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.