Easter 2023 – The cost of the crowd

I’ve read the Easter story so many times that it’s easy to glaze over it at this point, even though it’s one of the most incredible stories in the whole Bible. So each year, I try to pick out something different, something I haven’t noticed before.

This year, the person who stood out the most to me was Pontius Pilate. The man who, for a moment in time, held Jesus’s life in his hands.

Mark 15:15 says, “So Pilate, wanting to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them, but he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified.”

Five words leapt off the page at me: wanting to satisfy the crowd. Other translations say that Pilate wanted to pacify the crowd… gratify the crowd… give the people what they wanted. The New Life Version specifically says, “Pilate wanted to please the people.” Pilate condemned Jesus to death on the cross not necessarily because he wanted to, felt personally convicted to, or even thought Jesus deserved it – he did it because he wanted to satisfy the crowd. 

His doubt and hesitancy were obvious as he repeatedly asked “What crime has this man committed? What bad thing has he done?” His wife even warned him to not kill Jesus because of a dream she had. But still, he let the crowd drown out both conscience and counsel.

How many times have I done that? Gone against what I thought was right or what I knew was needed in order to keep others happy? Ignored the advice of the people who know me best because I’m worried about what others might think? 

It’s convicting to think the sin that turned the tide that first Good Friday was someone caring more about what others thought than doing what they thought was right. Because while Pilate may have won the approval of the crowd that day, it came at the cost of our Savior’s life.

There’s the truth of the matter: people pleasing always comes at a cost. It always leads to the death of something. A relationship. Our mental health. Boundaries. The truth. Authenticity. Our peace.

I’m a people pleaser through and through. I probably would have listened to the crowd that day, too. But praise God that in his mercy, Pilate’s decision was not the end of the story. For it is in Jesus’s death and resurrection we find freedom from the very thing that Pilate succumbed to – a desperate need for the approval of others. May we remember that truth this Easter: that even when the crowd is loud, we don’t need its approval. Because our confidence, our hope, and our worth come from the one who already and always approves of us.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10

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