Wednesday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Mark 15:6-11
Barabbas, probably a political dissident, apparently violent, and imprisoned by his political enemies, the Romans, suddenly finds himself a pawn in the political machinations of the chief priests and Pilate, the Roman governor. The name Barabbas means, “son of Abba” or “son of the father.” It is therefore a bitter irony that he is chosen for pardon, rather than Jesus, the true son of the Father. But, Barabbas is chosen for release by the crowds who are stirred up by the chief priests, who were themselves motivated by jealousy. Pilate’s simply wanted to defuse the situation, and appease the crowd. Where did all this leave Barabbas?
On his 2017 self-titled album, the country singer-songwriter, Jason Ealy, recorded a song written from Barabbas’ perspective. Ealy’s Barabbas is confused and disoriented by his sudden release. He had no sooner come to terms with “doing his time,” when he finds himself free at the expense of an enigmatic man he does not know. “On this side of forgiveness,” the cross that Barabbas must bear is to learn to live life well after getting a second chance; to learn to forgive himself; to learn to be free. This is our task, also. By virtue of his life, teachings, death, and resurrection Christ offers total forgiveness, infinite love, and limitless grace. As the Apostle Paul tells us, through the Spirit of Christ we are made children of the God—we are un-ironically made sons and daughters of the Father (Romans 8:12-17). Christ has set us free, not because of an insistent mob, nor because of the jealousies of religious leaders, but because of the unending mercy of the ever-living God. On this side of forgiveness, we must learn to bear the cross of accepting this grace, and this freedom.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev. James Stambaugh
Church of the Holy Apostles, Penn Wynne