This morning’s Palm Sunday worship reminded me once again of the power of a crowd. As American I don’t think we reflect on the dynamic power of mass audiences because we tend to think we are all independent individuals. Yet we experience the power of a crowd when we go to a crowded athletic venue, and the spectators begin to chant, holler and scream as the score becomes close. Or when we go to a music concert and the performer is very good at stirring up the audience during the performance. We say that the performer feeds off the energy in the room.
This crowd power can be a positive influence. Last fall I attended a large Christian Conference in Atlanta called the Catalyst Conference. This home-made video captures just a bit of the energy I experienced in that auditorium with 12,000 other Christians. I strongly encourage people to experience a large gathering of fellow believers in worship, prayer and praise together. The power of the Holy Spirit can be magnified in such settings.
As one reads the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, one has the feeling that there is incredible crowd power in that parade with palms and cloaks, shouts and songs. The crowd truly believed the King was in their midst and they could not hold back. Jesus does not chastise them but rather the religious officials who try to stop the celebration. Jesus said to them, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40.
The problem with crowd power is not their enthusiasm but their fickle character. In a sport’s arena, one play can suddenly change the game and the crowd becomes deflated, even hostile. In politics, Hitler was able to utilize mass rallies to gather and solidify support for his totalitarian regime. The crowd is not always right.
Friday morning we will read again the Gospel story of the crowd as it gathered outside Governor Pilate’s court. Their cries will have turned from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him.”
How have you experience crowd power in a positive or negative way?
Does crowd power have a place in our contemporary life with Jesus?