I avoid large crowds, but I was once in the midst of a mass of hundreds of thousands of people. In 1985, during the funeral procession of President-elect Tancredo Neves, several people were trampled to death in the confusion of the multitude.
So I understand the phrase, “They were so crowded that they stepped on each other” (Luke 12:1 GW). Other versions give the idea of people being trampled or crushed in the multitude.
Luke seems to suggest that the trampling was more than a problem of numbers. One gets the impression of hostility. With crowds come confusion and aggression.
In the press of such a crowd, Jesus warns against hypocrisy.
For hypocrisy often springs from the desire to please the majority, to impress others, to become something one is not, in order to gain approval of the group.
“Be a true disciple of mine,” the Master seems to say, “rather than follow the popular religious model of the Pharisees, rather than give in to the jostling crowd.”
The safest place, far from the trampling of the multitude, is on the rooftops proclaiming who we are in Jesus (v. 3).