Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
Matthew 27: 15 – 18
Of the three men in this passage – Jesus, Barabbas, and Pilate – who are the most similar to one another? On the surface you would think it was the two prisoners. Both shared the same first name: Jesus Barabbas and Jesus of Nazareth. Both were revolutionaries of a sort, and now both of them were facing punishment under the Romans.
But the real similarities are not between Jesus and Barabbas, they are between Barabbas and Pilate. Pilate was the Governor of an occupied territory, and in that role often resorted to violent suppression in order to keep the population down. While Barabbas was an insurrectionist who led a violent anti-Roman resistant. A ‘freedom fighter’ or a ‘terrorist’ depending on your point of view. Despite being on opposite sides, Pilate and Barabbas were both fighting the same war. Each wanted to rule the land and were perfectly willing to use force to do so. They may have been enemies, but in their tactics and ruthlessness they shared much in common.
Jesus was the one offering something different. His message was one of turning the other cheek, loving your neighbour, and a kingdom not built on military might, but a Kingdom of God. Pilate and Barabbas were fighting the old wars, Jesus was offering something truly new and radical. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Pilate realised that Jesus, not Barabbas, was the bigger threat.
Prayer: Living God, in a world full of conflicts, help us to have the vision to see a better path. Whether it’s big global issues, or ground level personal ones, give us the wisdom to see when there is a better way forward. Remind us that the Good News is bigger than any one tribe or faction, it is a message of hope for everyone.
Action: Are there any situations you are involved in that are marked by conflict and division? Think and pray on whether there is another way for everyone to take.