Matthew’s Passion: Where did the crowd come from?
40 Blogs of Lent: 31
A crowd had gathered, a substantial crowd, a crowd that was large enough to cause a riot that the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem would not have been able to easily contain. This crowd was looking increasingly nasty. They had already chosen the release of a notorious criminal and condemned an innocent man in his place. But what perplexes me is where this crowd came from.
Before I get onto that, these words make me uncomfortable. Verse 25 says, ‘And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”’
Why would Matthew, writing to a largely Jewish audience say such a thing as this. It does not occur in the other Gospels, so why here? Because it actually happened does not go far enough, all the Gospel writers were selective in their material. When the Gospel was written, after Jerusalem had fallen, the Temple destroyed and the city sacked. The flow of Matthew’s argument is that the crowd had just rejected a messiah of peace and reconciliation and chosen the military or guerrilla option. Matthews making a link between the actions of the Jerusalem mob that morning and the loss of the Temple, and ultimately their homeland, 40 years later.
That brings me back to the question of who were this crowd. Where could such a crowd have come from?
Not from the followers of Jesus, they did not understand the need for Jesus to die and rise again until after the event, in any case we are told that they all fled after Jesus was arrested. Had a crowd of the followers of Jesus formed they would have cried out for Jesus to be released.
Not the usual crowd of pilgrims that gathered in Jerusalem at Passover either. We are told that the plotters would have arrested Jesus earlier, but were afraid of the crowds.
Not the Romans or their supporters either, they were chanting against the rulings of their procurator, their local leader.
The events of the last day was that Jesus had a meal in secret, was arrested by a small number of people in secret and had a secret trial. The only people who could have known Jesus was in front of Pilate were the Sanhedrin. It must have been the plotters from within the Sanhedrin who had gathered up a number of their supporters and whipped them up into a crowd. Matthew is blaming these people for the sacking of Jerusalem.
But the ways of God are not thwarted by the actions of those who are against him. God’s will was done through the arrest, through the sham trial, through the torture by scourging (a form of whip that ripped out pieces of flesh). God is still the one in control. Jesus is still in control of what is happening and though the actions of those who are against him is about to passively win God’s greatest victory. If we are prepared to let him, God can work through the bad things in our lives too, even through the actions of those who are against us.
My question to you is are you going to follow the crowd or are you prepared to follow Jesus through his sufferings?
This is the passage in question:
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Matthew 27 ESVUK
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
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