Pleasing the Crowd

Mark 15:6 – 15 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Sculptures 1 I have often thought of Pilate as the all-powerful Roman ruler. But I’ve recently come to realize that Pilate wasn’t really that powerful at all. You see, Pilate was the governor of Judea, which was just a small province. It was po-dunk, compared to Rome and some of the larger cities. And the Jewish people in the region didn’t like Romans.

So here was Pilate, a man wanting to advance in his career, stationed in Po-dunksville, where there were all sorts of rebellions and uprisings from the locals, who didn’t like the fact that they were under Roman rule. If he wanted to be promoted, he needed to do a good job where he was at. The last thing he needed was an out-and-out insurrection.

Still, he wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t want to condemn an innocent man to death, and according to Roman law, this man had committed no crime.

Crucifixion was the lowest, most shameful form of execution around. As a matter of fact, Roman citizens were never crucified. It was one of the perks of being a Roman, I suppose. Only slaves and non-Roman rebels were condemned to crucifixion.

Pilate had an innocent man and an angry crowd on his hands. What was he to do? If he condemned an innocent man to die, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. If he didn’t appease the crowd, there would certainly be trouble, and he would look bad in the eyes of his superiors. If he wanted that promotion, he had to appease the crowd.

He was really hoping the crowd would be reasonable. After all, Barabbas was a real scoundrel – a rebel of the worst kind. Yet, there were those in the crowd who saw Barabbas as some kind of hero, for rebelling against Rome. When Pilate offered to let them choose to release one man, Jesus or Barabbas, they chose Barabbas.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

Crucify him.

I suppose in Pilate’s way of thinking, he didn’t have a choice. After all, his career depended on it. Sometimes, you have to step on a few people and break a few rules if you want to get to the top.

But the truth is, Pilate was weak. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

I wonder how many times I’ve acted like Pilate, succumbing to the wave of peer pressure instead of standing for what is right. I know there have been times when I’ve allowed public opinion to influence my decisions, instead of letting God’s standard of right and wrong be the determining factor.

Sometimes, doing the right thing isn’t doing the popular thing. But I want to be a person who always does the right thing, no matter the consequences.

Dear Father, Forgive me for allowing popular opinion to sway me to do things I know aren’t right. Help me to be strong enough to do what is right, no matter what.


4 Responses to Pleasing the Crowd

  1. February 20, 2009 #

    I have read a similar post earlier today Renae:

    Oh, and I think she may be Texan…..

  2. February 20, 2009 #

    Wow, Jackie. God must be trying to tell His people something. That two women who have no knowledge of one another would post such similar thoughts on the same day . . .

    Then again, we’ve had that experience before, haven’t we?

  3. February 21, 2009 #

    Thanks for this post, Renae. Next week will bring a situation in which I know my weakness for being a people pleaser could dominate. I want God’s standard to be what guides me and not what people might think and say. I need His strength to stand for what is right and honorable and ethical and His wisdom to recognize the things that are not. I needed to read this today.

  4. February 21, 2009 #

    Will be praying for you, Jeanette. We all have those times, and it can be tough – but I know you will do the right thing.

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