This is why we must beware of the crowd…


“Hosanna! Hosanna!!” – “Crucify him! Crucify him!!” From the same mouths came forth those opposing chants, and the interval between their utterances wasn’t long enough to warrant forgetfulness. While he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, the assembled crowd chorused, “Hosanna to the son of David,” and when before Pilate, about the same crowed chorused all the louder, “Crucify him! Crucify him!!” To be sure they acted in good fate, Pilate had to ask them, “Do you really want me to crucify him?” Needless to say that their response showed they meant business. The same crowd that sought to seize Jesus and crown him king by force was the same crowd that didn’t mind that his innocent blood be on their head and those of their children’s children. And if you’ve ever wondered why we’re advised not to follow the crowd or even to go against it, this incidence clarifies it all. To say the least, the crowd is grossly unreliable; the crowd is ‘two-faced’.

Shakespeare knew this so well that he reproduced a similar incidence in his Julius Caesar. When he won the Romans glory they cheered him on to more victory, such that they fully concurred with Mark Antony’s bid to crown him king. Thrice Antony presented him the crown, at each of which the crowd cheered with increasing intensity, and thrice Caesar turned down the offer. Of course, the wise and seemingly ambitious Caesar knew better than rest his fate in the hands of the crowd of ancient Rome. And true to her nature, they did turn against him on the Ides of March – the day the conspirators struck. The crowd was even funnier on this occasion. Brutus’s short speech instantly turned them against Caesar, and Antony’s speech that immediately followed instantly got them back to Caesar’s side, turning them against Brutus as it were. Such is the crowd.

Let me not proceed without giving another befitting example: the story of Bartimaeus. This son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, knew Jesus could let him see again, and would call out to him as soon as he learnt he was passing by. The long and short of it all is that the same crowd that tried to shut him up was the very crowd that said to him, “Courage, come, he is calling you.” And Bartimaeus already leaves us with a great lesson on how to engage the crowd. Scriptures say that as much as they tried to shut him up, he shouted all the louder. Yes, he was insistent that his voice not be drowned by that of the crowd. And as much as he persisted, he secured Jesus’ attention and the admiration of the crowd. May this lesson guide us still.

The crowd we can most likely identify with is public opinion; what they think and say about us. And sometimes we just take them way too seriously. In this regard, we feel we’re good when they think and say we are; we feel we’re bad when they think and say we are. So, somehow we just twist ourselves into the mould the crowd designed for us. Needless to say that many students are studying this or that course because they’ve been made to believe that this or that way lies success. Marriages have been contracted on the grounds of the conventional definition of who Mr. and Miss Right ‘ought’ to be. And there is just a way many a person has ordered his/her life to suit convention, win others’ admiration and to secure the spotlight. Nice.

However, it remains noteworthy that the crowd is unreliable. Never forget this.

This is one way to get around the crowd problem: individuate yourself. Though a member of a larger community, get used to the fact that the larger community can turn against you at an instant – like they were never for you in the first place. Jesus is a case study again. The 5,000 he fed would come again for food, and they all desert him when he offers them his body and blood. And Jesus offers us a great example of individuation, too. We find this in his disposition to risk losing every one of his followers. He turns to the 12 that stayed back, asking them, “Are you not leaving too? He was way too sure of himself and his message that he didn’t have a problem staying alone.

Let me not say it all. I leave you to reflect on the crowd problem and to find your way around it…