For three years Jesus ministered on earth. Scripture occasionally tells us that He went off by himself to pray, but for the most part, from the very beginning of his public ministry, there was always the crowd.
There was the crowd at his baptism in the river Jordan, at the wedding in Cana, and at the Sermon on the Mount. The crowd was constantly pushing in. At one point the disciples almost seem amused at the crowd. You’ll recall the woman who had the flow of blood for twelve years. She touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and he says, “Who touched Me?” Peter responds, ”Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”
At another point the disciples rebuke the crowd for pressing in upon Jesus and bringing their children for a blessing. It is here that we receive that beautiful saying of Jesus, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Again the crowd is present when he teaches and feeds the 5,000. They are always present, whether Jesus is healing, teaching, feeding, or blessing, the crowd gathers, and the Passion Narrative tells us that it was no different during those events.
The crowd cries out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” What a glorious scene it must have been as Jesus, riding on a donkey, made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. They waved palms, a sign of kingship, and threw their cloaks on the ground before Him. They believe that this Jesus is the one who will set them free from those who occupy their land, for surely, if He can raise the dead, then He can certainly lead the people in expelling the Roman army.
The crowd gathers at his trial. What a public spectacle this is. “Let’s go and see what happens.” They gathered to be entertained by the misery of another. You may like to think that people don’t really enjoy watching the misery of others, but you only have to ask why those stupid reality TV shows are so popular to see the truth.
Finally, his crucifixion. The crowd gathers once again. It seems there were only a handful who came with sincere hearts: Mary, John, Mary Magdalene, but for the most part the rest were present out of morbid curiosity. “Hey, it’s Friday. Let’s go down and watch the crucifixions. I hear one of them claims to be the Son of God.” “Let’s see if he really is who he says he is.” “Let’s make sure this troublemaker really dies.”
The musical, Jesus Christ Superstar: the song “Hosanna”: “Hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me? You’re alright by me! Won’t you fight for me? Hey JC, JC won’t you die for me? Hey, Superstar.” The Crowd. Whatever the case, in all these instances, the relationship of the crowd to Jesus was always based on one thing: what he could do for them or give to them.
Today, we are the crowd. We are the ones that gather around Jesus, and like those who came before us, we too come to Jesus for a purpose. Is this wrong? No. Jesus encourages us to do so, “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Jesus wants – desires that we ask, but do not let what Jesus can do for you be your main reason for coming. As Archbishop Michael Ramsey tells us, “The gift must not be loved more than the Giver.” What Jesus can do for us or give to us should never be loved more than Jesus Himself.
Come to Jesus, gather around Him in great crowds and ask him to teach, to nourish your body and your soul, to heal – ask – but before you ask, love and be loved. God is Love and this love is His greatest gift of all.
Let us pray:
Our God, we love You; not because we hope for heaven,
Nor because those who do not love You are lost eternally.
You, our Jesus, You embraced us upon the cross;
For us You bore the nails, and spear, and manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless, and sweat of agony;
Yes, death itself; and all for us who were Your enemies.
Then why, Blessed Jesus Christ, should we not love You well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven, nor of escaping hell;
Not from the hope of gaining anything, not seeking a reward;
But as You have loved us, O ever-loving Lord.
So would we love You, dearest Lord, and in Your praise will sing;
Solely because You are our God, and our most loving King. Amen.