6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.Mark 15:6-15
I read the Passion in Mark’s gospel this morning. It is the Palm Sunday reading for Year B.
I was struck by the role the crowd plays in the sentencing of Jesus. And the reason given for Pilate’s handing over Jesus to be crucified, “wishing to satisfy the crowd”. The faceless crowd doing the bidding of the religious leaders against The Single Individual. Jesus stands alone while the crowd shouts for Him to be put to death. The crowd is often an obstacle in the gospels to people meeting Jesus, to being healed, to seeing Him. The crowd is fickle. The Processional Gospel for Palm Sunday reminds us that the crowd acclaimed The Single Individual as King and Messiah.
It is easy to escape into the faceless crowd. And the modern age has made it a virtue to follow the will of the majority. It is easy to do what I am told by those in authority. It is easy to blame and to push the guilt unto someone else – never have to look at myself and my actions. It is easy to escape the single me for the role assigned by the many. The crowd is the opposite of the Single Individual.
During my earthly life that Single Individual calls me to follow Him. As we enter Holy Week, that Individual reminds me that I am called to follow Him to the cross: to be alone with God, alone before God.