May 6 – Mark 10-16
In our study today, we see two events that see completely contradictory. In Mark 11, we see Jesus entering Jerusalem from the east, riding on a donkey’s foal. He is welcomed by a crowd who are cutting down branches to lay in the road, and crying out “Hosanna! ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” This statement was a clear indicator that in Jesus, the mass of people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of unleavened bread (Passover) saw a Savior, the Messiah Himself. The second event occurs in chapter 15, in the Praetorium, as Jesus stands before the governor Pilate. As Pilate offers to release Jesus without penalty, the priests stir up the crowd, and they begin to plead with Pilate to execute Jesus. Those haunting words ring out in unison: “Crucify Him!! Crucify Him!!” Where were the cries of “Hosanna”? Where were His disciples? How did a multitude of voices united in praise suddenly become an angry mob seeking not only blood, but horrendous suffering? While there are many things that we could say about the makeup of these two groups, the point we want to emphasize today is the phenomenon known as mob, or herd mentality.
Mob mentality is a situation where individuals in a group lose their individual identity, restraints, and morals. When Jesus stands before Pilate, a large group gathers to watch the spectacle of this trial. As Pilate questions Him, he marvels at His reluctance to defend Himself, and also finds “no fault” in Him (Lk 23:4). However, Jesus was nothing but a filthy, nuisance Jew to Pilate, and he decides to use Him to humiliate the Jewish leaders who had bothered him with this man they were envious of. He repeatedly asks the crowd if they want Jesus released. It was customary at the feast to release one prisoner, but Pilate uses this ruse to try and disgrace the Jews. He repeatedly refers to Jesus as “The King of the Jews”, a term that he knows will raise the ire, and stoke the envy of the priests and scribes. His jabs land solidly, they accomplish their task. As Pilate repeatedly taunts the crowd, the priests begin to stir them up, and this back and forth builds to an awful crescendo. The crowd becomes so filled with rage and hate that they make a terribly rash statement – “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt 27:25). How could this happen? How can people be so full of hate, so vile? Well, the truth is it happens even today in our society.
We have seen in recent years riots, angry protests, fights, and all sorts of anger from many different sectors in our society. It can be an awful thing when individuals lose their sense of self, and are caught up in this herd mentality. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be a riot – it can be a group of people who begin to hate another because they see them as the root of their problems. Leaders can incite large crowds to anger in an attempt to gain followers. We are seeing this more and more in the political world – from both of the major parties! “The illegal aliens are ruining our society”, “the rich need to pay their fair share”, and many other rallying cries are meant to have the same effect of Pilate in the Praetorium. They seek to invoke emotion in the audience so that they abandon reason and logical discourse and are moved to action. As children of God, we have a call to “judge with righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24). When we act out of fear, anger, hate, or frustration, we are allowing others to incite us to action through an emotional response – and there’s a good chance we will make a mistake! Also, we may tend to “give someone a pass” if we like them, if they agree with our sentiments. This is also sinful! The Proverbs’ writer said “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (Pro 17:15). Let’s be careful that we don’t make decisions based solely on emotion, or we may end up walking with the rest of the herd straight to the slaughter.