Have you ever been to a concert? A sporting event? A political rally? Then you know that nothing gets people more riled up than a huge and wild crowd. In the Gospel of Luke, "crowd" is a word that is used to talk about Jewish people in general. He also calls them by the oh-so-specific word, "people."
In the opening chapters, Luke makes it majorly clear that Jesus has come for these "people" (1:17; 2:32). And as the story unfolds, the "crowd" and the "people" are everywhere, mobbing Jesus (4:42; 5:1; 6:17, 19; 8:19, 40, 42, 45; 9:11; 12:1; 14:25), listening to his lectures (5:1, 3, 15, 19; 7:24; 8:4; 12:1, 54; 20:45; 21:38), asking him questions and making requests (9:38; 11:27; 12:13; 19:39), feeling awe and joy over his miraculous moves (11:14; 13:17), and praising God (7:16, 29; 18:43).
But we can't forget, there's a definite distinction between the real followers of Jesus and these crowds who won't make the full commitment or go the extra mile. The non-followers like the fanfare and miracles, but don't want to endure the tough stuff. They also can't understand that Jesus is the Messiah. Instead, they're pretty sure he's John the Baptist or Elijah or another of the ancient prophets returned from the dead (9:18-19; also, 9:7-9).
Come to think of it, they don't sound that much different than the disciples.
Fast forward to the closing chapters of Luke, and things get pretty sticky.
On one hand, the people's reception of Jesus in Jerusalem is overwhelmingly positive and their love for him is what helps prevent the religious leaders from getting to him (19:47-48; 20:6; 22:6). On the other hand, when push comes to shove, the "people" are the ones who "all together" shout, "Away with this fellow" (23:18), and then even more violently, "Crucify, crucify him!" (23:21).
There's your million-dollar question: what on earth just happened? Why the sudden shift in attitude?
Sure, the people are soon mourning for Jesus (23:27; 23:48), but this momentary lapse of the Jewish will cost them and their children very dearly. Yep, it will mean the destruction of their city (19:41-44). Oops.
The only explicit explanation for the people's momentary rejection of Jesus in 23:18-21 comes in 19:42: "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes" (19:42). So is fate just fate?
That's not a rhetorical question. It's really worth a good debate.