Choice:  Christ or Barabbas?
April 1, 2010
Choice: Christ or Barabbas?



The words of Eleanor Roosevelt ring true: One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices we make.

The choice of the crowd in the account of Jesus’ Crucifixion is a succinct commentary of this (Mark 15: 6-15; John 18: 38-40). The crowd, when given a choice between the release of Christ of Barabbas, their overwhelming choice was Barabbas, their overwhelming choice was Barabbas, while vehemently demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.{{more}}

Who was this Barabbas? He is treated as one of those minor characters in the Gospels who enter and leave the stage quickly as a sort of extra to the main action being played. Barabbas is described by John as a bandit. Paul (1 Cor. 11:26) uses the same word to describe the thugs who would lie in wait for travelers in the ancient world and swoop on them, demanding their money or their lives or very likely both. The other three Gospels inform us that he was one who had been involved in a recent political insurrection and had committed murder in the process.

This places Barabbas among a party within the Jewish society whose shadowy lifestyle blurred the boundaries between crime and politics. These rebels sought for opportunities to disadvantage the imperial government whenever and wherever they rose and no matter by what means must be embraced to further their cause. These were desperate men with a desperate mission and were prepared to go to desperate lengths to see it realized.

Barabbas had become a convenient symbol of anti-Roman Sympathies. Many in the crowd shared his political sentiments, even though they may not have condoned his methods or the lifestyle that fueled them. Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities capitalized on this and whipped up the festival crowd in such frenzy that Pilate could hardly resist their demands.

This was the man, Barabbas, who they conspired to have released rather than Jesus. The choice is still presented to us today as we celebrate Easter: Christ or Barabbas.

Jesus, the innocent Son of God, was executed like a political rebel. Though a victim of suffering, Jesus’ loving concern reaches all people around him; even as he hangs dying. It reaches his fellow victims on the crosses beside him; it reaches his mother in her grief, it reaches even the executioners for whom he prays for forgiveness.

Jesus’ death stands as a deep solidarity with others. As an innocent victim he identifies himself with all other innocent victims. Branded a criminal, he identifies with all who are condemned, justly or unjustly. Left to suffer and dies, he identifies with all victims (beggars, street children, abused children, battered women, victimized workers etc.) of societies. This is the Christ who suffered out of love and loved in his sufferings.

The choice remains the same: Christ or Barabbas. You can not wash your hand like Pilate, pretending to be neutral. The Fact is that when you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.

I want on behalf of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, St. Vincent and the Grenadines District, to wish us all a blessed Easter weekend.