So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:16

We’ve referred to the Passover in a couple of the previous reflections. This was the feast of the Jews commemorating their liberation from Egypt after 450 years of slavery. The angel of death descended on Egypt and killed the first born in each household. The only way to avoid this was to take the blood of a lamb (which was killed outside the city wall with none of its bones broken on the day of preparation before the Sabbath). This sets up three things. First, the Jews were celebrating Passover at the time of the crucifixion. Second, Jesus is the new Passover Lamb, killed outside the city wall at noon on the day of preparation for the Sabbath, none of His bones broken. And third, our feast of Pascha (which is the Orthodox word for Easter, our feast of the Rsurrection) literally translates as Passover. So our Pascha is the New Passover, because by the blood of Christ, we pass from death to life.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem during the week of the Passover. There were probably tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people who were in the city for the occasion. Many of them knew who Jesus was. His fame had spread throughout the region because of His teaching and miracles. Remember the feeding of the 5,000 men, plus women and children—that was probably 15,000 people who experienced that miracle and knew it was Jesus who had done it. Many had heard about the raising of Lazarus, just the day before. In fact, the Gospel of John tells us that the reason why many people went out to see Jesus enter into Jerusalem is that they “heard He had done this sign,” (John 12:18) the Messianic sign of raising the dead.

People lined the streets and greeted Jesus as He came into the city as if He were a king. They waved palm branches, in front of Him. They laid their garments on the streets so He would pass over them on the donkey He was riding on. They cheered “Hosanna” for Him. And five days later, they lined the streets again, and this time they chanted “Crucify Him!” And they waved fists in anger, spit on Him, derided Him, and once He exited the city and was crucified, they all abandoned Him and went about their business, satisfied that He would be killed and they would never hear from Him again.

How can we explain that the sentiments of the crowd turned from adulation to condemnation, from praise to murder in just five short days?

I can think of at least three possibilities:

  1. Lack of knowledge and just going along with the crowd. Perhaps there were people standing in the crowd on Palm Sunday who didn’t really know who Jesus was, but when the crowd started cheering for Him, they all went along because it was the popular thing to do. And on Good Friday, the same people, who still didn’t know anything, started jeering at Him, again just going along with the crowd.
  2. Anger and misunderstanding Who Jesus was. There were probably people in the crowd who had some understanding of Jesus as a king. They probably had the thought that He would overthrow the Romans and restore their country to them. What a better time to do it than the Passover! They cheered for the man on the donkey while perhaps wondering why it wasn’t a chariot and where were the armies He commanded. And then Jesus was in Jerusalem for five days and nothing changed. So when Jewish leaders demanded crucifixion for their own reasons, others in the crowd might have thought “we have our reasons too (Jesus’ failure to liberate the city)” and demand crucifixion as well.
  3. Lack of commitment and fear. There were undoubtedly people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah in the crowd. People who had heard the Sermon on the Mount, people who had been fed with five loaves and two fish, probably even people who had been healed by Jesus at some point. But when they heard the volume of the chants for crucifixion, when they saw the tide turned against Jesus, they couldn’t commit for fear of what might happen to them.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we are all in the crowd. Jesus has come to save us. For two thousand years, the message of salvation has been shared by the Church. Billions have chosen the path to salvation. And billions more have made that path difficult, have persecuted those on the path, have denied Christ, or are ignorant of Him still. There are some who also have never heard of Him. You and I are in the crowd. And in many pockets of our country, the crowd is becoming hostile against Jesus, demanding that His teachings be modified, demanding He be canceled, declaring Him to be the problem rather than the Savior. And like those people in the crowd in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, we each have a decision to make. Will we shout “Hosanna!”? Will we shout “Crucify Him!”? Will we remain silent? Those are our choices.

Revelation 3:16 reads: “Because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.” Some of us have a lot of knowledge of Christ and some of us have little. This is God’s condemnation on those who stand silent in the crowd. This leaves us then two choices—either we are with Christ, or we are not. And our belief cannot merely be acknowledgement but action, it can’t merely be sentiment but it has to be trust. And trust requires action, it requires us to commit.

Psalms 37:5 tells us to “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act” and Proverbs 16:3 tells us “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” People in those crowds two thousand years ago were not committed. They were lukewarm. There is virtually no way a person could treat Jesus like a king and mean it, and then five days later demand He be murdered and mean it. There was a lack of commitment in the first crowd, and then fear, as well as lack of commitment in the second one. If we are going to be serious about our Christianity, we have to stop listening to the crowd, because the crowd will change its opinions based on the sentiment of the day. (Remember 9/11, it was “cool” to be a Christian back then, everyone wanted to sing “God bless America!”) We have to stop listening to the crowd and listen to our own hearts, commit in our own being, and then trust God, even if it means the crowd goes against us. And that’s hard, and that’s scary. But that’s also faith. Jesus died for us, He did what was hard and scary. And what He did demands a response. Our commitment.

God is the Lord and He appeared to us. O Christians, appoint a feast, and with exultant joy come and let us magnify the Christ, waving our palm-leaves and branches, crying aloud in hymns: “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord our Savior.” (9th Ode, Palm Sunday, Orthros, trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes, from AGES digital chant stand)

Use this Holy Week to assess your commitment to Christ and to recommit. Stop listening to the crowd, and in prayer, worship and Scripture reading, listen to the voice of God speaking to your own heart and soul.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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