From the editor: April 17, 2015
Mob Rulers Out
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barrabas instead. They shouted all the more, 'Crucify him!'" (Mark 15:11)
Luke does not write about "the crowd" (ochlos), nor does John, who makes it clear, confirming Mark, that it was the religious leaders who engaged in the great contest of wills between them and Pilate. Their ability to stir up the crowd gave them the edge, for Pilate's main concern was to keep the peace.
"When Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot (thorubos) was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd (ochlos) . . . ." (Matt. 27:24)
They "stirred up the crowd" or moved the crowd, as I put it. For some crowds, if they are movable—mobile—can turn into the "mob," which is based on the word for movable. Usually, instigators are behind mob formation. Pilate feared a riot, which is what a crowd turned mob often turns into. In 1938, Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler's approval, made it clear that should any anti-Semitic demonstrations erupt after the assassination of a German official in Paris by a young Jew, the government would not interfere. To help what became Kristallnacht get started, on Nov. 9, SA paramilitary units coordinated violent attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses, instigating the flames of mob violence against the Jews. (Some Nazi party members refused to participate. The majority of the German population disapproved, but had no coordinated power at this point to oppose such mobs.)
A headline from April 6, 2015 reads, "Muslim groups attack Egyptian Copts over church honoring Christian killed by ISIS." Mobs intimidated Coptic Christians who made plans, with government approval, to build a church to commemorate the 21 martyrs killed in Libya in February. (I hope they will be able to build the church.)
Mobs seek to destroy or intimidate, and today social media can be a tool for such intimidation, as it was in the case for Walkerton Indiana's Memories Pizzeria, where the owners closed their doors after receiving death threats for their refusal to affirm "gay marriage."
But a crowd itself is not necessarily a threat. Sometimes the people peacefully protest an injustice. Sometimes they come together for religious observances. The question is, what is motivating the crowd? In the case of Pentecost, bystanders initially thought a drunken crowd might be on the street that morning, but it turned out to be a peaceful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in multiple languages.
One of the most significant crowds in the New Testament: the "more than 500 brethren" to whom the Resurrected Lord Jesus appeared at one time! (1 Cor. 15:6) Imagine that!
There are two kinds of gatherings in the world to watch out for: those movable crowds who end up doing violence, inspired by darkness, and those drawn to the light, seeking not to wound but to heal and be healed, not to tear down but to build up. Thus, the gathered church seeks to be built up into a temple "for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:22) The Christian synagogue is inspired by the Spirit and not stirred up by the powers of darkness. It is imperative to keep this in mind as we face together the world, the flesh, and the devil-and their mobs. The Lamb has conquered. Even mobs. "I am not afraid of ten thousands of who have set themselves against me round about." (Ps. 3:6)
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James