By David Faust
In the first century, a cross usually drew a crowd. Onlookers gathered to stare and scoff. Some wept for the victim. Others were drawn by the same morbid curiosity that makes passersby gawk at a car accident or a tornado-ravaged town.
A mob assembled on the night of Jesus’ trial and watched him die on the cross.
Some Tried to Stir the Crowd
The governor customarily released a prisoner during the annual feast of the Passover. Should Pilate release Jesus, or set free Barabbas the murderer? The priests hurled accusations at Jesus and “stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead” (Mark 15:3, 11).
The rabble-rousers succeeded. When Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, the crowd roared, “Crucify him!” Jesus had committed no crime, and his accusers were motivated by self-interest (v. 10), but the facts gave way to the volume of their voices as “they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’” (v. 14). Mob violence prevailed on that dark day.
Someone Tried to Satisfy the Crowd
Pilate found Jesus innocent and intriguing, but in the end he yielded to the pressure of public opinion. ”Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified” (v. 15).
Foolish things are done every day “to satisfy the crowd.” Who doesn’t struggle with this temptation? To please the crowd, we’re tempted to gossip about our coworkers, tell off-color jokes, and drink too much alcohol. To please the crowd, we’re tempted to sell out our convictions and compromise our commitment to Christ. We can’t wash our hands of our responsibility any more than Pilate could.
Someone Died to Save the Crowd
Jesus wasn’t surprised by the cross. He saw it coming long before. He predicted that he would be arrested, mocked, flogged, and killed (Mark 10:32-34). Now that his time had come, the Lord endured every misery and indignity associated with crucifixion. Nails pierced his body. Soldiers gambled for his clothes. Scoffers insulted his name. The religious leaders should have led the crowds in welcoming the Son of God, but instead, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ’He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!’” (Mark 15:31).
That’s one thing he wouldn’t do—save himself. Jesus stayed on the cross to save others. He stayed there to the bitter end for the sake of the foolish crowd, to save the very kind of sinners who tortured and ridiculed him that day.
What kind of love bears unbearable hardship, endures unfathomable suffering, and forgives egregious sins? What kind of love bends and bleeds, but doesn’t break? What kind of love holds marriages together and restores broken friendships? It’s the love displayed at the cross—a love that puts aside self-interest and lays down its life for others. It’s a love that goes to the tomb, but doesn’t remain there—that comes back with a victorious cry, “He is risen!” (Mark 16:6).
The cross still draws a crowd. Some members of the crowd reject the Messiah, reviling his name. Others, though, find a wondrous attraction in that old rugged cross. They understand what Jesus meant when he said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). They are drawn to follow him, whether the rest of the crowd follows or not.
1.Which action comes more naturally for you—to stand against the crowd, or to go along with it?
2. How will you demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ this week?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for June 2, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Samuel 20, 21
2 Samuel 22
2 Samuel 23, 24
1 Kings 1
1 Kings 2, 3