This Week's Article

This Week's Article



Following the Crowd

By Colly Caldwell

   “The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ They said, ‘Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, ‘What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said to him, ‘Let him be crucified’ (Matt.27:20-22).

   Jesus was definitely on His way to the cross. No playwright could have scripted it with more emotion. It was dramatic. Religious authorities were frightened by Jesus’ growing popularity. He was upsetting everything they held dear. They had to stop Him. And so they took him to the Roman Governor. Pilate, seeking a way out, appealed to the crowd with a proposition that he thought would be a no-brainer. He would release Jesus, who had only “spoken good” in His teachings and “done good” in his works; or he would release a known murderer. The crowd shouted, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas.”

   The name “Barabbas” comes from the Hebrew “bar” (meaning “son”) and “abba” (meaning father). His name was literally, “son of the father.” How different he was from Jesus who called Himself “Son of Man” and who was in fact the “Son of God the Father of all.” Some of the early manuscripts even called the rebel “Jesus Barsabbas.” Jesus was a common name in those days, but it is ironic that the crowd had the choice between Jesus the criminal and Jesus the Savior; between the evil “son of the father” of this world and the “son of man” who came to seek and to save the world in the name of the true Father of us all. And so they cried, “Give us Barabbas.” The crowd of humanity is still rejecting the Son of God in favor of those who represent sinfulness.

   Our point today is that it is very difficult for many (perhaps most) people to go against the crowd. Like Pilate, we “throw Jesus under the bus” and choose instead to be influenced by peers who ridicule Him and make fun of those who follow Him.

   I recently ran across an interesting study by a research professor who supposedly found that 15% of Americans are “chronic worriers;” i.e., they worry virtually all the time. He also wrote that the single most frequent source of worry is not a phobia we might think: war, financial disaster, loss of job, AIDS, cancer, heart attack, death, or divorce. He says that the single most frequent source of worry is what other people think about us. “What will others say?” “Will others think less of me?” “Will I be laughed at?” “Will I be excluded?” He may be right.

   There is the old tale of the mountain preacher who kept a snake in a box on the pulpit. Every now and then, he would take it out and hold it up before the congregation shouting, “God told me this snake would not harm me.” One Sunday during an exceptionally animated sermon, the crowd began to chant, “Take out the snake, brother.” He didn’t-want to, but they kept on., Finally he reached into the box to get it and it bit him. He lived, but just barely. The next time he responded, “I’ll do it when the Lord tells me, not when you tell me.” That should serve as a warning to all us preachers… and to all other children of God. We need to do what God says and not what the people of the world around us say.

   I love every member of this congregation, younger or older. I am so proud of you, your works of faith and love for the Lord and for the brethren. If I seem to be strident sometimes in warning about the dan-gers of the world and succumbing to peer pressure, it is because I must. And further, I have been there and had to repent a few times for not saying “No.” We all know it takes courage to say “No” to smoking or drinking or drugs or sex or any of the snares that make victims out of so many precious people. And it takes courage when moral or ethical decisions are in front of us to say, “I choose Jesus” over what others want me to say or do! It also takes courage to resist the urge for immediate gratification, the urge to be accepted, and the urge to prove that you love the one urging you to do wrong. But there are enormous payoffs that will sustain you in life and continue with you even to the grave…blessings like a healthy body, self-respect, and lasting relation-ships…but more than those, the blessings of peace with God and eternal salvation.  Actually, we should come to the point that we are offended by the appeals and influences of the crowd. Faith calls for us to choose Jesus with the simple purpose of glorifying God and honoring Christ. One day, we will stand before Him in judgment. Who, on that day, will we want to have heard and followed?