Sunday, March 14, 2010
During the Lenten season, many of us read or watch films about the last week of Jesus’ life. Inevitably, when I get to the part where Pilate asks the crowd to choose between Pilate or Jesus, I want to shout to the mob, “Just choose Jesus!” Then I wander what choice I would have made had I been there.
During the Passover festival it was customary for the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to release one prisoner. Pilate had two prisoners before him: Barabbas and Jesus. Struggling with giving the order to kill Jesus, Pilate left the decision to the throng gathered outside his fortress. “Who shall I release? Will it be Barabbas or Jesus?” Surely, those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday a few days earlier would scream with all their conviction, “Jesus! Release Jesus!” But they did not. Because of the early hour, many of his followers probably did not even know about the trial. We know that Jesus’ mother, his disciple John, and maybe Peter gathered on that Friday morning. However, the crowd most likely included members of the Sanhedrin, along with their servants, and some town rabble-rousers. In addition, the money changers and merchants, who had been chastised by Jesus a few days earlier, were probably there looking for revenge.
This man named “Barabbas Jesus,” known as a freedom fighter (Mark 15:7) promised to fight the Roman government by the sword, reclaim their taxes, make them prosperous, and restore their Jewish kingdom.
This man named “Jesus of Nazareth,” spoke a message of love, not war. He spoke of serving, not being served. He spoke of a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly. He said that man cannot serve both God and money.
The Romans saw them both as rebel leaders. Both were seen as messiahs. As Christians, we know that one was a faux messiah and one the real Messiah. One promised earthy rewards and one promised heavenly rewards.
The Romans chose physical power over the power of peace.
Pilate was too weak to betray the crowd. Even against his better judgment, Pilate was pulled by the pressure of the mob. Barabbas was set free; Jesus was sent to the cross.
The truth is… every day we face opportunities either to follow a faux messiah or the real Messiah.
How do we respond when asked, “Will you choose Barabbas or will you choose Jesus? When we face opposition and turmoil, do we respond with the love and peace of Jesus or with the anger and fighting spirit of Barabbas? When settling differences, do we look to Christ for our guidance in settling differences or do we become a rabble-rouser looking for revenge? When faced with moral dilemmas, do we become like Pilate and go with the crowd’s choice or do we stand on our convictions?
Like the mob at the fortress, we have choices. Will we choose like Pilate? Will we choose like the crowd? Will we choose Barabbas? Will we choose Jesus?