We all know the saying (because we’ve all experienced it, and we rarely use it in a positive way), “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Typically, the people who shout the loudest are the ones who get their way. Typically, leaders are most tempted to give in to the demands of screaming crowds not because they’re right, but because leaders want screaming crowds to be quiet. In America, majority rules and it’s the largest crowd that most people usually follow. But what if the loudest voices are screaming the wrong thing? What if the majority’s will is incorrect? What if the crowd that people want to follow is going in the wrong direction?
This is the situation in Luke 23. There’s a crowd of people calling for Jesus to be executed. Pilate, the Roman governor, tells the crowd that he finds no basis for their accusations and thinks they should let him go. Then, verse 23 says, “But they were adamant, shouting their demand that Jesus be crucified. Their voices won out.”
Their voices won out. How often do voices win out resulting in horrible consequences? In this case, their voices won out and as a result, Jesus was executed in a horrible, excruciating way.
What do you do when the loudest voices in the room aren’t saying the right thing? What voices should you listen to? Most often, it’s not the ones who are yelling the loudest who have things right, it’s the ones not saying anything at all. It’s the people who don’t speak who often have the best, most profound things to say. If you read the whole story of Jesus, you find that it wasn’t the vocal leaders to whom Jesus listened the most, it was the quiet people on the sidelines. Jesus didn’t listen to those who were in power, he listened to those who’d been abused by power. He didn’t listen to those who were shouting, he listened to those who’d been silenced by shouting.
Perhaps we’d most often be better off following Jesus’s example rather than only listening to the crowd. When the crowd is shouting, maybe the best thing to do is to seek out the ones who are silent and ask them to speak. When the crowd is leading, maybe it would be better to follow the ones who are hesitant to do what “everybody else is doing.”
God, may I not be so tempted to listen to and follow the overwhelming, dominating voice of the crowd. May I instead listen for your voice and be courageous enough to follow that, even if it means doing something different than “everybody else.”