Were you there—when they crucified my Lord?
11. Culpable crowd
Luke 23: 27; 48-49 (NIV)
Also—Matthew 27:45-52, Mark 15:29-30; 33-38, John 19:19-22
Luke 23:27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.
Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Matthew 27:45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Mark 15:29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
John 19:19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’, but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
What the ‘Murderous mob’ did not know
In Chapter 3 we considered the ‘Murderous mob’ who, whipped up by hypocritical religious leaders, were crying for innocent Jesus to be crucified. Some of that mob would be in the crowd now to watch Jesus and the two criminals, flanking Him, die on their crosses. They did not know—as we know now—that He died there to bear our sins and take God the Father’s punishment in His body on that cross. The gospel depends on that. One hymn puts it like this:
‘Because the sinless Saviour died
my sinful heart is counted free,
for God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me’.
(‘God the Just’ simply means He is 100% righteous and fair in judging.)
Who make up the ‘Culpable crowd’?
The ‘Culpable crowd’ we feature now is not exactly the same as that mob. It seems that this ‘Culpable crowd’ consists of at least some of the following:
- some of that ‘Murderous mob’—we do not know how many
- hostile religious leaders who are trying to influence the crowd against Jesus most of the individuals we meet in each chapter of Part One of this book—some for Jesus and some against Him
- the ‘large number of people’ who follow Jesus to the cross (Luke 23:27), perhaps including some of the ‘mourning women’
- some passers-by, some who met Jesus before, heard Him preach and teach, and/or saw some of His miracles
- some secret admirers of Jesus, who hate what is happening but who are too scared to say anything that may get them into trouble
- Others who want a cheap thrill like those who watched the Reformers being burned at the stake for their faith, or victims being beheaded during the French revolution
- yet others who genuinely have not made up their minds about Jesus and want to see His response to such an ordeal and death
- Finally, just a lot of ‘ordinary’ folks, who happen to be there
Why is the crowd ‘culpable’?
Why call them the ‘Culpable crowd’? ‘Culpable’, means ‘to be blamed’. Why are they to be ‘blamed’? The reasons may vary from person to person and from group to group, as we will see shortly. But most were ‘culpable’ because, having observed all that went on around that cruel cross, they failed to respond by repenting of their sins and asking God to forgive and save them. They watched Jesus die with such bravery, integrity, dignity, compassion, love and control. The evidence is that it causes them to pass that ‘culpable’ verdict on themselves! As Luke 23:48 states: ‘When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away’ Beating your breast showed your remorse and anguish for your sin. Jesus told of a much-despised tax collector who beat his breast, as God convicted him of his sin. He prayed, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13). Jesus said he was accepted by God because he was sincere about his sin, unlike a boasting religious man, a Pharisee, who wrongly thought he was fine as he was.
Remorse or repentance?
Many in the crowd seem to decide they are sinful and unworthy too. They beat their breasts and return home in ‘remorse and anguish.’ ‘Remorse and anguish’ can lead toward repentance, but they fall short of repentance: that is, being so sorry for my sin that I confess that to God, turn from it, and give my life to Jesus in prayer.
Why do some in the crowd not respond positively to the gospel?
Perhaps the reason why the crowd members remain culpable is because of one or more of the following factors?
- They do not believe or want to believe what Jesus said, or what the clear key Old Testament prophecies they have heard or read say about Him?
- They never bother even to consider the words of Jesus or those Biblical prophecies seriously? What an insult to God!
- They believe they should turn from their sins and trust Jesus as their Saviour, but they put it off and never ‘get round to it?’
- Their fear of non-Christian opposition exceeds their willingness to believe, trust and follow the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour?
- They fall to anti-Jesus ‘peer pressure’: it is easier to ‘go with the flow’ and follow the crowd, even though that broad way will lead them to Hell forever?
But has the ‘Culpable crowd ‘done us a favour’?
But, in a sad way, this crowd has ‘done us a favour’. It encourages us to evaluate our response to the Lord Jesus Christ independently and be ready to fly in the face of the potential influence of the majority crowd. The Bible says, in Proverbs 29:25, ‘Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.’ Never follow the crowd or do things because many others do. The right alternative is to be someone who ‘trusts in the LORD.’ Beware of falling for conscious or unconscious ‘peer pressure’. ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’ (Proverbs 3:5-6). God’s Word is your map of life, the Holy Spirit is your Guide in line with that map and, if you know Jesus as your personal and living Saviour, you are living to please Him, not the crowd.
The lonely path
At times it is hard to take a path of lonely obedience to Christ when so many are telling you to go another way. But if you honour the Lord, He will surely honour, keep and help you. Remember no one gets to Heaven by following the crowd. Only Jesus is ‘the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].’ (John 14:6).
Two final valuable lessons
Please look at the other Bible verses given at the start of this message. Here are two valuable lessons to learn about the crowd:
- The crowd rarely understands or wants to understand what Jesus’ words really mean or what the Bible clearly teaches. It takes a converted, praying person, who relies on the Bible, and the indwelling Holy Spirit to understand any of God’s teachings. (Matthew 27:46-49; Mark 15:29-30).
- Do not rely on ‘religious people’, whatever religion they belong to, and however senior or expert they are in their religion. Get your teaching direct from God’s word, the Bible. Study it, after prayer, each day and also listen to it being taught on the Lord’s day (Sunday) and during the week, if you get the opportunity to join in weekday Bible studies. Remember how the religious Jews were wrong about the Lord Jesus Christ as King. (John 19:19-22). Do not rely on anyone claiming to be a Christian unless he reads, studies, trusts, shares and promotes the Bible as God’s word.
Will God give them another chance to respond?
How many of the ‘Culpable crowd’ will be in Jerusalem at Pentecost, to hear the gospel preached by Peter? Surely many of them will be there, but if so, how many of them will listen, consider and trust in Jesus? I wonder!