In The Maddening Crowd
I read a story recently about a performance artist in the 1970's who engaged in a controversial performance piece. She stood in a gallery, and the crowd gathered were given instructions to do whatever they wanted to her.
The artist (the crowd was told) would be completely silent and passive for six hours, no matter what.
At first, people did pretty benign things. But it turned sinister about midway through the performance. The performance artist ended up being assaulted, abused, stripped, sliced with a razor blade, forced to hold a gun to her head and a number of other humiliating and horrific things.
When the six hours was up, she began to move and speak to the crowd, and immediately they all fled the room out of guilt. She eventually collapsed, emotionally and physically exhausted, and in shock at how quickly people had turned to darkness.
The story of that performance artist made me reflect on Jesus' passion, and it also made me realize anew how quickly human beings can turn ugly. Jesus was hailed by the crowd on Palm Sunday, a crowd caught up in the moment and expecting a savior.
But when it became clear that Jesus was not going to provide them with the restoration they had in mind, they turned on him. Undoubtedly, many of the same people who hailed his arrival into Jerusalem, were also present screaming "Crucify Him!" later that same week.
In the end, everyone abandoned him, and he was left alone to face all the violence, hatred and evil the world could muster.
No to give away too much of my upcoming sermon for Palm Sunday, but I think we all need to come to grips with our own place in that story. We need to ask: "Where do I see myself in the Palm Sunday crowd?" and "Where do I see myself on Good Friday?"
And here's a deeper, even more challenging question: How quickly do I turn my back on Jesus when he isn't what I have been expecting? How long does it take me to race to the darkness when the light of Christ is shining on areas of my life I don't want exposed?
As we step into these final days of the season of Lent, there should be a sense of urgency to prepare our hearts for Holy Week, and a deep desire to let go of absolutely everything that is keeping us from intimacy with Jesus.
Spend some time today reflecting on what you've just read, and where you might be in the Palm Sunday/Good Friday crowd. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.