ecce homo

With all the joy and happy plans leading up to a wedding, it's easy to forget this is the season of Lent. But I was reminded this morning as I read of Jesus' humiliation (in Mt 27). Perhaps the central thrust of that suffering is its social nature, that the crowd attacks him, isolating him, pushing him below them, mocking, making him seem to be nothing in the eyes of "We, the People."

The social nature of our actions came to mind a couple days ago as well. I was looking at an announcement for a nationwide protest and prayer vigil concerning the Iraq war. Several local churches are promoting it, in religious terms. The first reason given for the protest begins, "Like Isaiah, we are called to raise our prophetic voice..."

But my first thought was, "Did Isaiah need a crowd behind him in order to raise his prophetic voice?" Did Jesus? Crowds certainly gathered around Jesus, but his prophetic voice drove them away again and again, and in the end he stood alone against the money changers in the temple. And he stood alone humiliated before the crowd when Pilate proclaimed, "Behold, the man!"

Our inclination is to hide in the crowd. To stand where we feel secure, with the power of the people gathered around us. We do this even when we're trying to be "prophetic." But the courage of the prophet is that he speaks his challenging words from a place of utter vulnerability, that he trusts in the God who speaks through him and is not silenced by the power of the crowd. Conversely, speaking from the security of a crowd demonstrates, not trust in God, but trust in "We, the People."

The crowd always wants to make the individual seem like nothing, like they did to Jesus. And we reinforce that message when we have to gather into crowds to make our voice heard.