“Give Us Barabbas!” the crowd shouted . Were they confused as to who they wanted? In the older manuscripts, the one who was freed was named Jesus bar Abbas. Jesus son of the Father. He was a revolutionary, an insurrectionist. He strove to free Judea from the Roman yoke. (Here, I digress to remember there was a rift between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front.)
Jesus of Nazareth often referred to himself as the Son. Moreover, he was accused of being an insurrectionist, a revolutionary, and had actually engaged in a violent demonstration at the Temple when he drove out the merchants and money changers.
Can we really blame the crowd for not really knowing who they wanted released? Or did they? There were not photographs or wanted posters then, no means of making the image of Jesus of Nazareth known to any who had not seen him up close and personal. It was necessary for Jude of Kerioth to personally identify Jesus to the arresting officers who were sent after him. So how could the crowd know which man standing before them was the “real” Jesus?
Like the crowd, do we become confused between Jesus bar Abbas and Jesus of Nazareth? Or do we instinctively shout for the practical revolutionary who promises to work to change the world we live in rather than the one who foolishly declared his kingdom to be not of this world? If we do not shout before Pilate, do we do so when we place politics over faith? Or worse, when we allow our politics to determine the contours of our faith?
In the end, what do we really want from Jesus, the Christ? Do we want all our earthly desires satisfied, or do we want More? Do we want comfort and satisfaction in the Here and Now, or do we want to know God?
There have been several “Barabbas” movies, the one which I like is the one from 1961 with Anthony Quinn as Barabbas (and Jack Palance as a deliciously evil gladiator). After his release, Barabbas wants to find out what happened, and why, eventually gets to Rome and succeeds as a gladiator. At the last, he ends up on a cross after all. In his confusion about who Jesus the Christ was, and how to follow Him, he comes across as a bit of a dullard. But, then, so am I.
In the end, Jesus of Nazareth died in MY place. In the end, I am confused and do not understand, and often conflate worldly and holy salvation. In the end, I am the dullard who never quite understands.
In the end, with an inversion of the climactic scene in Spartacus, “I am Barabbas.”