As I’ve been reading up in preparation for Resurrection Sunday, there’s a line from the book of Luke that has stuck me more than anytime before. I’m certain I’ve read it plenty of times, but never has it stood out like it has these last few weeks.
At this particular juncture of the story, Jesus has been betrayed, beaten, and brought before Pilate: a prefect of the Roman empire overseeing Judea. Pilate can find no fault to warrant death, but the crowd kept shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Pilate offers to release Jesus in light of the Passover tradition of releasing a prisoner chosen by the people, but the people preferred the release of Barabbas–a man known to have been responsible for insurrection and murder.
Imagine this for a moment: the crowd had rather a known murderer walk the streets than for the Christ to go free. He literally took the place of a murderer.
And they continued shouting.
Luke tells us that Pilate asked a third time “‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish him and release him’,” (Luke 23:22, ESV).
“But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed,” (v. 23, ESV).
This is the line that continues to haunt me: Their voices prevailed.
The insistence and urgency of the crowd changed the mind of a ruler of Rome: “So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted…” (v. 24, ESV) Just a short time after this tragic scene, Christ died.
While this death and subsequent resurrection were always the plan, I can’t help but notice what part fallen and flawed humans played. But I think there’s an application beyond the theoretical that I’m continuing to process: To what am I lending my voice?
Throughout history, crowds have changed laws and fought wars and toppled governments. Today, there are still wrongs to be corrected and justice to seek.
A crowd was used by God to change the mind of Pilate and send Christ to death, and their voices prevailed.