Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday thoughts

I think it's possible that I have been to church on every Good Friday of my life, before I could have even been aware of the service. Sermons delivered on Good Friday are, as a rule, laser-focused on Christ's crucifixion. Why wouldn't they be? But consequently, there are some aspects of in the story of Christ's passion which I haven't heard taught to me in church and which still have avenues worth exploring.

Recently a friend directed me to a very interesting fact about Barabbas, the man who was granted freedom by the crowds in place of Jesus. Barabbas' full name was Jesus Barabbas, but most translations have simply given it as 'Barabbas' for the sake of simplicity. The significance of his name is that 'Barabbas' roughly translates to 'Son of the Father.' So, when Pontius Pilate asks the crowd which one they would have freed, he is essentially asking them two choose between two Jesuses who are both a 'Son of the Father.' Pilate must have chosen Barabbas as a bad joke. Note how Pilate's address to the crowd is one of mockery; when he says (as in Mark 15:9) “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” he didn't actually believe Jesus bore that title, nor did he think the Jews believed that. The entire affair where he addresses the crowd is a bit of political theater, the sort of bread & circuses which entertained Romans.

It's also telling, of course, how Barabbas differs from Jesus Christ. Barabbas, we're told, took part in an armed revolt and was jailed over it. We know from the Gospels that Jesus' disciples frequently hoped Jesus would usher in his kingdom through violence, that he would overthrow the Romans through his power. Essentially, Barabbas was the kind of person the disciples thought they wanted. The Jews, without intending to, chose for themselves a saviour according to the world's understanding of power. And are we so different today? Do we not judge one's might based on their physical conquests (which are seen) rather than their spiritual victories (which are unseen)?

I wish you well on this Good Friday and trust you are looking forward to Easter Sunday with anticipation.

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