“Barabbas Speaks”  Matthew 27:15-26

Mid-Week Lenten Worship  March 15, 2023

“Barabbas Speaks”  Matthew 27:15-26

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

             You wouldn’t think it, but I, Bar-Abba, and Jesus have much in common.  I know that our lives took divergent paths but you’ll be surprised at how much me and Him, and me and you, have in common.

            My life got muddied up.  Do you know how sins seems to grow?  It starts small and just sort of snow-balls.  That is what mine did.  I started out as just a thief.  Nothing big.  Misdemeanor type stuff.  But it grew.  Do you know the group called the Zealots?  We took things into our own hands.  We despised the Romans and the ungodly things they did in our land.  If something was wrong we fixed it.  Or, we fixed them.  Sometimes you just can’t stand by, you make it right.  And if that means busting a few heads that is what you have to do.

            I did that and they caught me.  I was charged and convicted of committing murder during an uprising.  And back in my day justice was quick.  You didn’t sit around in jail.  Guilty meant guilty.  And guilty meant death.  My death was going to come on a Friday.

            But you know His life – Jesus – got muddied up too.  But His response to the problems that were brought on Him were much different than mine.  When the mob arrived, arresting Him for who knows what, a number of His followers were ready to fight for His safety.  But He told them to put their swords away.  He spoke directly to His own, “Put your sword back in its place,  for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”  (Matthew 26:52)

            Then He was brought before Pilate, that darn Roman Governor. Pilate had heard that some referred to Him as a king.  But Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”  (John 18:36)  I wouldn’t have been so cordial.  I would have told him what I thought of him and all the Romans.  But immediately Jesus became quiet!!  Quiet?  Your life is going to be taken away and you don’t even fight back, you don’t defend yourself?  That evil Governor said to Jesus, “Do you refuse to speak to me?  Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”  (John 19:10) 

            So I guess you are puzzled by my words stating that Jesus and I have so much in common.  It doesn’t sound like we were anything alike.  Do you know my name?  Do you know His name?  My name is Bar Abba.  Bar – Son.  Abba – Father.  Bar Abba, or as you call me, Barabbas, son of the father.

            Isn’t that His name?  Isn’t He the Son of the Father?  When He was baptized I was told that heaven opened up, a dove came down on the head of Jesus and the words were spoken, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:17)  Son of the Father, right?  Or how about the day when He was transfigured on the mountain?  A voice from the cloud rumbled, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him.”  (Matthew 17:5)  Or how about what He says on the cross?  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

            We are both Bar Abba.  Son of the father.  But I made my father sad.  I disappointed him.  Soon my dead, naked body would be on public display.  But that other Bar Abba – Jesus – was a joy to His Father.  He submitted to the will of the Father in everything.  I wasted my life.  I became a criminal.  I was a murderer.  He redeemed life.  He brought life.  He gave life. 

            I had something in common with Him.  Did you know that I also have something in common with you?  We don’t share a similar name, but we share a common outcome.   

            I was in prison with two other two guys – Dismas and Gestas.  We knew what was coming on that day for all of us – our bitter end.  We would be executed – crucified – a statement that Rome wanted everyone to read.  “Don’t mess with Rome” is what that cross said.  The guards would come and begin what you call “The Long Mile” – taking us from the cell to the cross. 

            Mine started out going toward that hill called “The Place of the Skull” but pretty soon we headed in a different direction.  As we headed to that place I heard tons of people, all of them in an uproar.  Something was going on and I happened to be part of it.  I saw Pilate, the governor, at his seat and he looked greatly distressed.  Things were not going well.    

The Roman’s had a unique custom, a little bone that they threw to the big dogs during the Passover.  They would release a prisoner of the Jewish people’s choosing.  The one chosen would leave the prison as a free man.  That is when I saw Him – the Son of the Father – for the first time.  He looked awful.  He had been beaten and whipped.  He was bloody.  They brought me to the center stage with Him.  The crowd was asked this question, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Bar Abba or Jesus who is called the Christ?”  (Matthew 27:17) With one voice the chant began, “Bar Abba!”, “Bar Abba!”.  What??  Why would they want me?  I knew who I was.  I knew what I had done.  But they wanted me to be released.  What was happening? 

And then Pilate asked what should be done with Jesus.  “Crucify him.”  Now Pilate was the only sane one in the crowd.  He asked why.  “What crime has he done?”  But that incited them all the more.  “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him?”

Do you know what we both have in common?  He took our place.  I know He took mine.  I would have been dead on that Friday.  Three crosses – three men getting what they deserved.  But I didn’t go there.  He went there instead of me. 

If I got it right that is what happened for you.  He took your place.  Why would He do that?  I know I was let free because of the hatred that so many had for Him.  But why are you let free?  I think it is love.  The greatest love.  In your Bible it reads, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  (I John 4:10)  Or as my Bible says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 52:5)

That is just weird.  I have something in common with you and you have something in common with me.  He dies and I live.  He dies and I am set free.  He dies and you live.  He dies and you are set free. 

That day the Son of the Father, the real Bar Abba, did His work.  For me.  For you.  Amen.                                                



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