Lenten Ponderings—Give us Barabbas!

Lenten Ponderings—Give us Barabbas!

Barabbas is usually given just a cursory glance, if even that, as we go through our Easter remembrances, despite the rarity of being a feature in all four Gospels.   But he’s been jumping out at me recently.  I started this post last year, but didn’t get very far, as it is a more challenging one.  I’ve read over the Gospel passages featuring him many times over the years, but they’re ever vibrantly new too.

I recently realized for the first time some notable facets of the Barabbas that’s really gotten me thinking.  He is the one whom Pilate released instead of Jesus.  It never struck me before that Barabbas is identified in three of the four Gospels as an insurrectionist, who was also guilty of murder in the revolt for which he was arrested.  He was quite possibly a Zealot, and as such, likely knew one, perhaps two of Jesus’ close followers.  Knowing the speed at which Roman justice worked back in the day, he had probably had a role in very recent riots, riots likely even related to the same crowds in Jerusalem that week who both welcomed Jesus into the city a few days before, and jeered “Give us Barabbas” rather than Jesus.

And get this—some reliable ancient manuscripts include his first name as well—the name “Jesus.”

I’m reprinting an excerpt from a post from blogging pastor Chris Gilmore to help think through this Lenten pondering:

And us, all these years later, we (still) want Barabbas.


When given the choice between the mercenary and the Messiah we often choose the wrong Jesus. We may say all the right things and claim the right beliefs and have the right bumper stickers, but the way we do politics and conflict and church and relationships and whatever else reveals who we have really chosen.


We still want the violent insurgent.  We, like the crowd that day, have little patience for the slow Kingdom coming.  We want movers and shakers. Those who get things done.  Those who cause our enemies to tremble.  We have no time for a Kingdom that is like a mustard seed, small and slow and making its way little by little. We prefer kingdoms of tanks and trains: get on board or get run over.


We want to be first, not last. To be catered to, not to serve.  We want conquerors on stallions, not peacemakers on donkeys.  We want people to pay. To get what they deserve.  We have little use for mercy. And no use for meekness.  We want brash and bold and big.  We still want Barabbas.


(Link for full Gilmore posting on Barabbas– https://iamchrisgilmore.com/2019/04/17/we-still-want-barabbas/ )

And with his first name also being Jesus, you could say we’re still calling out for Jesus—just the wrong one.  The bold, brash, Zealot Jesus, not afraid to run over those who disagree.  Yet it is Jesus the humble who wins in the end.  The Jesus whose power is made real through sacrifice and grace, rather than anger and sword.

So in the words of the old game show, “will the real Jesus please stand up?”  Or perhaps more appropriately, “will the followers of the Real Jesus please stand up?”

Pondering the Jesus story—Pastor Jim

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