.

Oftentimes in a parade, you never know what is going to come up next, whether you’ll feel good about it, or just want it to hurry up and get out of the way.

Life, sometimes, is like a parade. You never know quite what’s coming next there either. Although you can’t determine what’s coming, you can determine what your attitude, toward whatever it is, is going to be.

You see, our attitude is a choice. It’s something that’s very valuable because it lets us be in control of how we feel inside. If an attitude was not a choice, we could not follow Christ, because Jesus requires of us some unexpected attitudes in certain situations.

Surely when you were growing up, you had a parent tell you, “You need to change your attitude.” Or “Get rid of that attitude as soon as possible.” Or maybe not. Maybe you were perfect. But not me.

Having a bad attitude or a poor attitude can really destroy relationships and hurt us in the long run. Chuck Swindoll once had this to say about attitude:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company or a church or a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. … We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I’m convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it…. We are in charge of our attitudes.

All of the Lenten season has been an opportunity for us to examine our attitudes towards each other as well as God. Palm Sunday is a prime example of this.

Palm Sunday, as we saw in the skit, is about a huge parade coming into town, with one major float as its attraction. Now mind you, Jerusalem – much like my town in Michigan – had maybe three hundred thousand people there as its regular population. But on the festivals it could have between two and three million that have come in.

You’ve got a huge number of people. In this time of preparation, the launching of all these events that are going on in preparation for the Passover, you have this parade through the eastern gate.

Jesus has less than a week to live, and he knows it full well. He finally has decided to make it known publicly that he is the long-awaited Messiah, the king that God’s people have been waiting for hundreds of years.

He came in riding on a colt, a donkey, to fulfill some of the predictions. And the people were there, lining the streets. We have all these people. And I want to take a look at these people today, this mob that was there. Who were they?

Well, so far, you might have a large number of people who have reached the scene here because of Jesus, when he did things like raise Lazarus from the dead, or the healing of the blind Bartimaeus.

They are from Galilee, and other parts of the country, on their way to Jerusalem for the feast. The disciples themselves, along with Jesus. And as the parade begins, as Jesus comes forth, different attitudes start to manifest themselves, here in this mob.

The first attitude was those who wanted to immediately offer Jesus the best that they had. They took off their coats and their clothing and began to lay them down on the pathway, to form a royal carpet for the animal to walk on. They weren’t concerned that their clothes might not be usable, or that they would not be able to get them back. Their focus was on going all out to honor Jesus Christ.

Is this your attitude when it comes to serving God? “Lord, you can count on me to give whatever I have without thinking about it.” These are what sometimes people call real nuts in the crowd. They would say we never underestimate the Spirit. Others would say they’re just crazy.

Then there’s another group, with an attitude at that parade that day, that was the attitude of giving something good, even if it’s not the best they could give. They kept their coats and clothing but they were willing to go and cut down palm branches, and laid them down as a means of honoring and respecting Jesus. They’re in the parade and they look pretty good.

This is where many of the people are that are in the church today. They’re doing a pretty good job of investing themselves in the work of Jesus, but they haven’t decided that “all that I am” truly belongs to God. They believe it as “head knowledge,” but it’s not a reality completely in their hearts. They’re still not convinced that doing things God’s way is the best way to handle their lives.

Then there were those that were there but they never actually became part of the parade. They just sort of stood alongside the road and cheered a bit. They were willing to take notice of Jesus, and even give him a hand-clap, but they were too concerned with other things to actually get involved. As soon as Jesus passed them by, they went on about their business. As people do, once the parade has gone.

You might say these are people who claim to know Jesus but are not committed in any church, nor do they seek to live the lives that God has called them to live. Their attitude is “Well, the Lord knows my heart.” And that’s true – the Lord does know our hearts, but what God has to say about our hearts should cause us to run and give our lives to Jesus Christ. Because apart from Christ, our hearts need a major overhaul.

These people that were lining the streets, and overflowing down the hillsides, were shouting a particular thing. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” They were saying “You’re the one who God has sent. Save us.” That’s what hosanna means. “You’re the one who God has sent to save us now. You’re the one God has sent to save us now.”

And when you’re all together, in that huge crowd, it’s so easy to claim that. And they had a particular view, that the youth in their skit showed, that Jesus was going to be some sort of political conqueror. As one of the noted at the very end, “Where are the soldiers?” But they didn’t see that.

Now, there was still another attitude in the parade, when it was obvious Jesus was the focus of it all. There were the religious, who had a lot to lose if the Romans thought Jesus was attempting to become king. The religious leaders already wanted to get rid of Jesus. Palm Sunday was just too much for them.

They actually told Jesus to rebuke the crowd. The educated religious leaders knew that the words that the people were shouting were only supposed to apply to the Son of God. What they wanted Jesus to do was to tell people, “You should not be worshiping me like this. I am not the Messiah, the one the Scriptures have spoken of for hundreds of years.”

But Jesus would not deny who he was, despite their attitude of jealousy, hostility and hatred toward him. Now this attitude voices itself more and more in our society, where people are actually hostile toward Jesus Christ.

They get angry when we say that Jesus is the one true way to God. Some of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus have become so intimated by our culture that we will not back the claims of Christ, We maybe think that other religions can lead to God as well.

But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Now you can call me narrow-minded for believing that if you want to. But then your problem is not with me but with Jesus.

Jesus tells the religious people at that time that even if he told the crowds to shut up, the rocks themselves would shout out that he is Lord, he is the Son of God.

So you have all these attitudes that are mixed, in this crowd, this mob. You’ve got those that are really passionate about it; those that are excited because there are just so many people and there’s this stuff going on; those that like to see a spectacle; and those that despise the one who is the focus of the parade.

They’re all there in that mob. And they’re all seeming to agree on one thing. Yet that changed real fast, as those who hated Jesus were able to turn that mob in a week, so that the same crowd shouted, “Crucify him.”

Those that were passionate about him ran in fear. Those that were excited to be a part of something simply changed over. The people that were merely bystanders, well, they probably were still merely bystanders.

So as we look at this Palm Sunday event, and we look at Lent and Easter, I have a question for you. What attitude is Christ trying to expose to you today? Have you allowed jealousy or envy to enter in your heart toward something God is doing in and through somebody else, when you think you could do just as good a job?

Is your attitude one where you have completely sold out to Jesus, or do you see areas in which you do not want the donkey to carry Jesus to just yet? Maybe you have a great attitude toward your friends, but maybe the way you treat your family isn’t as good.

Is your attitude one of just doing your own thing, but surely God knows your heart so there’s no need to worry? Are you openly hostile toward God and His Word? You don’t believe it and you never will. Now, I think in this church that, at least here, we don’t have anyone that’s like that. I’d like to think we don’t have too many here that are the bystanders.

At the moment, it may not seem to matter, because on Palm Sunday, when Jesus went to Jerusalem, he was going to the cross to be crucified and he had you on his mind. He loved you, and he gave his life for you, that you might have peace and forgiveness for all the wrongs that you have done.

His attitude toward you will always be one of love and acceptance until the day your die. And as one other scholar noted, after that you are on your own because you will have sealed your own fate.

My challenge to you, though, is today, try to love him in the way that he loved you. Make that choice of attitude. Make that stance in your faith. You know how much God has loved you. Now love Him back in the same way, with that same kind of passion, that same kind of maybe over-the-top nuts-ness, and love those around you in a similar manner. So that they too can get excited.

And who knows? Maybe we can create our own mob, a mob that’s dedicated to giving praise to Christ, here on Sunday and on every day. And through what we do, may God get the glory and the praise forever and ever. Amen.

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