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When the Crowd is Wrong

For Spring break, our family spent a couple days in San Diego. When we made our rental car reservation, we choose a cheaper local company. However, when we checked on our reservation we noticed that the reviews for the company were horrendous. There were twice as many one star ratings as there were the four and five stars combined. One reviewer said, “Don't rent from this company. Bad! Bad! Bad!” People talked about a poor rental experience, hidden charges, and horrible customer service. We began to doubt the wisdom of our choice.

However, we were uncertain if we could cancel the reservation since it was prepaid and so we went with our original plans because we were we unwilling to pay twice or three times the cost. We then flew to San Diego and waited with trepidation at the curb for the shuttle to take us to the rental center. In the end, our fears proved to be unwarranted for we found the representatives to be both helpful and courteous. Our experience was not without hiccups, but largely we were fully satisfied.

When I asked an employee why he thought that their company had so many bad reviews he said that it was likely that people not only wanted the lowest price but they wanted free upgrades as well. When the more expensive competitor charges a premium for their services, they are able to allow customers to believe they are receiving a free upgrade. However, since they had no buffer built into their pricing they could not. As a result, when customer’s expectations to receive something for nothing were not met, they lashed out. This reminded me of how similar unmet expectations took Jesus to the cross.

Sunday we remember Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem. As he entered the city, the people shouted their praise, “Hosanna! “Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13) Then, just five days later, the same people were yelling for Jesus to be crucified. What changed their cheers to jeers? Jesus had not met their expectations.

On Good Friday, Pilate brings Jesus before the people and asks them, “What crime has he committed?” They replied by shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Matthew tells us, “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”” (27:23-25) This was no longer an anonymous posting like with the car rentals, they name themselves and their children to bear the blame of his death. It is one thing to make a threat; it is another to sign your name to it!

The people believed Jesus was the Messiah that the prophets had promised; he was their hope for deliverance. However, the deliverance they expected from Jesus would not be the deliverance he brought. Where they desired deliverance from the political oppression of the Romans, Jesus brought spiritual deliverance from the oppression of sin. The Messiah they desired would lead a rebellion against the Romans, where the Messiah they needed would sacrifice himself on the cross for their sins.

When Pilate asked the people if he should release Jesus or Barabbas, the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas’ release and to have Jesus executed. They were easily persuaded because they believed that Jesus had failed to deliver them. As he stood before them, beaten and defeated, they were filled with hatred. Why? They were enraged because Jesus had lifted their hopes and then dashed them. However, this was because they had hoped for the wrong thing.

This takes me back to the experience with the car rental company. The problem was not with the company’s poor service, the problem was with false expectations. The desire to get something for nothing had deceived people. When the company could not deliver, they lashed out in rage. Can we not see how easily we too can be deceived and manipulated by sinful desire?

When we examine Palm Sunday, we see that Jesus’ eyes were fixed on the cross as he entered Jerusalem. The chief priests and the elders sought to destroy Jesus by stirring up the crowd and manipulating them to demand for him to be crucified. However, he is not defeated in death; death sets the stage for the victory that comes Easter morning.

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