Read: John 12:1-19
When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. John 12:9
The urban dictionary defines “herd mentality” as follows:
To follow the majority for fear of being wrong, ostracized or ridiculed.
If a herd of animals were headed for a cliff, for the sake of a herd mentality, I doubt one would veer off or stop to save its own life.
Historically, we see herd or mob mentality all of the way back through recorded history. Fear of mobs was a major determining factor in Roman rule; Rome responded quickly and harshly to quell any inkling of mob uprisings before they could impact the “Pax Romana” or order and relative tranquility that Roman occupation and rule promised conquered territories. During the triumphal entry (or Palm Sunday) that makes up today’s reading, we also see this. The Pharisees were concerned that such a large gathering of Jews cheering for the King of Israel would alarm the Roman occupying force in Jerusalem and result in a slaughter of Jews. In Luke 19, which also tells of this event, the Pharisees approached Jesus and asked Him to rebuke His followers for calling Him king, so the Romans weren’t forced to intervene; however Jesus responded in Luke 19: 40: “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
If someone truly believes in something, it takes a lot to get that person to change his or her mind; sometimes their belief is so strong that getting them to change their mind is an impossible task. On the other hand, one thing about herd mentality is that it’s fickle and will change on a dime. The Bible acknowledges that tendency towards herd mentality in humans – one of the common ways Jesus is described in the Bible is as the Good Shepard and people as sheep (one of the most common herd animals). If you read Jesus’ Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed in Matthew 13, you will see that Jesus knew many of the people cheering for Him as He entered Jerusalem weren’t true followers of His. He knew that in less than a week, many of these same people would be demanding that He be crucified.
In an article at Mission Alliance, Bill Walker wrote “When we figure out that Jesus is not going to give us what we want, and not in the way that we want it, whether we’re in a position like Pilate or the crowd, we easily turn against Him. This “turning against” is the opposite of belief and repentance. It’s that tendency in all of us to let the ego take over, to be driven by fear, shame, and anger, and to close off our hearts.”
So what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus and not be guided by herd mentality? In Luke 9:23, Jesus tells us: “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” We’ll deal with this in much more detail over the next month or so as we read through Paul’s Epistles, but in general, being a follower of Jesus means living our lives as servants, turning away from our own selfish desires, being accountable for our mistakes, repenting and seeking forgiveness (from God as well as from the people we wrong), and forgiving others. Now here’s the kicker (at least for me) – following Jesus means doing that in ALL of our relationships – with our spouses, our children, our co-workers, our bosses, our neighbors, EVERYONE. As Jesus taught us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 30 – 37, everyone, including those whom we think of as our enemies, are our neighbors, and we are called to serve them, love them, and share Christ’s love with them. Just as Jesus cried out to the Father before He died “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” in response to the people who had tortured and were killing Him, we too are called to forgive everyone who has wronged us. Impossible you say? I’d agree; yes it is… that is unless you have God in the form of the Holy Spirit living in you. As Jesus told His disciples about another seemingly impossible thing in Matthew 19:30:
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
Lord, when I think of the standard You set for me to live the life of a servant, I feel overwhelmed. I’m ashamed of how often I fail to meet that standard, and I know I don’t have the ability on my own to serve, love, and forgive everyone, especially the people who have really hurt me. However, I believe in You, I trust You, and I want to follow You. I ask that You please continue filling me with the Holy Spirit’s power and through that power, You enable me to love each and everyone of my neighbors. Please help me to remember without dwelling on it that I too am a sinner, and yet You love and forgive me every time I wrong You. In Jesus’ name I ask this… Amen