Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jesus or Barabbas?

At the culmination of Jesus’ trial, Pilate presents the people with a choice between Jesus and Barabbas… But who was Barabbas?.. The Greek word for ‘robber’ [was] in Palestine a synonym for resistance fighter… [Barabbas] was one of the prominent resistance fighters… In other words, Barabbas was a messianic figure. The choice of Jesus versus Barabbas is not accidental; two messianic figures, two forms of messianic belief stand in opposition.
Jesus of Nazareth Vol 1, 40
Reflection – ‘All the kingdoms of the earth shall be given to you, if you bow down and worship me.’ This is the context in which Pope Benedict writes about Jesus and Barabbas here: the third temptation of Christ in the desert by Satan.
The temptation of power, and what a powerful one it is for us! Whether it is the alluring power of revolutionary change, of forcing the world into a better shape through violence, or the more subtle forms of that temptation, salvation through power is, well, a powerful one for us.
What are these more subtle forms? Well, ‘taking control’ of my life. ‘Getting my act together’. ‘Being the boss,’ in whatever forum you happen to have that option.
All of these can have value, properly understood. Someone has to be the boss, after all! But they are not salvation, not the end of the road, not goods in themselves. They’re only good as means to the end which is to love as Jesus loved and give our lives as a ransom for many, through, with, and in Him.
As subtle as its expressions may be in our lives, and as carefully as we must discern what’s going on in our own hearts in it all, it really is a stark choice. Either I’m trying to make my life what it should be by forcing my plans/ideas/agendas/druthers on it, or I’m standing with Jesus before Pilate, before His Father, before the world. And in my life ‘in the crowd’ I have to choose, too: will I go with the powerful, charismatic person who promises to fix everything just nice… if I give him or her control over everything, or do I stand with Jesus, with the strange mysterious Messiah who beckons me on the path of love and obedience, who promises me a kingdom, but not of this world, who promises me eternal joy and bliss and perfect justice wedded to perfect mercy, not as I would have it, but as His Father in heaven dispenses it.
We have to choose, you know. We really do. And so many people choose the way of power and control. To decide that that way is illusory and leads nowhere, and that the way of the suffering Messiah alone leads to life is to plunge ourselves into a totality of  faith that many find daunting. But it is that totality of faith that alone secures our hope, and that security of hope that alone can bring us into the fullness of love. And that love is what will bring us the joy and peace our hearts desire.

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