Just A Face In The Crowd

Just A Face In The Crowd

So who is Jesus to you?

I want you to think back to a time either when you’ve been to a parade or seen a parade.  When it comes to parades,  there’s a lot of ways that we can describe them.  One thing for sure is that when the parade comes through downtown China Grove, there’s an air of anticipation about it.  Think about it.  We usually get there “early” so that we can get our favorite spot so that we can take it all in.

As it gets closer and closer for the parade to start, things get more active.  You see the children begin to get more fidgety and start squirming around.  They keep looking down the road to see if it is getting ready to start.  There are street vendors walking up and down the road selling their candy apples and priceless toys.  And then the moment arrives.  You hear the sirens, you see the flashing lights and then kids begin to jump up and down and scream with excitement.  The moment they’ve been waiting for is finally here.  The road narrows because everybody wants to see what’s coming.

Now, there’s an element of intrigue just in watching the people, whether they’re an engaged observer, a passive bystander, or an active participant.  People respond differently and people are there for different reasons.  Maybe it’s family or friends, maybe it’s the floats or maybe it’s just being a part of the crowd.  Parades have a way of bringing people to the streets and bringing people together.

This morning, we will be looking at one of the most well known and most important parades in all of Scripture.  If you will join me in Luke 19.  We’re going to be looking at verses 36-44.  As you’re finding your way there, let me begin to paint the picture.  Jesus is beginning His final entry into Jerusalem leading up to His crucifixion as it is now his final week.  Jesus has entered the towns of Bethpaige and Bethany, which is located on the Mount of Olives.  Bethany was the home of Lazarus.  Remember that Lazarus had died and was brought back to life by Jesus and that happened a short time before the scene we are looking at today.  Upon entering the towns, Jesus sent 2 of His disciples to go and get a young donkey for Him to ride.

Luke 19:36-44 (NASB) – And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road.  And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, saying, “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”  And He answered and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”  And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  “For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

When Jesus begins His entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, it fulfills the prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 which says:

Zechariah 9:9 (NASB) – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

As we look at our focal passage, I want us to look at 3 groups of people this morning.

1.  Those that believed in Jesus

In verse 37, we are introduced to those that were praising God loudly and joyfully.  This particular group were identified as disciples.  Notice that there was not just a couple of people.  There were a multitude of them.  This was a substantial number of people.   Had it just been the 12 disciples, it would not have drawn that much attention.  However, because of the number of people, it caused some eyebrows to be raised.

But pay close attention to the end of verse 37.  It tells us that they were praising God for the “miracles, or mighty works, or power they had seen”.  Was this the only reason that they believed in Jesus?  Were they following along because of what they could “potentially get” from Jesus?  Were these true believers or casual believers? We don’t know.   It’s easy to get caught up in the event or get caught up in the crowd and miss the point of what it’s really about.  That can happen in a society during a national tragedy and we’ve seen that.  That can happen in church as well.  We can get caught up in the “emotional” aspect of the service and miss the Savior that the service is about.  There were some there that believed He was the Messiah for sure.  Clearly though, having seen Jesus perform miracles, increased the number of people that followed Jesus.

Listen to John’s account of this scene in John 12:17-19:

John 12:17-19 (NLT) – Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it.  That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

As Jesus is moving toward Jerusalem, notice the chants from the multitude.  They are chanting ““BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  They are quoting from the Messianic Psalm 118:26.

As a side note, notice that their songs of praise said “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  If you remember earlier in the Gospel of Luke, when the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth, they said “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”   As Jesus is heading to the cross, the One who is Peace, Jesus Christ Himself, was rejected on earth.  As Warren Wiersbe says, “There would be no peace on earth but, thanks to Christ’s work on the cross, there is “peace with God” in heaven.”

These praises and chants introduce us to the 2nd group of people:

2.  Those that were against Jesus

From the time that Jesus began His earthly ministry, the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, were certainly against Jesus.  But there were also others who were against Jesus.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, listen to what happened in John 11.

John 11:45-48,55-57 (NASB) – Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done (raise Lazarus from the dead), believed in Him.  But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.  Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.  “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”……..Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, to purify themselves. Therefore they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another, as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it heightened an already tense situation.  John tells us that the Pharisees were seeking to arrest Jesus.  They feared that the Romans would come and take away their “position and power”.  In addition to that, in our passage in Luke 19, verse 39 says that the Pharisees directly address Jesus.  Listen to verse 39 from the Amplified Translation:

Luke 19:39 (Amplified) – Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples [for shouting these Messianic praises].”

