Do you ever wake up thinking really random things?
This morning I woke up this morning thinking, “What about Barabbas?”
This turned out not to be as random as I first thought. After all, it’s Lent. And then there’s the sad, miserable reality of the human condition that Barabbas’s sordid little life encompasses.
Barabbas comes into our awareness because of who Jesus is.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is the blameless, perfect, HOLY Son of God. In fact, Jesus is God.
Jesus calls all men to repentance.
Before his death and even after his resurrection, He preached the coming of the Kingdom of God. He preached obedience to authority.
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He is coming again –at a time of God the Father’s choosing– to judge the earth, to judge us.
Jesus calls us to repentance and humility, to living a holy life, to being perfect as He is perfect, to accept the Holy Spirit and live transformed, to make disciples of all nations, to look for and be ready for His return!
And then, there’s Barabbas–
According to multiple biblical accounts (he’s mentioned in every one of the Gospels), Barabbas is the accused murderer and insurrectionist who was set free at Jesus’ trial before Herod. He’s referred variously as a notorious prisoner, a thief, a robber, a murderer, and even an insurrectionist.
Barabbas’s leadership example was one of the strong bullying and targeting the weak, of coveting and violently seizing property that didn’t belong to him, of murdering and inciting mobs.
He preached the overthrow of law and order, the raising of violent hands against those unpopular people who desired and enforced the peace. This wasn’t some man whose deeds were committed out of sight somewhere in the wilderness of Judea; he was arrested for leading an insurrection in Jerusalem, right under the authorities’ noses!
In a Jewish city under Roman occupation, his message must have resonated with many people, but other more prudent folks would have viewed his efforts with alarm.
He reminds me of someone. I wonder if you know who?
According to the account in Matthew, he was seized upon by the chief priests as an acceptable person to release in place of Jesus, whom Pilate did not want to condemn. Mark 15:11 (ESV) says they “stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.”
What about Barabbas? What was so redeeming about a murderer and an insurrectionist, that people in authority preferred him to the blameless Son of God?
He was nothing to them! His only use to them was in closing off a legal loophole Pilate tried to exploit to wriggle out of condemning to death a man he knew to be blameless and innocent while looking like he had the approval of the people.
Pilate was a coward and a wimp! Well, he was a politician, which often amounts to the same thing…
What endearing qualities did Barabbas have that provoked a mob to call for his release?
Again, there weren’t any!
He was a menace to the peace whose freedom, if they had been thinking at all clearly, would lead them to lamentations and regret!
He was known to the people of Jerusalem, not just as a danger to them economically and physically, but as the very WORST kind of threat that brought out the hard side of Roman occupation, giving the Roman military an excuse for house to house searches, roughing up the populace, throwing suspected collaborators into prison, and willfully destroying property!
I wonder whatever became of him, this violent, evil man set free in Christ’s place so that Pilate–whom the chief priests had to know quite well by that time would never risk a riot even to save an innocent man wrongly accused–would crucify Christ for them?
We never hear any more about Barabbas.
Only God knows what became of him. His part played in the accounts of Christ’s crucifixion, Barabbas vanishes from history, leaving behind only our speculation.
And I have to wonder, if he recognized God’s hand in sparing his life and repented, and later came to Christ, wouldn’t that have made it into the Bible in Acts or maybe, even in the Epistles?
I doubt he did change, though. I suspect that the bad choices he’d made before were part of a pattern that continued until he was violently stopped in his tracks by someone else defending their life and freedom.
Why did I wake up thinking about Barabbas?
If we could go back to 33 A.D., even knowing we would not be heeded, how many of us would be trying to persuade people in that crowd that they were being played?
How many of us, though, would get caught up in the mania and mood of the crowd and find ourselves crying out for Pilate to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus?
I have this disquieting feeling that too many of us would find ourselves joining the crowd instead of trying to dissuade those we knew in it from participating.
Who today would be similarly notorious?
What choices are we making that are similar to the choice between Jesus and Barabbas that Pilate offered to his courtroom crowd?
I used to think we had learned something from our history, from the Bible; that we were smarter, wiser people for having these accounts to warn us of the dangers we as humans face.
But I’m looking around at what is happening in our world today, and I know now that people never learn.
We started out this year with a lineup of Republican candidates who had many great qualities. They weren’t all perfect, and some of them were less perfect than others, or not as good at catching the eye of the public.
But we have narrowed that field down rapidly.
Of the two front runners, we now have a choice:
The front runner is a man who:
- admits to being greedy, worldly, and even adulterous,
- is defiantly profane and denies he’s ever needed God’s forgiveness;
- who owns at least one strip club and a major casino;
- who approves women (apparently even his own daughter?) only as they appeal to his sexual lusts or openly despises and derides them if they don’t appeal to him or they reject him in some way;
- whose words are harsh and abusive toward those who disagree with him and get in his way, and those whom he deems imperfect;
- who has misled and cost investors huge sums of money TWICE (provoking lawsuits which he has been obliged to settle out of court);
- who has misused the law in the U.S. (and attempted to misuse the laws in Scotland) to seize property belonging to other people in order to further his own gain;
- who is being sued for fraud,
- and who has even made threats toward those running against him!
And yet so many people, even those who are CONVINCED they are good Christians (even conservative!) are cheering him on and supporting his candidacy!
The best alternative to him is a man who:
- has always stood for liberty and the rule of law,
- has defended the Constitution successfully on multiple occasions before the Supreme Court,
- has taken a public stand for what he believes in even when it was so unpopular that he had to stand alone,
- has shown a willingness to be humble,
- is a confessing Christian.
- is everything we’ve ever said we wanted as Conservative Christians in a man we would like to see as president, although he isn’t perfect (but is anyone ever going to be?).
He has been lied about and slandered, his wife has been slandered, conspiracy theorists are running wild trashing their reputations.
Is the only reason he is not the front runner because of crowd mania?
If there is a conspiracy, is it centered around the front runner? He’s definitely a canny manipulator (most men with abusive personalities are).
Once again, the mob is running wild. Once again, the crowd is crying out for Barabbas!
And I really wonder if it’s too late to turn back; to assert a call for reason and calm instead; to present a case for standing on conservative Christian values; for embracing Christ?
Will you insist on having Barabbas instead?