Skip to main content

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.

Popular posts from this blog


i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are: 
It has been a season of terrible tragedy.  And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers.  It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way.  People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement.  The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer.  We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all.  But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an em…

a divided tree

there is a tree in my back yard.  i'm pretty sure it's an oak tree.  at least that's what i think Shannon told me.  i don't know my oaks from my maples, my elms from my locusts.  to me, it's a tree: a corinthian column bursting up into life and glory.  full of sap and pulp and rings and bugs and cells pulsing with water and always reaching for something.  it is full of rhythm, reach and flourish then fall and die, and repeat. 

this particular tree, though, isn't of one mind. 

half of it's rusted orange leaves have given up their grip and surrendered -gracefully or not - to the pull of gravity and the threat of winter.  the north side of this inauspicious oak is just about bare naked, all sticks and straight lines, a skeleton of itself.  but the side that looks south is stubbornly resisting change.  no longer green, the leaves have compromised their summer vibrancy, but they are clearly not ready to concede death just yet. 

i feel like i can relate to this …

thankful right now

"if the only prayer you ever say in your life is 'thank you,' it will be enough." -Meister Eckhart

"thanksgiving is inseparable from prayer." -John Wesley

i've been thinking about gratitude quite a bit this week, and how to foster a thankful spirit in the midst of the barrage of bad news that for me is punctuated by yet another "breaking news" notification on my phone, interrupting the busyness of my day to rudely remind me that the world's brokenness knows nothing of limits or boundaries, not to mention my schedule or sanity.  still, the bad news keeps coming. 

i just scrolled through my most recent notifications just from the last few days and they contain phrases like "crimes against humanity," "57 million users hacked, but not reported," "alleged pattern of sexual abuse," and "extremely disturbing," just to name a few.  how am i supposed to be present at a staff meeting when my phone is buzzing …