Most translations say that the Pharisees call Jesus “Teacher”, some say “Master”.  The idea is that this is a person who is knowledgeable about and teaches things concerning God.  Jesus certainly fits that bill.  The Pharisees were wanting these loud, celebratory followers of Jesus to quieten down.  They were in essence asking Jesus, the one whom they despised, to do “them” a favor, which is interesting given their hatred for Jesus.  But, they were doing it for themselves, not for any other reason.  As parades have a way of drawing attention, the Pharisees were beginning to feel a bit uneasy.  After all, they were a bit outnumbered at this particular moment in time.  There were lots of people in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.  The city was under Roman authority.  The people were wanting to get out from under that rule.  They had been looking for a king, a messiah to deliver them.  And when Jesus rose Lazarus, Jesus seemed to check all of the boxes they were looking for, ignoring the fact that He actually said He was the Messiah.  With the number of His followers growing and with the Messianic cheers coming, the Pharisees were very concerned.  They told Jesus to rebuke or admonish His followers.

Now, as a side note, their command served two other, indirect purposes.  If Jesus rebuked or admonished them, the Pharisees would have ammunition against Jesus because He told His followers to stop calling Him the Messiah.  If He did not rebuke them, He would be confirming that He is the Messiah.   This is certainly not the first time the Pharisees have tried to verbally trap Jesus.  We know that Jesus is heading to the cross.  After Jesus enters Jerusalem, John records this:

John 12:20-23 (NASB) – Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came, and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

When the Pharisees tell Jesus to rebuke His followers, Jesus responds in Luke 19:40 with, even if they did keep quiet, these rocks that we are walking on would cry out.  Meaning that what I’m about to do, cannot be stopped.  I am the long-awaited Messiah and my glory will be on display.

This should bring us comfort to know that God’s purposes and plans cannot be stopped. Listen to the prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV) – for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

So, while the Pharisees outwardly expressing concern that Jesus would draw the attention of the Romans, which it could very well do, they really had concerns for “their” roles “their” entire religious establishment being challenged.  They feared getting the eye of the Roman authority, but they also feared that they were losing “their” rule over the people because of Jesus’ growing popularity.

That brings us to our last group of people.

3.  Those that were in Jerusalem

We’ve already seen how there was a multitude of disciples who were a part of the procession into Jerusalem.  As we saw earlier, there were a significant number of people in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  Matthew’s account of this in Matthew 21:10 says this:

Matthew 21:10 (NASB) – And when He (Jesus) entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”  And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

There were people in Jerusalem, who were there for Passover, who did not know who Jesus was.  In order to keep things in perspective, remember that the Passover celebration was to remember how Yahweh, Jehovah God, the “I AM”, delivered His people from slavery in Egypt through the Exodus.  God had used the death of the firstborn, the 10th plague, to finally convince Pharaoh to let the people go.  If the people placed the blood of a spotless lamb on their doorposts, the Lord would pass over that household and the firstborn would be spared.  This festival was a remembrance of God’s faithfulness and was one of 3 festivals where the Jews were to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate it.  So as the people were coming to celebrate how God delivered and rescued them, they were blind to the One who was in their presence who actually came to deliver them eternally, the One that they have been looking for.  They were going through all of the motions, but missing the One that it all pointed to.

In Luke 19:42-44, Jesus describes what lies ahead for Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, it was not a pretty picture.  He talks about how not only will the city be destroyed, but the people will be as well.  This did come about in AD 70 when the Romans did destroy the city, killing hundreds of thousands of people through starvation and through the invasion and thousands were taken captive.

Time had passed between “the Exodus” ’til now.  Within this multiple of people that had gathered for the Passover, there were some who knew the full meaning of the Passover, there were some who had very little understanding and there were some who had no knowledge of what it meant.  For many, it became one of those things “they were supposed to do”.  It was something their ancestors had done so they did it.  In fact, we see Jesus getting upset about events and activities that were happening in the temple courtyards during the Passover Festival.  You see, the act of worship and the purpose of their gathering had lost its true meaning.  Our time together this morning, if we’re not careful, can become a very similar experience.

