Palm Sunday is the Sunday set aside by many church calendars the week before Easter to remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A few days before His crucifixion Jesus road into the city on the back of a donkey. As usual He was surrounded by a large crowd of followers. On this day the crowd was immense. Jerusalem was filling with hundreds of thousands of Jews from all around the Roman Empire coming to the city to celebrate the feast of Passover. Many of these Jews had heard of the miracles Jesus had done throughout Palestine. On top of that, word of Jesus’ recent raising Lazarus from the dead had spread throughout the city. As Jesus road into Jerusalem the immense crowds began to shout their praise to Him. “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” (Mark 11:9-10).
A few days later Jesus was betrayed by Judas, taken captive by the Jewish leaders, condemned as guilty of blasphemy and presented to Pontius Pilate for official execution. Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus to death, so he sent Jesus to Herod and upon Jesus’ return Pilate had Him scourged. When those things did not satisfy the Jews demands, Pilate attempted to force the Jews into choosing to have Jesus released by offering them a choice between Jesus and a vicious criminal named Barabbas. The Jews rejected all Pilate’s pleas. In the end a large crowd was standing in front of Pilate shouting, “Crucify him.”
One obvious difference between the two crowds is the presence of Jesus’ disciples and closest followers. In the triumphal entry Jesus’ disciples were present and taking the lead in shouting praise to Jesus. On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were nowhere to be found. The twelve closest to Jesus and possibly others of those most faithful to Him fled when Jesus was arrested. The crowd in the Praetorium was led and incited by the chief priests and other Jewish leaders. The leaders of the two crowds were very different and Jesus’ closest disciples did not stand before PIlate’s judgment hall.
If the same people were in both crowds is very hard to say. One would speculate at least some of the Pharisees and more curious would have been in both crowds, but the Bible doesn’t say this. The crowd in front of Pilate was much smaller than the tens of thousands who shouted praise to Jesus a few days earlier. Jerusalem at that time was filled with several hundred thousand people so it is not necessary for the same people to be in both crowds. However, there is no reason to absolutely say they were two different groups.
The shouts of praise to Jesus when He rode into the city on a donkey were not praises for Him as God’s Son the Savior from sin. The shouts were praises for Jesus as a conquering king coming to usher in a golden age for the Jewish people. The crowd was crying out for a king to drive out the Roman invaders and reestablish Israel as an autonomous nation. Jesus had no intention of overthrowing Rome. His purpose was to die for the sin of His people. Jesus’ purpose was rejected by the majority of Jews who heard and saw Him. They rejected His claim to be God. Even if they were not in the crowd shouting for His crucifixion most would have agreed with the demand that one they considered a blasphemer be put to death.