This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)… Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” … So Pilate released Barabbas to them. (Matthew 27:16-18, 20-22, 26a)
All of the gospel writers include Barabbas. It’s not surprising because he was a bloodthirsty murderer. Ironically, his name means “son of the father.” In a dramatic historic coincidence, his name is reported by some to have actually been “Jesus Barabbas” or “Jesus, the son of the father.” If this is true then the crowd was confronted by Pilate with choosing between Jesus, the son of the father, who rules by violence and makes his living by his wits; and Jesus, the Son of the Father, who rules by love and is ready to sacrifice Himself.
Why did they choose Barabbas? Were they somehow disappointed with Jesus?” This was the same crowd who, just a few days before, had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. It’s certain that some of them knew people who had experienced a healing touch from Jesus for the city was filled with people Jesus had healed. The eyes of the blind had been opened, the deaf made to hear, and the lame to walk. Jesus had awakened within people the hope that He was indeed the Messiah, come to deliver them from the yoke of Rome. But all of their thoughts of messiahship centered around the thought that He would set them free from the hated bondage of Rome. Now, when they saw Him standing helpless before the Roman governor, all their loyalty to Him collapsed. In anger and disappointment, they chose Barabbas, the son of the father.
Have you ever been disappointed in the Lord? Have you ever expected Him to act in a certain way because of what you understood about Him-but then He didn’t act as you had anticipated? God’s ways are higher than ours. We cannot figure Him out. He will always be true, faithful, truthful, but He is more than we can handle. And like the angry crowd, when He doesn’t act in accordance with our expectations, there is always a Barabbas waiting in the wings.
Prayer: Lord, Your ways are higher than my ways. Help me to hold fast to You, even when I don’t understand what You are doing.
*Photo courtesy of Javier Allegue Barros