Stephanie and I were talking to the girls about the significance of Palm Sunday the other day. Stephanie raised an interesting question: how did the welcoming crowd of Palm Sunday so quickly turn into the angry mob of Good Friday? I think the answer lies in Barabbas.
I just finished reading the novelization of the Risen film. Barabbas gets a prominent mention towards the beginnning, as he leads a failed uprising against Roman rule in Jerusalem. I think that’s what people really wanted.
When Jesus came into the city on Palm Sunday, the people thought they were welcoming a political hero who would save them from their circumstances. They thought they were welcoming a Barabbas.
Barabbas. The name literally means “Son of the Father”. Names are a big deal to God, and in this case I think Barabbas represents our false image of Jesus.
It is a great exercise to read Scripture and put yourself in the shoes of the people who were there, but sometimes it’s hard to do. In this case, that puts you and me in the middle of that angry mob on Good Friday, shouting for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. And chances are, that’s exactly where we’d be.
When we talk about Jesus as “our friend”, we are not wrong, but if we stop there we are creating God in our own image. God likes the things we like, and hates the things we hate. God is there to help us in the immediate circumstances. We don’t care so much about the big picture – we care about right now. So of course the people of Jerusalem thought Jesus was supposed to start a political uprising. Of course they were disappointed when they found out the revolution he talked about was to happen in their hearts. Of course they chose Barabbas instead.
Jesus is our friend, but he’s so much more than that. He is the King of our heart and Lord of our life. That means that instead of creating Jesus in our own image, we are to humble ourselves before the King. We are to submit to his will for our lives. And this is a good thing, because he sees so much more than our immediate circumstances.
The real beauty happens when you read the rest of the story and get a glimpse of the big picture. Even though that mob chose Barabbas, Jesus chose them. He chose all of us. He submitted to the will of the Father and fulfilled God’s secret plan for humanity: saving us all. He didn’t save Jerusalem from their immediate circumstances. He saw the big picture. He saved the whole world.
Consciously or not, we make this choice between Jesus and Barabbas every day. When we choose the immediate over the ultimate, we choose Barabbas. When we choose human striving over trusting God, we choose Barabbas.
And yet Jesus chose us.
Maybe we should choose the one who chose us.