Let’s just get this out into the open; I’m cheating on this post. I am writing this reflection on Sunday night, and so we really aren’t to Monday, the sixth day of Lent yet. But I’m not going to post this until tomorrow and that WILL be day six. I know, it’s a bit pharisaical. So sue me! OK, we’ve got that business behind us. Now let’s roll.
In my last post I wrote of returning to Facebook on Sunday and how it disrupted my effort to focus on God more closely. As soon as I finished that post I cleaned up a little and we headed off to our evening church service in the facility of a neighboring church. If you remember, we usually meet in a theater and we got 86’d last night so that they could use their theater for an Oscars party. It’s their theater, so I’m cool with that.
We gathered instead in this other church facility that is a real, dedicated church building. After fleeting moments of jealousy I purposed to regain the focus on God stuff that I have been trying to cultivate during Lent and I pondered the awesome generosity of the neighboring church which not only let us use their building but also contributed their own worship team, which is Christianspeak for the musicians who lead the hymns and songs. Christians can be jerks just like anybody else, and churches (which is another way of saying ‘groups of Christians'” can be possessive of their buildings and so forth and thereby become collective jerks as well. Our church and this other church have chosen to not act like that. I think God likes that. I would like to see other churches do that too, but I will not start preaching.
Our pastor, Jake, was preaching on the part of the Gospel story where Jesus gets interviewed by the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. It’s a familiar story, like the parable of the prodigal son which I wrote about a couple of days ago. So what could I learn from this that I hadn’t learned from the last 100 times that I’ve heard, read, or seen enacted on a screen this very story?
Well, the part which stood out to me was the part about Barabbas. Pilate, sensing that Jesus was innocent and wanting to set him free, knows that there is a tradition of giving the people the choice of setting one prisoner free and executing another; crowd’s choice. So he offers the crowd the choice of Jesus and a guy named Barabbas. Now, the crowd has just dragged Jesus in to the Romans in order to have him killed, so who could this Barabbas be that Pilate figures “surely they’ll want to execute him instead of Jesus?”
The character played by Anthony Quinn in the 1961 film “Barabbas” probably doesn’t quite complete the picture. It would probably be more accurate to compare Barabbas with Charles Manson, or Ariel Castro, or Oobie Doobie Dipstick al-Baghdadi, the twisted, murderous clown who sits at the top of the pyramid of insanity that is known as ISIS. We don’t really know just how bad Barabbas was, but there is little doubt that he was as bad as it gets. But then how bad Barabbas was is not the point; the point is that Barabbas was somebody whom Pilate, the consummate politician, thought that the Jews would NEVER want roaming freely in their society again. And yet they chose to free Barabbas in the place of God Incarnate, all the while being unwilling to enter Pilate’s residence because they did not wish to become ceremonially unclean for the Passover.
Arghhh! It’s mind boggling. I’m reminded of when C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape becomes so worked up over some issue or other that is irrelevant to this post that he transforms into a centipede and cannot finish his letter to his nephew Wormwood. Well, I feel a little like Screwtape when I think that these guys are stressing over remaining ‘clean’ while they are in the middle of a mission to kill God.
But that’s not so unusual really. How many times do we all reflect upon our own actions with great charity and condescension while blasting our opponents with both barrels? For me, at least, the answer is ‘often’. And the point of this scripture wasn’t how evil Barabbas was, or what schmucks the Jewish authorities were either. The point was that Jesus claimed to be the Truth, and available to Romans and Jews and anybody else who might be seeking the truth. There were more points actually, and you’ll have to go to House Of Providence Vancouver and listen for yourself to hear them all. But that one nailed me, and so that is the one that God wanted me to get. And now you know it too.