If you were present at Jesus’ trial, where would you see yourself?
Would it be with the disciples who fearfully followed at a distance? Would it have been with Pontius Pilate who found no basis for the charges brought against Jesus, but did not have the courage to resist the crowd’s demands for crucifixion? Would it have been with the crowd shouting, “Crucify him?”
If I had never met Jesus, I would have likely been with the crowd. Have I not demonstrated my lack of support for Jesus in my sins? Have I not denied him in my failure to love and serve others on various occasions?
Even if I had met Jesus, I would have been no different than the disciples, following at a distance out of fear, or like Pontius Pilate, going along with the crowd. How many times have I failed to speak up for Jesus or my Catholic faith in a hostile environment?
Unfortunately, the crowd seldom gets it right. How often do we see conventional wisdom that is not wise, popular opinion that does not reflect the truth, and consensus that leads to the wrong result?
Lest we think that the opinions of the crowd are not becoming more hostile to our Christian faith, a recent study by the Barna Group released in February, found that 45% of non-religious adults (atheists, agnostics and religiously unaffiliated) agree with the statement that “Christianity is extremist.” More than 50 % of all U. S. adults were found to believe that the following practices were “very” or “somewhat” extreme: attempting to convert others to their faith; teaching their children that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are morally wrong; praying out loud in public for a stranger; or protesting government policies that conflict with their religion.
So, how do we resist the crowd of our culture that is becoming increasingly prone to crucify Jesus in its actions and beliefs? Acknowledge and repent of our sins, commit or recommit our lives to Jesus Christ and seek the release of the power of the Holy Spirit received in our baptism.
It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us, gives us the courage and the power to resist both the crowd and sin. It wasn’t until I personally experienced the renewal of the Holy Spirit in my life that I was given understanding, motivation and power that makes it now possible for me to resist the crowd. I am still capable of stumbling if I don’t stay close to Jesus in daily prayer, the sacraments and surround myself with other like-minded Christian brothers and sisters. But with God’s grace and mercy through the Holy Spirit, I am better equipped to say no to the crowd and yes to Jesus.
The crowd yelled, “Crucify him!” But the crowd got it wrong. God redeemed the wrong and took the cross, a symbol of Roman cruelty and oppression, and transformed it into a symbol of love, sacrifice and hope.