Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Of the Crowds, By the Crowds, For the Crowds

Douglas Wilson

A commonplace assumption says that the crowds of Palm Sunday—those welcoming Christ into Jerusalem—and the crowds in front of Pilate shouting “crucify Him!” were made up of the same people. This is a common preacher’s trope, enabling them to enlarge on the fickleness of the heart of man. But there is absolutely no reason for assuming this, and some very good reasons for denying it. And there is also a lesson for us in it.Crowd

First, consider the logic of it. Identifying the two crowds is sheer assumption, when we have no grounds for it, and with no reason given that would explain the turn of the crowd away from Christ. What event could have caused all those people to change their minds? We have no more reason for identifying the two different crowds than we would for identifying two disparate events in any other large city—say the people in an arena full of hockey fans and the people in a performance center listening to Beyoncé do her thing. Nothing is altered if we say that the two events were just days apart. And the crowds in Jerusalem were more distinct than hockey and Beyoncé fans. It was more like the rallies of opposing political parties.

Second, we have clear evidence of “maneuvering.”
The plot against the Lord’s life began in earnest because of His wild popularity (John 11:48; 12:19). The leaders of the Lord’s opposition feared the people (Matt 21:26). Jesus was arrested by night, and not openly, because an open arrest would have set the people off.
“And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matt. 26:4–5).
Now it is true that there was also a crowd that was involved in the prosecution of Jesus (Luke 23:1), but it was a “rented” mob. The crowd showed up at Pilate’s residence bright and early (Mark 15:1), and they did so because they were being used to out-maneuver the godly—not a hard thing to do, by the way. That crowd did cry out for the Lord’s crucifixion, but they were led in this by the chief priests and officers (John 19:6).

Third, after the arrest of Jesus we know that large numbers of people were still loyal to Him—but their leader was under arrest, and they had no plan. In the providence of God, we are most grateful they had no plan because God did have a deeper plan, and it was one that no one on either side would ever have guessed. But there were in fact two sides. There were many thousands of Jews who had received Jesus into Jerusalem in just the way He deserved to be received, and their loyalties to Him remained intact throughout all the events that followed. The only person that we know of who turned coat after the Triumphal Entry was Judas.

In short, if there had been an honest election, a free and fair referendum on whether Jesus should be executed, what would have happened? The leadership of the Jews knew the answer to that question, which is why they did it the way they did it.

After the appalling thing was done, and Jesus was arrested, His followers were appalled. They just didn’t know what to do. Jesus was arrested, and His close disciples scattered. They still had their army, they just didn’t have any generals. The crowds of Jerusalem loved Jesus. Had they done something to rescue Him, it would no doubt have been as inept and out of place as Peter striking Malchus with a sword, but Peter did love the Lord. In a similar way, the people loved Him also.

So after the Lord’s arrest, the godly were still present and accounted for. They were still on the scene, and in large numbers.
“And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him” (Luke 23:27).

“And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned” (Luke 23:48).

“And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him” (Luke 24:19–20).

So how does this matter for us? What can we learn from it? I want to give the outline first, and then develop it further in a subsequent post.

Democratic politics is government of the crowds, by the crowds, for the crowds. And as the population of a nation greatly expands, as ours has, the political battles increasingly resemble sumo wrestling—large bodies shoving. One of the lessons we should take away from the account of the Lord’s betrayal and execution is that it is not enough to be on the scene and with the right sympathies for the right cause. As Edmund Burke famously put it, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. The lesson is clear—those who murdered Jesus knew that there were many thousands of righteous Jews who would prevent them from fulfilling their plan if they knew what was happening. But the godly didn’t know, and so it was that the world was saved.

The godly are not good at scheming. They are not good at anticipating how others are scheming. In the stable form of government that we have enjoyed in our nation, it has been easy for the godly to assume that “the crowds” will make their wishes known in our periodic and scheduled elections, and all we have to do is be good little citizens and turn out. But the consensus that was content with free and untrammeled elections disappeared many years ago.

We are now dealing with high level manipulation of crowds, and for most of it we are all home asleep while  the early risers are over at Pilate’s house. The ways “crowds” speak today (or are perceived as speaking, which amounts to the same thing) are these: polls, street demonstrations, media coverage, and election fraud.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Democracy is mob rule. And we haven't converted a majority mob.