The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson
In the Crowd
Today we are faces in the crowd – this crowd, this crowd and the terrible role they play in this passion drama. We are them. Caught up in their fury. Their words are our words. We find those words coming out of our mouths – in terrible bursts of violence, in ugly solidarity: “Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified! He deserves to die!” Their terrible words coming out of our mouths. Here we are: we're members of the crowd. Today. And always.
They came with clubs to beat and swords to pierce – this crowd, our crowd. It's our go-to: we choose violence. The crowd heads into the darkness – a preemptive strike against the Prince of Peace. Because his peace threatened our warring madness. His love confronted our violence. And so we meet him with weapons – instruments of domination and death. Jesus says, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” And we unsheathe our swords. Lord, have mercy. Because we will not. We crucify the peacemakers.
They had a choice – this crowd, our crowd. Jesus was one of the choices. The other choice was a man Mark's Gospel tells us was a murderer. The choice before the crowd was which one dies and which one continues to live and move about freely in their society – to live amongst their friends and neighbors, to live with their spouses and children. It is the murderer who is set free. Because he is easier to understand than Jesus. Because the murderer is really just another voice in this crowd, crying, “His blood be on us.”
And they could already taste his blood. He claimed to be the King but they had the power. And each cry of “crucify” was louder than the last until there was nothing but riot – a carnal mob with an insatiable desire – the desire to destroy something beautiful. It is an ugly thing to imagine. It is even worse when that imagination becomes reality and we find their terrible words coming out of our mouths.
They derided Jesus as they passed him by – this crowd, our crowd. As if it was all a joke. As if his life and message were just a joke. The problem of Jesus was serious enough to kill but now he is no longer a threat. Instead he is a punchline, a comic tragedy. Perhaps nothing in the story is quite so horrifying as the mockery – to stare upon the bloody result of our own evil and smile a sadistic smile, crack a few jokes, and then just walk away. Members of the crowd. Today. And always.
Always - unless someone intervenes. Unless someone saves us. Unless there is a force in the universe stronger than our violence. Unless we can break from the crowd and return to the cross and gaze upon our sacred victim.
And in his eyes find our salvation. Our violence is, after all, no match for the power of love. Where we sowed death, God is causing new life to break through. And the blood which we called upon ourselves is now upon our lips: the Blood of our Christ, the cup of our salvation, our only hope and our redemption.