12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”
14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written,
15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.
17 So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him.
18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.
19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

Think back to the last sporting event you attended or watched on TV. Consider how the fans in the crowd behaved throughout the event. It is probable that all of us can bring to mind instances where we or others have acted fanatically in the crowd of a sporting event. A common image that may come to mind is a man with his shirt off and his face and chest painted in team colors. What makes this behavior normal in the setting of a sporting event while it would be considered highly abnormal in a grocery store? And further, the individuals who behave in such ways at a sporting event may never even consider behaving in such an excited manner in other settings.

There are multiple factors at play here. One is that these individuals are displaying what they are passionate about. Another factor, and one that is significant, is that individuals often act in accordance with the expectations of the crowd they are in. In psychological terms, this is often referred to as mob or herd mentality.

When we consider the crowds that cheered Jesus as He entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross, a common cliché is that there were likely many in this crowd who cheered Jesus that also jeered Him and called for His crucifixion before Pilate. What would lead to such a drastic change? One factor certainly would have been the collective mentality of the crowds. The same level of excitement that surrounded Jesus in this passage was turned against Him before Pilate.

As those following Jesus, we must be careful that our words and actions are not dictated by the crowds that we find ourselves in. While there community of the church can influence our words and deeds positively, we are also prone to be overly influenced by the majority view in the world, if this is our foundation for behavior. Instead, our foundation must be the Word of God and the truth about Jesus as it has been revealed in the gospel. We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal these things to us, and not the prevailing wisdom of those around us. As we seek to live according to God’s truth, we can take heart that God has promised to give wisdom to those who seek Him (James 1:5).

• When was a time you were influenced by a crowd, whether positively or negatively?

• How does God use the crowd mentality of the church for His purposes, as we together rely on the truth of His Word?

• Pray that you would be guided by the truth of God and not the prevailing opinions of men.