The Tale of Two Crowds

1 04 2015

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

That is the opening line of “A Tale of Two Cities” written by Charles Dickens in the 1850s. It was about the two very different worlds of the rich and the poor during the time leading up to the French Revolution and the brutality of those two worlds colliding.

The idea of two different worlds colliding is what it feels like in the week leading up to Easter. Palm Sunday shows one crowd praising Jesus.  Then, just a few short days later another crowd is shouting for his death.

When Matthew tells the story of Palm Sunday, he mentions a prophecy told in Zechariah 9:9. It is a great reminder that God’s plan will never be swayed by the crowd. Events were unfolding according to God’s will to redeem humanity.  (Matthew’s account is found in Matthew 21:1-11)

While God may be unchanging, we are very easily swayed by the crowd. If you ever read social science experiments you will see that under the right conditions we can be made to do almost anything. It is kind of scary. Just last year Facebook got in some hot water when it was revealed that they had been manipulating news feeds to see how it would impact people’s posting habits.

That leads to our second crowd. Mark 15:11-15 tells us that the people who shouted “crucify him” had been stirred up by the religious leaders. Even though Pilate knew they were being manipulated, he went along with it and satisfied the crowd’s insistence to kill Jesus.

It is a stark reminder we live in a fallen world. We actively and passively rebel against God and we can be lead down that path very easily. Of course, we always believe it will not happen to us.

That is what Peter thought. In Mark 14:29-31 he said even if everyone else deserted Jesus he would not. I believe Peter had very good intentions but as we watch the story unfold those good intentions fail. He falls asleep when Jesus needed him to pray (Mark 14:33-40). He got violent (John 18:10) and he denied him when the pressure was on (Mark 14:66-72).

Peter is just like you and me. We often have good intentions but in the pressures of life we find ourselves defeated just as Peter did.

Luke 22:31-32 gives us more insight into what happened with Peter. Jesus warns him that Satan wanted to shift Peter like wheat. Jesus also told him that he had prayed for him. What an amazing picture! Jesus praying for Peter.

On this side of the Easter story the picture becomes even more amazing. Hebrews describes Jesus serving as our mediator (8:6, 9:15, and 12:24).  Paul will remind Timothy of that reality in 1Timothy 2:5. We have access to God in a profound and powerful way. WOW!

This is what we are celebrating on Easter. Jesus did the work to restore our relationship with His Father conquering both sin and death.

My prayer for each of us is that we will pause and reflect on the significance of Easter. It will require facing our part in crucifying him. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate the one who was not swayed by the crowds but instead focused on his Father’s Will and extends an invitation to us for a new life and the privilege of being in His crowd.





Thanks Facebook

6 07 2014

There has been a lot of discussion about the study Facebook conducted. They were able to manipulate our moods by managing what we saw in our news feeds. They could cause us to post in either a negative or positive way simply by changing an algorithm.

When we step back, we realize this happens in various ways all the time. Advertisers look for ways to shape our view of a particular product. Magazines airbrush their models to distort our understanding of beauty. Politician try to get us to care about an issue by highlighting a person impacted by a problem rather than just giving us facts and figures.

The reality is we can be manipulated easier than we would like to admit.

Another reality is that content matters. We will tend to feel more aggressive after watching violent content. We will be more sexual after watching sexual content. Are we surprised that we were negative after viewing negative content and positive after viewing positive content?

As Paul was giving his final advice to Timothy, he warned of a struggle that Timothy would face. In 2 Timothy 4:3 he says:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

I think Paul was on to something. He may not have known about Facebook but he did understand we can be manipulated by our environment. If we are not grounded in truth with a healthy understanding of reality, we could find ourselves being led down a road where we only hear what we want to hear and ignore sound doctrine and ultimately truth.

The Bible paints a very realistic picture of the human condition. We are fallen and separated from God. God provided a way to restore our relationship through Jesus. God is truth and grounds us in reality. God helps us stay balanced. The truth helps us turn Facebook’s experiment into a lesson we learn from.

So thank you Facebook. You have reminded us that we need to be aware of the content we are consuming and just like we should have a balanced food diet we should also have a balanced viewing diet. You also reminded us to be aware of how others want to manipulate us. We need to be grounded in the truth. The Bible helps us have a healthy view of ourselves and a proper view of God.

I think I will go read my Bible and check Facebook later. Will you join me?