Manipulating the Mob
“Hey, if you think you have the votes, go ahead and call for a congregational vote!” The challenge came in a church business meeting as lay leaders tried to call an older preacher to account for some foolish leadership decisions. Instead of responding with humility and openness, the man attacked and indicated that he believed he had a stronger hold on the popular vote of the congregation than his opposition.
It’s sad when decisions are made in churches based on who can manipulate the mob instead of humble dependence upon the Lord, his Word, and prayer. But before this kind of dirty church politics tempts me to think about turning away from church or Jesus, I need to remember how the religionists of his day manipulated the mob to cry out for release of an insurrectionist and for the murder of the Son of God.
“It was the custom at the Passover Feast to release to the people one of the prisoners that they requested. Now a prisoner named Barabbas was bound in prison with other insurrectionists because he had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and began to ask for Pilate to release a prisoner as he usually did. so Pilate asked them, ‘Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’
He knew that because of jealousy, the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. but the chief priests stirred up the crowd to get him to release Barabbas to them. And Pilate again questioned them, ‘So what do you want me to do with the one you call the King of the Jews?’ Again they shouted, ‘Crucify him!’ Then Pilate asked, ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ But they yelled even louder, ‘Crucify him!’
So wanting to please the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them and he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified.” Mark 15:6-15
Crowds still choose the rebel who appeals to their nationalistic pride and kills others over the Savior who commands us to love our enemies. Religious leaders still manipulate congregations to get rid of younger leaders they are jealous of and threatened by. They still boast about the popular support they can generate, but does the Judge of the universe decide right and wrong based on majority opinion? Secular leaders still give in to the majority even when they know it will condemn the innocent.
Before we decide to play the role of the chief priests or Pilate in our own lives, we need to take a careful look. These are not the “good guys” in this story. Their jealousy and crowd pleasing released a murderer and murdered the most innocent man who has ever lived. And in AD 70 many of these chief priests and rebels like Barabbas hung on crosses lining the roads of Jerusalem as the Romans crushed the insurrection started by nationalistic Jews in AD 67.
LORD, use the realism of what the religious and secular leaders did in this totally unjust trial of Jesus to destroy jealousy or the need to be “in with the crowd” in my own life. And thanks that in the end you even took their dark manipulation and used it to provide the sacrifice that can forgive our sins.
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