“Nah, I ain’t movin’ bro.” Rosa Parks
I was a student in Rome when the first Persian Gulf War broke out. It was an interesting time, made more so because there were quite a few men from the United States living at our college and preparing for the priesthood. In the initial few days there was talk of “evacuating” the American students. Questions arose about the possibility of the war spreading to include other Arab States and Israel. People were wondering if there would be rationing and travel restrictions. As it turned out General Norman Schwarzkopf managed to pull off a very quick victory and defeat of the Iraqi forces. One of the most interesting and somewhat humorous memories I have of those days was related to a “peace march.”
At the outset of the military buildup the Italian communists arranged a massive peace march and rally through the center of Rome. Although their country was now at war a couple of students from the North American College (NAC) thought it would be a good idea to join in the march for peace. So, they went and joined the crowd. As it turned out as soon as the Italian communists found out they were Americans they beat them up. I guess they didn’t see the irony in participating in a violent act during a peace rally.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of His life, he is greeted by a crowd that hails Him as the Messiah, the expected Saviors, the King. Within six days this same crowd will be screaming for His execution by crucifixion. They will beg, intimidate, and frighten the Roman governor into condemning an innocent man. The governor is no better than the crowd, spineless, with a weak character, political and ambitious, he allows himself to be intimidated. But it is the crowd that does the damage.
How quickly the crowd changed. Even as a crowd though, they weren’t united. When they welcomed Jesus, some saw him as a new King, the successor of King David, some saw Him as a prophet, some saw Him as an alternative to the High Priesthood, some saw Him as the Messiah, all saw Him as they wanted to see Him and not as He truly was or who He truly was. They saw what they wanted to see and not what they should have seen.
As we enter Holy Week it is a good idea to ask if we belong to a crowd and what crowd we belong to. What is our expectation of Jesus? Who do we see when we look at Him? Do we make Jesus conform to our expectations? Do we make Jesus and His teaching fit into what we want to hear, how we want to live, and what we want a Savior to be? Are we like the crowd, easily led, and willing to condemn if our expectations are not met?
It is easy to fall into the trap of following the crowd because it is hard to stand alone. Often the one who stands alone is overwhelmed, trampled, crushed, persecuted, and defeated. It can seem that their voice, presence, their stance, means nothing in the face of such a great mob and so many remain silent, fall in with the crowd, or turn a blind eye. It is hard to stand against the pressure of the mob, the crowd, and yet, unless we do so the innocent get trampled and the good are destroyed. Interestingly, when stories are written about heroes, the hero is never the mob, it’s almost always those who stood for something, the story is always about those who stood against the crowd, who raised their voice for the truth, the good, the beautiful, the innocent, the weak, and the persecuted.
I don’t know if the quote at the beginning of this column, in this[K1] [K2] form and attributed to Rosa Parks, is accurate. Mrs. Parks definitely[K3] , courageously, said “no” to giving up her seat on a bus to a white person. However, I know she said this: “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” We have one life to live, it would be a shame to spend it “giving in” to the mob when we could change so much by standing up to it. God sent us into the world to be someone and do something – don’t let the mob stop you from carrying out God’s mission.