Most likely, you know that Barabbas, in contrast to Jesus, was a real criminal. I admit I must have conflated him with the two bandits who were crucified with Jesus, because only this Palm Sunday did I hear his actual crime.
According to Mark, Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who committed murder during the insurrection. The insurrection, I assume, refers to an armed insurrection against the occupying Romans.
So when the crowd shouts to release Barabbas, they aren’t just—irrationally—picking a common criminal over the Son of God. They are choosing the armed leader, the military hero. They are choosing as their way violent overthrow of the Romans, rather than Jesus’s way.
Jesus’s way, one could argue, was harder. Jesus asked the Israelites the same thing he asks of us: to examine the injustices in our own society, rather than blaming outsiders for all our ills (that “plank in the eye” business.) It’s an unpleasant suggestion, since it’s always easier to aim our anger at an outside group than it is to examine our own behavior.
How many of us as we prepare for Holy Week are choosing to blame “them” for the delay in the arrival of God’s Kingdom?
here’s to creative synthesis . . .