Fourth Sunday of Lent
How do you understand the power of the crowd?
I write this question in the aftermath of an American election season, which has proved to be as polarizing as any in recent memory. Wall-to-wall media coverage combined with social media to offer a toxic mixture of nearly unlimited information and instantaneous reaction. And at the end of this frenzied conversation an exhausted population sat back and realized that their divisions were as deep as ever.
The reading gives us an opportunity to reflect on the power of the crowd. Passover is approaching and Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. On His way He stops at Bethany—home of Mary, Martha and, of course, Lazarus. A crowd has gathered. They have come to hear this famous prophet and catch a glimpse of the man who came back from the grave. They are starting to believe that something special is happening. Expectation is growing. The chief priests are even plotting to kill Lazarus to stop the momentum.
The scene shifts to Jerusalem. The crowd is shouting “Hosanna!” as Jesus makes His entrance into the city. And John tells us that this crowd is made up of many of the same people that flocked to Jesus and Lazarus at Bethany (12:17). Sadly we know that the adulation of the crowd proved short-lived. The crowd— the same crowd—that cried “Hosanna” on Sunday was shouting “Crucify Him” on Friday.
We too are members of the crowd. We are attracted to the pyrotechnics of supernatural power, a power that can deliver us from our suffering and our circumstances. We are lured by the promise of political power—a power that will vindicate us and put our enemies in their place. And we are confused when our expectations turn to dust and Jesus seems to have something like a cross in mind.
Which voices are you surrounded by? What is the volume of the conversation? Is the crowd pointing us towards Jesus?
Gil Dueck is Program Director at Mennonite Central Committee Saskatchewan and is a part of Hepburn MB Church in Hepburn, SK.