“They Feared the Crowd”
by Robert Hamerton-Kelly
October 5, 2008
Scripture: Philippians 3: 4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46
“But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the crowd, because they held him to be a prophet.” — Matthew 21:46
The crowd, or mob, as it is also called, is the most puissant power in the human world. At present we are witnessing its terrible might in the form of financial bubbles and market panics. The Latin word for crowd is vulgus, and we are indeed witnessing a spectacle of sickening vulgarity, as we see ourselves rushing from pillar to post beating one another over the head with bundles of blame (i.e. sow’s ears – c.f. “lipstick on a pig”- of worthless mortgages bundled as silk purses of A rated collateral). We are mostly spectators at the orgy of blame being used by the den of thieves that is together Wall Street and the Government of the US, to deny the sheer fraud they committed as the custodians of our “full faith and credit.” Our faith is in the hands of frauds, no wonder credit is hard to find.
Our Gospel reading for today is full of acid import for the vulgarity of what the world calls virtue. The lords of the corporate world and the steersmen with their hands on the levers of political power have for eight years now been stealing from the middle class to gorge the mega-rich, and even now we are barely able to stop the scoundrels from slinking away with mountains of loot pillaged from you and me and anyone else who works hard pays his bills and lives within his means.
And when last did you encounter one of this latter kind of citizen? He is almost extinct, because we have all more or less joined with the crooks to steal, and laughably to steal from ourselves. We are the nation that elected George Bush twice with solid middle class support, and might soon elect Sarah Palin; we are the nation who having believed the fraudulent politicos went on, by the tens of millions, to believe the hucksters of Wall Street and the mountebanks of Main Street, and to buy, buy, buy, on credit, properties, goods and services we could not pay for in three lifetimes.
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time were just like that, just like us. You and I and all our fellow crooks and whores are the Scribes and Pharisees who like the characters in the parable steal property by torturing the servants and murdering the son of the rightful owner – “Rightful ownership be damned, get rid of anyone who stands in the way of our greed, give us flimflam and give us denial!” We are the Scribes and Pharisees and so we are the targets of the parable of Jesus.
What does this fact that we are the targets mean for us now? Parables are meant to be specific not general and therefore are stories and, as stories always do, have several possible interpretations. My question therefore should be more precisely, “What does the fact, that I am the target of this parable, mean for you, here, now?” You must decide that for yourself, but I can share with you my response. It is, ” Don’t fear the crowd; break away, think for yourself, have courage, and remember there is no profit if you gain the whole world and lose your soul.”
The crowd is that is stiff band of zombies in “The Night of the Living Dead,” walking corpses without souls of their own, possessed by the single soul of the mob, and that single soul is greed on one side and fear on the other.
As greed now brings fear to millions of us, and simple terror about our future replaces terrorism in our minds, look at this gospel story and let it teach you, and then act.
Let it point you away from the chaos of greed and fear in the mob, to the stone we greedy tenants have rejected, the one our fear murdered on Golgotha. His name is Jesus and he is the head of the corner of the community of life; he makes a community of life out of a crowd of chaos and terror, he replaces the demons of greed and fear with the Holy Spirit of life and peace. He alone leads from horror to hope, from crowd to community.
Receive him then as Lord of your greed and fear. He alone can cast them out, and his name is Jesus. I assure you, there is no other way, no other name given under heaven, which might save us.
If you believe me you will be delivered and whatever happens you will be blessed. If you reject this Gospel call, well then, ‘Good Luck!” because you will have no blessing, just an anxious waiting for luck. Of course, you know by now that I am not superstitious and do not believe in luck, – it was sheer amusement to me that the Chinese out of superstition began the Olympic games at 8pm on the eight day of the eighth month in the eighth year of the 21 century – so in truth, I have only Christ and blessing to offer in place of greed and fear., and “Good Luck” from me is a joke. Either you want Jesus or you don’t. Let’s be clear; if you reject him you choose greed and fear and the delights of the chaotic mob above the peace and joy of the incarnate God. Many people prefer riot to peace. So be it.
With Jesus, however, you need no longer fear the crowd, you can break away, be yourself, have an individual soul rather than an infestation of vulgar fear and greed.
Jesus Christ is the stone whom the builder’s rejected and is now the crowning glory of the living edifice of love, his church, our refuge from the mob, and our soul’s safe haven.
Glory to you Lord Jesus!