Note: Today’s Sunday Sermon is a reprise of one of brother Greg’s earlier postings from Jun 13th, 2010. It is one of my favorites, in fact. Family demands precluded him from offering a “new” post today–He offers an apology but I see it not as a let-down. Rather, it’s an opportunity to again be lifted up by a great and inspirational post. God Bless, -Jeff
‘Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge — to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At the time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?” For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barrabas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”‘ (Matthew 27:11-23, NIV)
Approved by the Mob
In the 2010 primary election season, the political winds of fortune have been fueled by a disaffected electorate. Around the U.S., a number of incumbents have resigned, been dethroned, or have been fighting to retain their offices like never before because of general voter discontent. Whatever your political leaning, it should be refreshing and somewhat reassuring to witness the process of free citizens exercising their rights to be represented as they choose. Because of the process and rule of law, within constitutionally maintained boundaries, the majority rules by consent. The republic of the United States of America still stands (even if upon wobbly legs) because of the rule of law which preserves and upholds its founding principles.
In Matthew 27:11-23, however, one can observe the very opposite thing our founding fathers fought and argued against: mob rule. During my career as a peace officer and having been witness to a number of riots or large public fights (which later turned into riots), I have come to truly appreciate governance by the rule of law. A peaceful crowd can devolve into an unruly mob whenever there is a catalyst to incite a majority within the crowd itself. Tension may be incited by drunkenness, partisan rivalry, perceived injustice, confrontation with authority, or pre-planned instigation and agitation. Once a crowd becomes a mob, the rule of law is suspended until authority can dispel and disperse the malcontents, and this usually by force, to establish and maintain order. Rioting, looting, violence, and vandalism are the forefathers of mob rule and anarchy.
The account of Matthew reveals the circumstances in which an innocent man called Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to death, not by the rule of law but, by mob rule. The passage makes no reference to drunkenness on the part of this particular crowd. Based upon the early morning aspects of this confrontation between Roman governor Pilate and the crowd, and the culture of that time, the crowd in all likelihood was quite sober. Secondly, the writer revealed the partisan nature of the crowd (Jewish) and the perceived injustice (Jesus as a proclaimed king of the Jews.) We can also observe the seeds of malcontent being sown by the Jewish religious leaders who were actively persuading the crowd to call for Jesus’ execution. The confrontation with authority was averted by governor Pilate who, by custom (not the rule of law), allowed the crowd to determine the fate of the innocent man, Jesus.
Clearly in this story, Roman law was suspended when governor Pilate allowed an angry mob to condemn Jesus to death. For if Jesus had broken Roman law, governor Pilate would have had the authority to condemn Jesus and order the execution without delay. However, Pilate was also a political leader. In the region of Judea he was quite unpopular with the subjugated Jewish people. Rather than risk a riot by rejecting the claims against Jesus by the Jewish leaders and the mob at his doorstep, Pilate chose a politically expedient solution: appease the mob.
Mobs do not make intelligent decisions. Mobs act upon emotion (hence, the term “angry mob.”) Mobs move in the haste of the moment giving little thought to consequences. When mobs rule there is no law, only evil intent. Mob rule results in no rule at all.
I am thankful I have a right to vote for my representatives, which I exercise every election cycle. I am grateful to our founding fathers for such a carefully crafted Constitution and Bill of Rights, which preserve my rights of citizenship and the rule of law. But I am in awe of the God who allowed an angry mob to decide the fate of His Only Son, Jesus. Jesus was approved by the mob for condemnation and crucifixion. But what that angry mob meant for evil, God turned into the greatest possible good for all mankind: the forgiveness of our sins, the salvation of our souls, reconciliation with God, and everlasting life.
Nothing surprises the God of all there is. But the God of all there is never ceases to surprise me. God rules!
(copyright 2010, Gregory Allen Doyle)