“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 24, 2022.
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. (Luke 23:18-19)
OK, this is crazy. Why would they want Barabbas, a murderer, back on the street? When we capture a murderer, we want them put away for life – or worse. When they are released on a legal technicality we are incensed. How could that be justice? How could that be right?
Can you think of any reason why you might choose Barabbas over Jesus? I can think of several. First, you want insurrection. You want a rebellion. You’ve been waiting for someone to stand up to the Romans. Jesus isn’t going to do that. But Barabbas will. He already has.
And maybe Barabbas didn’t do it. Someone lied and he ended up in jail. That’s not justice. He should go free.
It’s possible you personally know Barabbas. As far as you know, he’s not such a bad guy. OK, so maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, made a few mistakes. Who hasn’t? He was a friend. He took care of his mom. He was there for you in the past. Now he needs your help, so you’re there for him.
And this Jesus? You’ve never seen him before in your life. You don’t know anything about him. But you can tell he’s not popular. So you go along with the crowd. “Take him away!”
It’s ironic that according to Luke, the only member of the pro-Jesus party in attendance is Pilate. Three times, Pilate said Jesus wasn’t guilty of any of their charges. Pilate is ready to let him go. Every other voice calls for Barabbas’ release. It’s a landslide.
The Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. Their unofficial nickname was the “Broad Street Bullies.” They were the bad guys we (I grew up there) all rooted for. The roster included players who deliberately committed penalties and started fights to intimidate their opponents. For a few seasons, it worked and they won.
In this moment, Barabbas wins. He gets to go free while Jesus is handed over to be crucified. But it’s just the first period. There’s a lot of time left in the game.
I can’t wait for overtime, Lord. Amen.