One thing that strikes me about the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day is their incredible lack of fortitude. Twice in our reading today (v 26, 46), and repeatedly throughout the biblical record, it is said of them that they desired to say or do a certain thing (usually arrest or kill Jesus), but did not because they “feared the multitude.”
These remind me of the feckless and fickle politicians of our day with their opinion polls, straw polls, tracking polls, data tracking and careful watching of Twitter/social media affecting their every move and decision.
Since when does public opinion or sentiment affect the actions and responsibilities of conviction? If John and Jesus had been blasphemers, no amount of public opinion should have affected their apprehension and censure or punishment.
Moses commanded, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Ex 23:2). There are at least two lessons here: 1) You must have the conviction to refrain from following the majority in wrongdoing, 2) You must do right even when others refuse or are in opposition to it.
Contrast these Jewish leaders with the courage of the apostles and early Christians. From the earliest days of the church, they refrained from the wickedness of their societal counterparts and suffered for the same—“In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Pet 4:4).
Moreover, they preached and promoted that which was right, even when public sentiment was against them. Stephen is a good example of this (Acts 7). The entirety of Paul’s ministry was marked by opposition from the Jews as well as the Roman authorities. But they were not dissuaded from doing right!
The Hebrews writer warned his audience, “For you have not resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Heb 12:4). The implication, but you will. Finally, much of the early chapters of Revelation affirm the early church’s willingness to suffer and/or die for their faith (Rev 2:10, 13; 3:10; 6:9-11).
Let us be a people of conviction who stand unwaveringly against what is wrong and promote what is right regardless of public sentiment.