The Pressure of the Crowd

The Pressure of Popular Opinion

Matthew 27:11-26

“And all the people said, ‘His blood shall be on us and our children!”


            The hardest thing to do is stand alone when the crowds are against you.  The question that often confronts us is how the crowds could go from proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah five days later to shouting for his crucifixion. The answer lies in the pressure of the crowds.

            The Jews did not have the authority to execute anyone.  To legally execute someone, they had to go through the governing authorities, which were the Romans, and follow Roman law.  Therefore, they needed Pilate to sign the execution order.  When they brought Jesus to Pilate, Pilate quickly saw that the accusations against Jesus were bogus.  Although Jesus may be guilty of violating some Jewish law, He had done nothing that warranted a death sentence.  

            As Pilate weighs his options, his wife sends him a message that she also affirms Jesus’ innocence.  In a bit of irony, It was a gentile woman who stood up for Jesus rather than the Jewish people.  Pilate was faced with a problem.  The Jewish leaders were demanding his execution, but Pilate acknowledged his innocence.

Recognizing that Jesus was popular with the people, Pilate devised a plan. He could appease the crowds by offering the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas.  The word to describe Barabbas refers to one who was an insurrectionist.  He was popular with the people because he had led a rebellion against the Romans.  However, Pilate reminds the people that Jesus is regarded as the “Christ,” the Messiah.  Surely, the people would choose Jesus, for they had been celebrating his arrival just a few days earlier.  

When Pilate gave the people a choice, the Jews persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas.  Using their power of persuasion, they manipulated the crowd to shout for Barabbas and demand the crucifixion of Jesus.  The crowds, who were calling “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” were now shouting, “Crucify him.” Faced with the pressure of the crowd, Pilate caved.  Even though he knew Jesus was innocent, he surrendered to the  pressure.

It is easy for us to ridicule and condemn the people who shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion.  It is easy to condemn Pilate for his refusal to release a man he knew was innocent.  Yet, we often fall prey to the same pressure.  We are living in a world that is increasingly rejecting and ridiculing the Bible.  We are constantly told that the Bible is filled with errors of science and moral teaching.  The Biblical account of creation is a far-fetched story that is unscientific.  The moral biases of the writers hopelessly corrupt the moral teaching of the Bible.  While the Bible contains good moral teachings and some truth about God, we need to sort through the good from the distorted.  Thus, we are confronted with the same question: Will we be swayed by the pressure and follow the crowds, or will we stand firm in our faith and stand for Christ?  Paul warns in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of god, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Faith is willing to stand alone and live for Christ no matter how unpopular it may be with the crowds.  It is to accept His Word as the final authority rather than popular opinion. The most challenging thing to do is to stand alone in the face of the pressure of the crowd when they are against you.  This is when faith is genuinely revealed. Genuine faith trusts in Christ and His Word regardless of what other might think.


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