We’ve looked at 3 groups of people or 3 “faces” in the crowd.  But there’s one face in the crowd that we’ve not looked at yet and tragically is the one that gets overlooked the most, and that is the face of the Messiah Himself.  When we look at verse 41, we see the face of Jesus.

Luke 19:41 (NASB) – And when He approached (Jerusalem), He saw the city and wept over it.

Did you notice it?  If we’re not careful, we’ll miss it too.  There, in the midst of the parade.  In the midst of the noise.  It the midst of Passover celebration.  In the midst of the praises that they were showering down on Jesus.  In the midst of all of the faces in the crowd, the one face that they were there to celebrate, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is totally overlooked.  The parade is marching on.  The celebrations are continuing.  But yet, Jesus is weeping.  This is not the type of weeping that Jesus did at the tomb of Lazarus when we read “Jesus wept”.  The word used here, is a deep, loud, gut-wrenching, almost uncontrollable sobbing, and according to Scripture, nobody says a thing to Him.  Nobody acknowledges His broken heart.  Nobody notices His pain.  Nobody tries to console Him.  Nobody asks why.  Nobody seems to even see His face.

If this were a scene in a movie, I would envision all of the people in the background being blurred out, with the focus being on Jesus.  The celebrations being muffled and all you hear is Jesus.  Jesus, on the donkey, in clear focus.  His hurt, on full display.

Had the role that they wanted Jesus to fill “for them” become more important than who Jesus actually was?  They had come to Him with their questions.  They had come to Him when they were hungry.  They had come to Him for healing.  They were now coming to Him to deliver them from Roman rule. Verse 44 tells us that “you, meaning the people, did not recognize it when God visited you.”  They didn’t recognize who Jesus was before it was too late.  Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end. While they knew Jesus for what He did, they missed who He was. Indirectly, He was just another face in the crowd.

So who is Jesus to you?

Jesus was making a triumphal entry.  He came to earth from heaven to come and live as one of us.  He was the spotless, sinless Son of God.  He lived the perfect life.  He walked and talked with those around Him.  He was the Messiah.  He came for one purpose and that was to die on the cross.  To pay the penalty for my sin and your sin.   Nothing that you can do can take that sin away.  There’s no actions that you can take to take away the penalty of sin.  You cannot be good enough, you cannot come to church often enough, you cannot give enough money.  Nothing that you can do can take away sin.  But Christ came and gave His very life as payment for that sin.  Christ came to die on the cross.  He came to give everything that He had and that was His very life.

Just like the followers in the parade who were lavishing praises on to Jesus.  Some were doing it because of what Jesus could do.  Others, because of who He was.  If you have not made the decision to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, then Jesus is “Just a Face in the Crowd” to you as well.

To connect back to Pastor Trent’s message last week regarding our Pain and Trials.  We saw last week how James came to see Jesus for who He truly is.  James became a man known for his worship and his prayer, especially as things began to get tougher and tougher. Even while we are in the midst of the pain and the trials, our prayers can still be prayers of worship as we pray our heart out to God, not because of what He can do, because of who He is.  As we celebrate His character of all-knowing, ever-presence with us, and His love for us.

Pastor Daniel Henderson in his book Transforming Prayer, says this.  “Worship-based prayer (and I would add praise) seeks the face of God before the hand of God. God’s face is the essence of who He is. God’s hand is the blessing of what He does. God’s face represents His person and presence. God’s hand expresses His provision for needs in our lives. I have learned that if all we ever do is seek God’s hand, we may miss His face; but if we seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.”

Don’t let Jesus be just another face in your crowd.  Instead, today, make Jesus the focus of all that you do and all that you are.  Pursue Him and make much of His Name.

Let’s pray together.

Most gracious God, forgive us for making you another face in the crowd.  Help us to seek Your face and not just Your hand.  I pray that if there is one here today that doesn’t know You as their personal Lord and Savior, that today will be that today that they make that decision.  I pray that if there is one here today that has fallen away from you and has not been living the life You have called each of to live, I pray that today is the day that they repent and turn back to you.  Dear God I pray, that if today we have come and sing praises to Your Name and they have been empty praises because we just want something from You, I pray that you will forgive us.  Dear God, thank You for the finished work of Christ on the cross. Thank You that a way was made for redemption.  Dear God, we love You with all that we could possibly possess.  Help us to live every single day, 100% devoted to You, seeking to make much of Your Name.  For it’s in Christ Name we pray.  Amen.