The state fair. Six Flags. Walt Disney World. Your birthday party.
Each of these is one event in time. For the most part it is expected that we will enjoy ourselves while the event is occurring (I say “for the most part,” because sometimes those roller coasters at Six Flags can get hairy). But then, shortly after returning home, the thrill goes away and normal routines take over.
This past Sunday (April 5) was Palm Sunday. There was a carnival atmosphere as the expectant people gathered along the street leading into Jerusalem, coats and palm branches in hand. I can imagine the excited chatter as neighbors, friends, and family members took their places and kept an eye down the street awaiting Jesus’ arrival. Then someone may have shouted, “There he is!” and, as Jesus strode by on the borrowed donkey, the coats and branches were laid on the roadway while shouts of “Hosanna!” arose from the crowd. What great excitement! It was party time, and everyone was caught up in the celebration. Then, as Jesus continued past them, riding into the city, they watched him ride out of their sight. Picking up their coats and clearing the street of the branches, they returned home, perhaps sharing their impressions of what they had experienced, but soon falling back into the normal, expected routines of preparing for day’s end: fixing dinner and getting ready for bed, much the same as we do today after a day at the state fair.
Is it such a puzzlement, then, that the same people would have such a radical change of mind by Friday, when they learned that Jesus was on trial? Preachers tend to shame the crowds when they deliver their Palm Sunday sermons with words along the lines of, “Those people who praised Jesus on Sunday were the very same ones who called for his crucifixion on Friday. Such hypocrites!”
The people had five days to change their minds. What were they doing during those five days? We don’t know. The focus of the story is on Jesus, not the people. They were very likely involved in their everyday lives of sheep-herding, farming, baking, drawing water from a well, etc. They knew nothing of the politics playing out in Pontius Pilate’s palace until that Friday when word was spread that Jesus had been arrested and was on trial. Being so easily swayed in their thinking, and desiring another occasion for their carnival mind set to kick in, they quickly gathered together and willingly fell into whatever it took to bring them some excitement, which in this case was calling for Jesus’ crucifixion.
The carnival mind set is shallow. And fleeting. And dangerous. It accounts for why the people who lined Jerusalem’s streets, full of “hosannas” and “hails” on Sunday could cry for crucifixion by Friday.
God spare us of being so malleable. God keep us from a carnival mind set.