Tag Archives: Matthew 27

The Crowd

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
Matthew 27:20 (NIV)

I have read the story of Jesus’ trial and execution countless times along my journey. It is packed with so many fascinating and meaningful moments that it’s hard to focus on one thing for a blog post like this. As I read a chapter each day I try simply to have my heart and mind open to what resonates most deeply with me in this moment, and this morning what resonated with me was the crowd.

Perhaps it’s because of the preponderance of media that gets focused on crowd events and all that we’ve witnessed in recent months and years. I’m thinking of all the marches, riots, demonstrations, and protests I’ve seen reported on the news and in social media recently. Whenever a crowd gathers it gets attention. We seem to have a lot of crowds.

There is a entire branch of sociology and psychology dedicated to understanding crowd (or mob) mentality. Interestingly enough, consensus among scholars is as hard to come by. I was intrigued, however, by the theory of Gustave Le Bon who boiled it down to three things:

  • Submergence: In the anonymity of the crowd individuals lose their sense of individual self and personal responsibility.
  • Contagion: Having lost their sense of self, individuals unquestioningly follow the predominant ideas and emotions of the crowd.
  • Suggestion: Ideas and emotions of the crowd are primarily drawn from a shared racial unconscious, uncivilized in nature, and limited by the moral and cognitive abilities of its least capable members.

Three things came to mind as I thought about the crowd shouting for Jesus’ execution.

First is the fact that five days earlier the crowd was shouting “Hosanna” as praising Jesus as “king” as He entered Jerusalem. Now the crowd has been persuaded to shout for Jesus’ blood. Wow. That’s a major drop in approval rating in just five days. It’s amazing how fickle crowds can be.

Which leads me to remembering a passage from John’s biography of Jesus. In the second chapter we find that the crowd of people believing in Jesus and following Him was growing rapidly. Jesus was trending in all the major outlets. The crowds were growing and His popularity was skyrocketing, but John records that Jesus “would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people.”

Which is why, perhaps, Jesus continued to remain silent as He stood by Pilate and witnessed the crowd that had turned on Him. Wednesday’s post about silence and spiritual authority comes back to mind. What a contrast we see in this picture. The lone figure of Jesus standing silent, bloodied, yet resolute in His mission against the submergence and contagion of the crowd whipped into a frenzy at the suggestion of Jesus’ enemies.

This morning I’m reminded of my desire to follow Jesus’ wisdom as it relates to crowds. I need to avoid entrusting my self to any crowd. This applies even to seemingly good crowds, for I’ve witnessed and been prey to crowd mentality even in nice neighborhoods, churches, social groups and communities.

I want my life, my beliefs, and my daily decisions to be guided by something more solid than the ever shifting mentality and emotion of a crowd. I want to be wise and discerning as I watch the crowd mentality emerge and “trend” in my social groups and in the media (including Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media outlets). I want my life to be focused on my mission, my role, and my responsibilities. That’s hard to do if I am unwittingly submerging my thoughts, emotions and actions to the crowd around me.

 

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 27

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...
Image via Wikipedia

But when the accusations rained down hot and heavy from the high priests and religious leaders, he said nothing. Pilate asked him, “Do you hear that long list of accusations? Aren’t you going to say something?” Jesus kept silence—not a word from his mouth. The governor was impressed, really impressed. Matthew 27:14 (MSG)

Along stretches of the journey, I’ve been accused of different things. From silly to mildly slanderous, I’ve been charged in the court of public opinion with things of which I was innocent. To be honest, some times the charges were fabrications made because of things I actually had done. I’ve made my share of mistakes. Still, it’s never easy to sense whispers behind your back when you know that what is being said is completely untrue.

There is a small toy turtle that sits on a shelf in our house. It was acquired during one particular rough stretch and it became an enduring word picture for pressing on in such times. The quiet turtle never makes a fuss. He guards his heart inside a tough shell and keeps making his way in small incremental movements forward. Like the turtle in the old fable, I am reminded by the little turtle on the shelf that  “slow and steady wins the race.”

I was reminded by Jesus’ response to His accusers in today’s chapter. Of anyone ever accused in all of history, Jesus had more reason to cry “foul” than anyone else. Despite the mocking, jeering, and insults he quietly endured. Turning the other cheek is not an act of passivity, but a conscious act of the will which requires strength of character.

Jesus trials and death sentence is the ultimate example of how fickle the court of public opinion can be. It blows hither and thither with any number of prevailing winds which have little to do with truth or fairness. Sometimes, the best way to respond is by silently moving forward step-by-step and day-by-day and allowing time to reveal what is ultimately true.

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