The large crowd listened to him with delight.
I remember the first time I heard the delight of the crowd. I was twelve. It was what would be considered Middle School today, but then it was Junior High. I was running for the student government. I wrote a speech. I delivered it to the entire school assembled in the gymnasium. It delighted the crowd, and I confess: the crowd’s delight delighted me.
It was a really innocent moment as I look back on it and realize just how young I was. Who can look back on their coming-of-age years without both laughing and cringing? And of course, those same coming-of-age years is when I learned all the hard lessons of being “in” and/or “out” of different social groups. It did not take long for me to learn just how thin the line is between delighting the crowd and displeasing them.
The events of today’s chapter took place on Tuesday of the final week of Jesus’ earthly exile. It is the week of Passover, the biggest of the annual Jewish festivals and Jerusalem is swelling with crowds who have come to worship at the Temple. Mark established back in chapter three that the Chief Priests and religious power brokers began looking for an opportunity to kill Jesus. In chapter eight, Mark mentions it again.
As I read the chapter in the quiet, I found myself meditating on the role that “the crowd” plays in this escalating conflict between Jesus and the institutional religious leaders. Forty-eight hours before the events in today’s chapter, the crowd was cheering for Jesus as He entered the city on the back of a borrowed donkey. For two days, Jesus’ enemies have been publicly challenging Him with questions intended to trip Him. Instead, Jesus turns the tables on them time-and-time again.
The crowd is delighted.
Mark makes note that the institutional authorities are afraid of arresting Jesus because of the crowd.
The crowd is powerful on multiple levels. The crowd‘s delight is as potent and addictive as crack (“Look at all the “Likes”! Look at the page hits! OMG! I’m positively viral! I’m trending!”). The crowd can make you or break you.
The crowd is a fickle lover.
It’s easy for me to overlook it, but the crowd has been a constant player in Jesus’ story. Jesus has been with the crowd for three years. The crowd followed Him everywhere. The crowd pressed in on Him until He had to get into a boat and teach from out on the water. The crowd cheered when, multiple times, He sprung for an all-you-can-eat fish-sandwich buffet. The crowd quickly abandoned Him when He switched the menu and said that the real meal was His very own flesh-and-blood.
…many people noticed the signs [Jesus] was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. John 2:24-25 (MSG)
The crowd can be manipulated.
The crowd can be bought.
In about 48 hours, Jesus’ enemies will arrest Him at night out of sight of the crowd. They will quickly try him at daybreak while the crowd is still sleeping. A few hours later, the crowd will be screaming at the Roman Governor to nail Jesus to a cross.
In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the crowd on this earthly journey. Along my life journey, I have regularly been in the various public spotlights even if it’s on a relatively small scale. I have had to navigate my own desires, emotions, reactions, responses, and experiences with the crowd. I’ve felt the crowd‘s delight, and I’ve know the crowd‘s displeasure.
As a follower of Jesus, I’ve learned that I can’t be a follower of the crowd. The paths are divergent. It’s too easy to showing up for the all-you-can-eat buffet of the nice sayings of Jesus that delight the crowd as they cut them out of context with a cultural exacto knife. Being a follower of Jesus means that while the crowds enjoy their fish sandwiches, Jesus beckons me to take up my cross and follow Him to an upper room where the menu is His flesh broken for me, His blood shed for me.
It is there that I see the crowd in Jesus’ context.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.