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you are barabbas

gregory a. milinovich
mixed media collage (acrylic paint, gesso, found and vintage papers, markers, crayon, glue) on stretched canvas
february 2013
this week for our evening lenten series at church we talked about the figure of barabbas, particularly examining the account of him in matthew.  there we see a very clear choice being presented between jesus barabbas and Jesus the Christ.  while to us who may have had a bit too heavy a dose of mel gibson, we may picture this choice as one between the wonderful Jesus the Christ, and the scandalous, rough, loser known as barabbas. 
it's not that simple.
matthew wants us to see that the choice is not about a political guy vs. a spiritual guy.  it's not about external stuff vs. internal stuff.  it's not any of that.  matthew is showing us that it is a choice between a revolutionary who would change far too little, and one who would change everything. 
perhaps the most obvious way these two men are being presented as two options is by their very names.  jesus bar-abbas literally means "jesus - son of the father" (bar = son of, abba = father), while jesus the christ is the one who claimed to be the son of God, who called God his own Father.  So here we have before us two choices: son of the father, and son of the Father.  interesting, right? 
but the similarities end there.  barabbas wants revolution by violence and death of the romans, while Jesus is also a revolutionary, but his means involve death of a different sort: death to self.  barabbas' plan is simply a shift in power from the romans to the jews, but it will still be a system in which the powerful maintain their power by oppressing the powerless.  Jesus, on the other hand, is talking about ushering in a new kingdom, one in which the great are brought down and the humble are exalted, one in which the greatest in the whole kingdom is a servant of all.  Jesus wants to change everything. 
what a choice. 
we know how the crowd chose.  we can see its evidence by the chains of barabbas, hanging there, unused, and by the cross of jesus, stained with his blood. 
but the question is, how do we choose.  who do we choose?  in the decisions of our own lives, when we face difficult circumstances, when worries assail us, when anxiety threatens to overcome us, which way do we choose?  do we follow the way of action and violence and control and power and relying on our own devices?  or do we find a way to follow Jesus, in humility, in love, in surrender and non-violence and grace? 
its an important question, because each of us is barabbas.  each one of us, like the son of the father, have had our chains cut loose because of Jesus.  and each one of us has a crossroads in front of us, not just in some great historical sense, but in this very day, perhaps in this very moment.  which way will you choose? 


Anonymous said…
"...jesus the christ is the one who claimed to be the son of God, who called God his own Father. So here we have before us two choices: son of the father, and son of the Father. interesting, right? but the similarities end there. barabbas wants revolution by violence and death of the romans, while Jesus is also a revolutionary, but his means involve death of a different sort: death to self."

In the 1st instance, "...Jesus the Christ is the one who claimed to be the son of God, who called God his own Father." 'Christ', an anglicized Greek form of 'Kristos', did not appear in literature (the Holy Gospels) until after Saul of Tarsus (aka the self-proclaimed Apostle & eventual Saint Paul's) epiphany (while on the road to Damascus in pursuit of persecuting 'the zealot followers of the descendant of David & the Jewish mashiach', -therefore, it is dubious at best that he or anyone else referred to him as 'Christ'. That he, supposedly, claimed to be 'the Christ' simply does not stand the test of history. [Jesus] Barabbas never claimed to be 'the son of the father' (as in the Father of us all or God, if you will), -in fact, it appears that he never said a word, -he was called 'Barabbas' by others, -certainly by Pontius Pilate.

In the 2nd instance... "barabbas wants revolution by violence and death of the Romans..."? Is there any historical proof or even evidence of or for such an assertion?

That the two men were switched (never before or since exercised), we, later-day people, never see or grasp the illusion right before our eyes... was it 'the descendant of David & Jewish mashiach' who sought the to overthrow secular governance of the Herods & thus re-establish of the Davidist theocracy or [Jesus] Barabbas (about whom we, later-day people, know nothing)?

In any case I chose neither man... indeed, rather, pursue Him who may teach "... death to self." while I live & not waste time & energy poring over Books of dead men.

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