These are difficult times. Times of violence and war. Times of uncertainty. Times in which exploitation and abuse are exposed. Times when people show who they really are based on what they say and what they do. Times when we have to decide how we will act. Times where we either praise violence and destruction as something that appears strong, smart, or powerful, or we reject these ways publicly in favor of the less popular path of peace.
This is a time in which we have to choose which Jesus we will follow – Jesus the Christ or Jesus Barabbas.
Matthew 27:16-17 states: “At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whole do you want me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
We’re always being asked which Jesus we will choose. Jesus the Prince of Peace, or Jesus the notorious prisoner. Jesus who fights not with weapons but instead loves his enemies, or Jesus who uses violence to try to get his way causing death and destruction.
Jesus the Christ represents the Kingdom of God, Shalom, peace, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.
Jesus Barabbas is just another in a long line of men who represent the empires of the world who worship violence and war, exploitation and abuse, death and destruction. You can substitute so many names throughout history for him. You could just as easily substitute in other titles of men who have taken up Jesus Barabbas’ mantle – Caesar, Czar, General, Leader, President, etc. Regardless of the title, it is the method that matters.
Pilate’s question still waits for our answer – who do we want to be released for us? And when we choose, what are we to do with the one who is not released? Crucify him?
It’s a time for choosing.
Do we choose Jesus the Christ, the Prince of Peace? The one who values the means as much as the ends to the point that he presents a way of life to live? Or do we choose Jesus Barabbas who values the ends justify the means because they look strong and who relies on violence in order to accomplish his goals?
Do we choose Jesus the Christ, the one who was poor and homeless, who valued the weak and uplifted those at the bottom of society? Or do we choose Jesus Barabbas who believes that only the strong survive?
Do we choose Jesus, the one calls on followers to love and to pray for enemies. Or do we choose Jesus Barabbas who believes that might makes right.
Jesus or the many men who have taken up the mantle of Jesus Barabbas? Which is it Christian?
Set aside the quick answer that you know you are supposed to give. Words can be really cheap in times like this. But our actions don’t lie. We can’t act in conflict with what we truly value at the core of who we are. So show the world what your answer is without saying a word. Let your actions speak louder than your words. Let your actions show who it is that you are actually following.
Let your actions proclaim which gospel narrative you actually believe in – the Gospel of Jesus the Christ that frees people, offers salvation, is a way of peace, or the gospel of Jesus Barabbas which exploits, destroys, and kills.