Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Mark 15:15 (NIV)
Much of our earthly journey is spent satisfying different crowds. We learn to satisfy our parents and family systems when we’re young, and quite commonly find that we’re still unconsciously playing the same familial roles as adults to keep that system satisfied. We modify our behavior as adolescents and young adults to satisfy our peer group(s). The truth is that it’s quite common for us to unwittingly continue the process in our social systems, work systems, and religious systems. We satisfy the crowd in order to fit in, be accepted, and successfully navigate our social world.
My company is all about helping our client companies identify what satisfies and dissatisfies “the crowd” known as their customer base or their market. In order to succeed, businesses need to increase satisfaction and diminish dissatisfaction in the right places. We help our clients’ team members learn how to manage their communication with customers to increase their satisfaction.
Politics (of every persuasion and on both sides of the aisle) is all about satisfying the crowd. In fact, it’s about satisfying different crowds at different times. Politicians regularly modify their words and behavior to satisfy the “base” crowd necessary just to get nominated. Then they alter their words and behavior to satisfy a larger crowd that includes “swing voters” in order to get elected. Once elected, politicians alter their words and behavior constantly and on-the-fly to manage satisfaction across multiple crowds including constituents, their political party, a variety of lobbies, big donors, the press, as well as broader public opinion.
It struck me in today’s chapter that Mark states Pilate’s conviction and judgment of Jesus was made “wanting to satisfy the crowd.” Pilate was a politician, and the region he governed a political powder keg waiting to go off (and it did just 40 years later). Above all else, the Roman Empire valued peace and order in their colonies along with a steady stream of money or “tribute.” While the Roman Empire was not known for valuing individual human life, Pilate’s multiple appeals to “the crowd” seem to indicate his desire not to execute a man who had committed no crimes. In the end, however, the decision was quite easy for a politician to make. Pilate had to maintain peace and order, and it was especially true during that week of the Passover festival when the population of Jerusalem swelled five times its normal size. Pilate could ill afford the tactical political mistake of pissing off the Jewish temple leaders. They had obviously incited the crowd against Jesus, they could equally incite a riot against Rome.
I couldn’t help but remember John’s observation from an earlier visit Jesus made with His followers to Jerusalem for the Passover:
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.John 2:23-24
Jesus stood silent before the kangaroo court and political circus around Him, because the ways of His Kingdom run opposite those of this world.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself contemplating the ways in which I “satisfy the crowd.” Certainly, there are ways in which I do so that are normal, natural, and benign. It’s how we do life and live in community with our fellow human beings. The real question is, “Where do I find myself speaking, thinking, and acting to ‘satisfy’ the crowd when it is leading me away from the path of Christ?”
Note: Featured photo Pilate Washing His Hands by Rembrandt. Public Domain. From the Met Collection.