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Friday, April 4, 2014

Lent 5: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Messiah

Barabbas


As I prepared this message on Friday, I was aware that it was Martin Luther King Junior day.  King was a black American preacher who became a civil rights activist, teaching “active, non-violent resistance to evil” and opposing racism and segregation.  In many ways he was a flawed hero, but he was a committed and sincere man who died for his faith and for the freedom of his people.  The day before he was shot he said:

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.  I won’t have any money to leave behind.  I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind.  But I just want to leave a committed life behind.  Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  But I just want to do God’s will.  With this faith I will go out and carve a tunnel of hope from a mountain of despair.  He’s allowed me to go up the mountain.  And I’ve looked over.  And I’ve seen the Promised Land.  And I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.  Black men and white men, Jew and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing with the Negroes in the spiritual of old:

          Free at last,
free at last.
Thank God Almighty
we are free at last.

As I read that old spiritual I wondered if Barabbas sang something like that on the first Good Friday.  It certainly was a “good Friday” for Barabbas.  We know little about the man.  He was apparently a zealot, who were the Jewish terrorists of the day – people so intent on their country’s liberation that many of them would resort to violence.  Mark tells us that he was a murderer, but we know only too well that one man’s murderer is another man’s terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter, is another man’s liberation struggle hero.  His full name was Jesus Barabbas – Jesus being a very common name in first century Israel.

And so it is that in verse 17, Pilate says, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  
I think Pilate continues to ask the Church and us as individuals that question: 

“Who do you want: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Messiah?”

....The violence of Barabbas or the non-violence of Jesus?.....
.....Armed response or passive resistance?.....
.....Someone who knows how to klap the other cheek or someone who only knows how to turn the other cheek?.....
....As we go into elections, what are we looking for:
          Noise and bluster.....or .........quiet?
Barabbas appeals to the eye and ear – Jesus to the conscience and the heart.
One works by bravado and sword – the other by persuasion and love.

Pilate still asks us daily as he cries out over the centuries: 

                 “Who do you want: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Messiah?”
 
Crowds tend to go for noise, bravado, show of force, someone not afraid to stand up and be counted and speak their mind – all of these call for a Barabbas, not a Messiah.

But you and I are not the crowd, we are in the crowd.  
So who do you want: Jesus Barabbas leading the fight against world terrorism, 
Jesus Barabbas as your defence lawyer in court, 
Jesus Barabbas as your divorce attorney, 
Jesus Barabbas guarding your front door, 
Jesus Barabbas watching over your wallet, 
or ……
do you want Jesus Messiah leading the war on terror, 
Jesus Messiah as your defence attorney when charged with murder, 
Jesus Messiah as your divorce attorney, 
Jesus Messiah deciding who can come into your property and through your front door, Jesus Messiah in control of your wallet.

“Who do you want: Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Messiah?”

.....and then verse 18, “for he knew it was out of self interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.”  
Self-interest often wins the day, doesn't it?

Given the choice, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Messiah, we often prefer to have Barabbas in our corner, don't we? Perhaps because we are Barabbas......self-interested, self-consumed, self-ish (this seems to be the age of the selfie)
 .........but we needn't be.

In Lent, but hopefully everyday of our lives, the question and choice before us (which we looked at in detail 2 weeks ago) is: do I die to self……or not?

Do I crucify self or do I crucify Jesus?  
Do I crucify the Barabbas in me …… or do I crucify the Jesus in me?
Barabbas or Jesus?
Choosing Barabbas will usually always ensure that I breathe a little longer.
Choosing Jesus will always ensure that I live longer, even if I stop breathing.

Choose Jesus today.

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