One of the most horrific episodes in American history is what happened to people who were black in the south after the Civil War. They began to prosper in many different ways, and that threatened many people who were white. As time went on, the practice of lynching became commonplace – even being advertised ahead of time. Black people were killed in a mob atmosphere and body parts were displayed as those who perpetrated these horrendous crimes showed off their “victories.” People who spoke against this practice found themselves threatened by the mobs, and many died. In many cases, the crime was that a black man had flirted with a white woman. That was the case in the murder of Emmett Till who was murdered in 1955 over what we know is a false accusation.
Lynching has always been a “mob action” kind of crime. No one is “brave” enough to do the crime on their own, but fueled by the cheers of their buddies, people will take those steps. Mark Twain dealt with the issue in the book Huckleberry Finn when a mob came out ready to kill a man they considered a murderer, but fled when he stood up to them. Jesus was a victim of that mob action. Pilate tried to stand up to them, letting the Jewish leaders know that he could find no crime in His life that deserved death. But the mob kept shouting. Pilate brought Jesus out three times to proclaim His innocence. The third time was the last. “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.” (Luke 23:23-24)
Pilate had a problem. If he refused to crucify Jesus, he had no doubt that the Jews would riot. That would cause him to lose his position as the Roman ruler over that area. While he was trying to do what was right, he ultimately decided that the life of this little known messiah wannabe (as he thought) wasn’t worth standing up to the Jews. The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus to be put to death because it was better that one man, Jesus, die so that the nation could be saved. Their fear was that if Jesus mobilized the masses, the Romans would come in and ravage the nation of Israel. They not only out the onus on Pilate to carry out the execution, they got the crowds, perhaps some of them people who had cheered Jesus into Jerusalem less than a week earlier, to cry out for His crucifixion. This was a mobocracy at work. The majority who showed up to vote early that morning voted for Jesus to be crucified, and eventually Pilate complied.
Mobs can be a lot of fun. You don’t have to think to join one. You just shout what everyone else is shouting. If you know why you’re there, you know that your solution is the only one so you shout all the louder making sure that other voices can’t be heard. As Christians, we need to be careful about joining groups that might become a mob. We must always be willing to listen to other viewpoints. We must always remember that we could be wrong, or that there may be alternative ways of taking care of the problem at hand. As followers of Christ, we should never be shouting so loud that we can’t hear others. We should never be shouting so loud that the object of our anger can’t hear from God. We should never be so sure of ourselves that we can’t see the point that others are trying to make. We are not a mob.
Oh Lord, help me to listen to You, follow You, and be open to others who may hear you differently. Remind me to show Your love and compassion even to those who think differently.
Daily Devotion by Bob James