Mark 15:11-14. “Crucify him!” Matthew, Mark, and Luke vary slightly on the details they include here. Matthew tells us that Judas, the betrayer, observing how Jesus’ trial is turning out, is seized by remorse, returns the money given him by the High Priests, and goes out and hangs himself. He found no comfort in knowing that Jesus knew what was about to happen and still offered to wash his feet or give him bread and wine. He is overcome by grief. Luke shares that there is an intermission here when Pilate realizes that Jesus is from Galilee. Pilate sends Jesus to Herod to give the death verdict as Jesus is a Galilean and Herod is in Jerusalem. Herod is delighted to see Jesus but he too does not want the responsibility of the decision and sends him back to Pilate.
Mark shares that Pilate knows the High Priests are being driven by jealousy and tries to appease them by offering Barabbas to divert their attention and rage. To his surprise the crowd chooses the release of Barabbas. They choose the real revolutionary and murderer to be released. Pilate now asks the crowd, “What shall I do with this man (Jesus) whom you call King of the Jews?” The crowd, the majority, the masses have the final say when they chant in unison, “Crucify him!”
How hard it is to go against the popular voice. Judas realizes he is wrong and commits suicide. The High Priests know they are being expedient and turn to government to orchestrate their death wish. Pilate realizes the charges come from jealousy, washes his hands and allows the crowd to usurp his authority. Herod finds the jurisdiction loop-hole and shifts Jesus back to Pilate. How do we handle peer pressure? Somehow “everyone is ….”, fill in the verb about whether it is playing popular music or wearing certain clothes or using certain language. When masses gather we have recently seen the unfortunate and horrifying outcome of a sudden turn from mass to mob to violence and looting. Today is a story about events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus but it is also a story that sounds all too familiar today and is seen in scenes through out history. Do we call it discrimination? Mass hysteria? Police brutality? What or what? God calls it sin. Repentance, turning away from that ugly side of ourselves and seeking forgiveness and strength to lead a better life from God – is hard.
The prodigal son demands his inheritance, squanders it, is reduced to poverty but then “comes to himself” and returns to his father. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and earth and am no longer worthy to be called your son!” The father runs to meet the son, kills the fatted calf and welcomes the long lost son. But wait, that is not today’s story. Today we see the ugliness of mob justice and bang our head in shame for the times when we have been mesmerized by the popular. Thank you, Lord, for forgiveness.