Were you there—when they crucified my Lord?
3. Murderous Mob
Luke 23:13-25 (NIV)
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people,
14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”
18 With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” 23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.
24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
The tyranny of peer pressure
Now we tackle something most of us experience at some time and hate: the power and wicked effect of peer pressure. We will see it at work on a large scale now, when a murderous mob corrupts even occupying Rome’s powerful justice system. As we have seen, Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor and judge, wrongly and unjustly gives in to the crowd, who are so easily manipulated by the corrupt religious leaders. He knows that Jesus is innocent of their fake charges. But now Jesus must die.
Only a short time earlier, the crowds went wild to welcome Jesus on Palm Sunday, as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. They knew He was the Saviour, but they guessed the wrong kind of saviour. They hoped he would lead them to rebel against the Roman occupation of Israel. So, as Jesus went to town, in Jerusalem, on a donkey—which is how a king ceremonially entered a city—they ‘went to town’ in another way. They raved and repeatedly shouted ‘Hosanna’ (meaning ‘save now’) and threw their clothes and palm branches in the road for Him to pass over as He rode the donkey along. (Matthew 21:9, 15; John 12:13). They had seen Jesus’ love for those He healed, comforted, and helped. He had even raised some dead people to life. But those people who were in the earlier crowds, but now were shouting for His blood, obviously did not heed what He was teaching.
Asking too much?
Jesus wanted them to turn from their wrongs, both nationally and personally, and put their trust in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of them needed to trust and follow Him. They also needed to believe and obey God’s written word, namely the Scripture. That was asking too much of many people, and the ‘Jesus craze’ of many passed. Others, however, like His disciples, experienced a real about-turn in their lives causing them also to trust and follow Jesus and His word. Many Jews were sick of the shallow and sham living of so many of their religious leaders, especially the Pharisees. They ‘talked the talk’ but did not ‘walk the walk’, or even attempt to walk it. The Bible calls that ‘hypocrisy’. It means ‘play acting’. Jesus unreservedly condemned it, even more than many obvious and easily recognized sins. (Matthew 23:23-29). So, those crooked religious leaders hated Jesus, and schemed to kill Him, with the ever-cynical support and help from their sly High Priest. (John 5:18, 18:13).
Religious sinners need to be saved too—even leaders
That is why their religious leaders wickedly manipulated the once admiring crowd against Jesus and insisted on His death. We will examine those leaders later in this series, but, for now, please note that a man or woman can be extremely religious and still not know or please God. That is true if that person is nominally ‘Christian’ or from any other religion. He or she is nevertheless a sinner needing to be saved from sin, self, judgment and Hell. (Hebrews 9:27). That does not happen just by being religious.
What the good news is
The message of the Christian ‘gospel’ (which means ‘good news’) starts with the unpleasant fact that I have offended God’s righteous and holy laws and so deserve His punishment. It also stresses that I am not and never can be good enough for Heaven through what I am or what I can do. (Romans 3:23). But the good news is that the Lord Jesus Christ can and wants to save me. (1 Timothy 1:15). He wants to change my life now and give me eternal life. As He changes me to serve Him, God will give me His peace and joy. (Romans 15:13). The risen and living Lord guarantees that, as soon as I come to trust Him, He instantly gives me eternal life. He also gives it to all who ask Him into their lives. He enters our lives by the Holy Spirit. (John 14:27).
Back to the fickle crowd
Now let us get back to the fickle and murderous mob. Even when Judge Pilate says he has examined the case against Jesus and dismissed it as wrong and unjust, they are manipulated to bellow out with one voice, ‘Crucify Him. Crucify Him.’ Pilate tries to talk them out of that terrible and biased prejudice at least twice more. But a violent mob, full of hatred, has no time for justice, truth or fairness. (Mind you, most of them would hope for and expect it for themselves from others!) Pilate tells them he and King Herod reached the same conclusion after hearing and considering the facts. That makes no difference to the mob.
When, finally, Pilate says he will punish innocent Jesus before them (you might ask, ‘Why?’) and then let Him go, they again cry out for His blood. This usually fearsome and strong Roman leader crumbles. He releases the notorious murderer, insurrectionist, thief, and gang leader, Barabbas. (We met him last time.) His name, Bar-abbas, literally means ‘the son of the father’. As such he is a picture of us all—we all are sons or daughters of our fathers. Just as our fathers committed sins and need Jesus’ forgiveness, so do we.
Jesus loved them, died and rose again
But Jesus loved them, died and rose again for them, and offered to change them from within. Similarly today, He loves you and wants to bless you, too. Throughout centuries men and women have received Him as their living Lord and Saviour. You need to do the same. Repent with your whole heart and trust Him also wholeheartedly. He is still the only Saviour. (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). He will save you from sin in three ways. He will forgive your past to save you from punishment. He will also save, bless, strengthen, help and change you now on earth by His Holy Spirit as He gives you eternal life. He will save you and receive you in Heaven when you die.
What we can learn from the murderous mob
The murderous mob teaches us two important lessons for life:
First, never follow a crowd because it ‘shouts loud’. The very well-travelled ‘broad way’ leading to Hell is broad enough for all kinds of beliefs, errors and sins. Few on it accept Jesus’ invitation to move off it onto the ‘narrow way’ to life and Heaven. But God gives strength, peace and joy to those who repent and make that choice, by God’s grace.
Second, never trust teaching about God unless you can find it endorsed in His word, the Bible. Others will have their views, but remember that no religion, religious belief, procedure, ceremony, good works or person other than Jesus can ever save you.
Only trusting in Jesus can do that! Trust in Him, now! (2 Corinthians 6:2).