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Power of the Crowd - John 19



In Chapter 19 of the Gospel of John, Jesus was beaten and questioned by Pilate.  Pilate kept trying to release Jesus, but the crowd was insistent that he be killed.  When they questioned Pilate's commitment to Caesar, Pilate reluctantly ordered to have him crucified.  The soldiers gambled for his clothing and stuck a crown of thorns on his head.  They mocked him, placing a sign that said "King of the Jews" above him.  Jesus' mother and friends were there, and Jesus told one of his disciples to care for his mother.  He said he was thirsty and the soldiers gave him vinegar with a sponge.  After this he bowed his head and died.  They pierced his side to be sure he was dead and then removed him from the cross.  Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple, asked for his body and placed him in a tomb in the nearby garden.

As I was reading this I was struck by how powerless Pilate seemed.  Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea.  He was a brutal leader, known for massacres and bloodshed.  He was eventually called back to Rome to answer for his cruelty.  Yet, somehow, here, he seemed carried along by the crowd.  During this time in Judea, Jerusalem was known for turmoil and unrest.  Pilate would have seen many rebels and upstarts in his tenure.  In fact Barabbas, whom he released in the last chapter, may have been an insurrectionist, not a thief.   I suspect that Pilate was simply protecting himself here.  He didn't want to have Jesus crucified, but he also didn't want to answer to Rome for another uprising.  Caesar was known for killing governors who allowed revolts to happen in their districts.  

All of this speaks to the power of the gathered people.  This example demonstrates that the crowd can demand terrible things, but our history shows us that the crowd can also demand needed positive changes.  How many changes in our culture have come only as the result of crowds of gathered people demanding change?  I think we need to remember that our politicians are just humans, they will follow their own agendas, until the crowd demands something more of them.  We can let the crowd demand evil and cruel things, like they did of Pilate, or we can set aside the status quo approach and gather our own crowds to demand changes that look more like Kingdom values.  

God help us to know when we should gather a crowd and make some noise.  Give us the wisdom to demand the right things.  Let the spirit prompt us to speak when we should speak.  Give us courage to stand up when we should be standing strong.  Lord, make this place more like your place.  

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