Scripture: Luke 23:13-25
Key verses: (18-19) Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)
Reflection: Pontius Pilate was the infamous Roman ruler who presided over the mock trial of Jesus. In Luke’s gospel Pilate is shown as resisting the religious leader’s insistence that Jesus be killed, ridding them and Rome, so they argued, of a trouble maker. Three times Pilate declined to find fault with Jesus. Three times the religious leaders insisted that Jesus be punished and put to death.
It’s hard to imagine why Jesus was perceived to be such a threat both to the religious leaders and to the Romans. Jesus did not lead an insurrection. Jesus did not advocate violence against the Rome. Jesus was not an economic threat since he came from poverty. Jesus, while disapproving of the collaboration of the religious leaders with Rome, nevertheless was a faithful observant Jew. Yet he was still a threat, an ideological threat, to both religion and empire. The danger of Jesus was his proclamation that there was another way to live, another way to order personal and community life, a way that threatened the status quo of politicians and religious leaders. Jesus’ way was to reconnect with God as Father (Abba) even when that meant rejecting those who would presume to take God’s place.
Perhaps then it is no surprise that, in a last effort to get Pilate to “handle” Jesus, the religious leaders challenged Pilate to keep Jesus and release another prisoner — Barabbas. The Gospel writer knew how to hook his readers. The readers would have recognized the name Barabbas as the Greek form of “bar-abba” — the Aramaic name which means “son of the father.” So when Pilate told them to choose between Jesus, Son of the Father, and Barabbas, son of the father, Pilate was setting up the choice that all of us need to make.
To protect our status and eliminate our insecurities how far will we go? Will we choose the violent, revolutionary, murderer over the non-violent, compassionate, teacher?
The religious leaders of that day made their choice and the politicians gratefully went along. They of course choose Barabbas.
Prayer: God of justice, love, and mercy, forgive our self-interest especially when it damages other’s lives. Forgive our rejection of your way in order to pursue our own. Assuage our fear of losing our self and give us courage to hold on to Jesus, Son of God, who is the way, the truth and the life. Amen.
Author: Von Clemans
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].