Thursday, April 17, 2014
Of all the characters documented that final week in the life of Jesus, I am drawn to the unlikely ruffian Barrabas. Other than the Son of God, of course, HE'S my favorite.
Barrabas was a murderer, thief, scoundrel and major trouble maker.....an all around bad guy. And he was in prison for his crimes, awaiting his sentencing which would surely be crucifixion. He deserved the death penalty and he knew it! I have a vision of him sitting hunched against a stone cold wall, shacked by chains, grumbling, smelling like dried blood with bits of last weeks goatburger decorating his scraggly beard.
It's not his fine upstanding character that I find so compelling! It's not what he said, which was NOTHING. It's not what he thought, of which we have no idea. It's not his actions. (No, I'm not naturally drawn to the BAD guy in the movies!)
What I find fascinating is what he HEARD!
No doubt his prison cell was around the corner, down the tiny cobbled streets, out of sight! His life counted for nothing, there would be no reason for him to be near the center of town. The jail was always down a back alley, right? BUT, Jerusalem was no metropolis at the time. The whole area was pretty compact.
As Jesus appeared before Pilate publicly there is NO doubt what Barrabas HEARD!
You remember! That spineless, crowd pleasing official Pilate decided to make an offer to the angry crowed assembled that day. He was sure it would placate them, maybe get them off his front porch for a while. He was ready to be done with the silly Jewish conflict even though he found NO reason to condemn the man Jesus to death. He literally washed his hands of the whole mess. The bothersome affair seemed beneath him, a waste of his precious time.
His offer? He asked the mob mentality controlled crowd who THEY wanted him to free that day, Jesus or Barrabas!
His singular voice was no doubt directed toward the crowd...."Who do you want? Jesus or Barrabas!"
IN unison the crowed cried out loudly and angrily, "GIVE US BARRABAS." Their fists must have been flailing in the air.
Pilate's lonely voice came back at them, "What shall I do with the man called Jesus?"
The crowd, "CRUCIFY HIM!" "CRUCIFY HIM!" Those words must have echoed through those walled streets.
Did Barrabas know what was going on? I doubt it. He was totally detached from the whole religious mumbo, jumbo problem. He probably wasn't the smartest pencil in the box, either.
ALL he HEARD was, "GIVE US BARRABAS. CRUCIFY HIM!"
I KNOW what he was thinking then!! He was about to meet his maker. I wonder if he even acknowledged he had a maker!
A short time later the guards came, keys a rattling. His time was up! He must have been scowling, ready to resist the muscular law enforcers, one last ditch effort! The survival instinct must have kicked in.
The cell door was flung open and the chains were quickly REMOVED from his arms and legs. They must have pushed him out the door. "Be gone with you. You are free."
Barrabas! FREE! He must have stumbled into the sunshine, shielding his eyes from it's brightness.
FREE! A convicted man....FREE AND FORGIVEN. An INNOCENT MAN would die and he, Barrabas would live.
Why do I relate to Barrabas? Because he is me, and you, and every person that hears the EASTER story that accepts the God planned, substitutionary crucifixion. Chains exchanged for freedom. How can you NOT love that?
Barrabas experienced literal, in the flesh, GRACE. An exchange had been made, the life of the One from Galilee would die in his place. Barrabas didn't deserve it! But wisely, he didn't refuse it. He walked out.