“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. 13 “Crucify him!” they shouted. 14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified (Mark 15:12-15).
This is the third day that we’ve been looking at why Jesus died. First, we noted the envy and self-interest of the Jewish leaders, then we examined the greed and impatience of Judas Iscariot. Today, we’ll focus on the erratic crowd.
On the Sunday before the crucifixion, Jesus rode through Jerusalem on the back of a colt and the crowds were praising and exalting him saying, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” But just five days later, in that same city, those same voices were silent. When Pilate brought Jesus before the people, rather than clamoring for his release, they kept yelling, “crucify him.” It’s obvious that the religious leaders had stirred up the crowd against Jesus, reminding us how fickle people can be. Jesus had done nothing wrong to deserve any punishment, let alone the death penalty, but they wanted him to die anyway.
Not much has changed. People back then and people today are often inconsistent when it comes to their commitment to Christ. One of the classic Christian books of all time is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during World War II, and when he opposed Hitler and the Nazis, he was imprisoned and eventually died before the war ended. Bonhoeffer wrote: “The cross is laid on every Christian…. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death — we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins: the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 99).
Unfortunately, a lot of us have been affected by a false gospel. It’s a gospel which says: Come to Jesus and get health, wealth and prosperity. The Bible says something very different than that. The message is: Come to Jesus and give your whole life to him.
Becoming a Christ follower is more than making an intellectual assent to the principles of Christianity — it’s a change of ownership. It’s a change of management where Jesus is exalted to the highest place. When Christ is enthroned in our hearts, we give up our wrongs, by turning away from everything that’s sinful and displeasing to him. But we also have to give up our rights. We have to give up the right of self-determination. We have to give up the right to live life on our own terms and create our own morality.
Many today are saying that “Jesus is great, he’s awesome,” but where is the fruit of a Christ-centered life? Is it possible that we’re a lot like the crowd in Jesus’ day, a whole lot more interested in what society says, and being applauded, and fitting in, than we are with honoring the Lord in all we do?
The gospel message is so awesome, Lord, and we are sorry that it’s gotten distorted in our world today. Please help us to guard the gospel and never alter its amazing message of grace and hope in Christ. Strengthen our faith to boldly stand for you without fear and compromise in the midst of a world that has gone astray.
How would you describe the gospel to someone else?