A Prayer of Jesus I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
By Edgar JonesNow the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." (Matthew 27:20,21).Barabbas remains a mystery. All we know is the brief character information given in each of the gospels. In Matthew, he is simply "a notorious prisoner." In Mark, he is "one of the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection." In Luke, he was "a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. The Fourth Gospel simply states, "Now Barabbas was a robber." He could easily have been all of these things, for an insurrectionist could have committed both robbery and murder in the course of his activities. He may well have been a member of that militant party, the Zealots, people zealous for the restoration of the Kingdom of their father David, zealous to crown a christ, zealous for insurrection and the end of Roman rule. The people were given the choice: the Insurrection man or the Resurrection man.
Yes, Barabbas remains a mystery, but yet . . . there may be more to learn than the brief facts listed above. I say this because of the provocative significance of the man's name. Barabbas. This is an Aramaic name, and more than a name, it is a word which, dissected, literally means "son of the father" or "the father's son." Bar = son of, abba(s) = father. This name would have suggested to his compatriots that here was a real "son of his father," "a chip off the old block" to use a modern cliché. Seen thusly, and applied to a man who, as an insurrectionist, was committed to the restoration of the kingdom and the glory of Father David and all the fathers of this patriarchal clan, the Jews, Barabbas becomes the perfect metaphor of the temporal, earthly man, the son of his father after the flesh. Contrariwise, we know the virgin born Jesus as the son of the Father also, but in his case it is the son of the Father in Heaven, not the son of the man of earth. More precisely, then, the choice set before the people that day was a profoundly spiritual choice. It was a choice between the son of the father (on earth) and the son of the Father (in heaven). They chose, of course, the man of earth and delivered the man of heaven to be crucified.
Those Jews were only the first to choose Barabbas over Jesus. Both Jews and Gentiles have been doing it ever since that day in Jerusalem so long ago. They are still doing it today without realizing it, foolishly thinking they can devote themselves to both Jesus Christ and the nation.
As an insurrectionist struggling against the Roman subjection of his beloved nation, if indeed that is what he was, Barabbas was first of all a patriot. Now, if you haven’t noticed, the word "patriot" also means "father" and patriotism is, literally, fatherism. In First Century Palestine it represented devotion to the nation that had as it fathers such historic persons as patriarchs (ruler of a father’s house) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon. Barabbas was then a true "son of the fathers" who risked his life in the heroic struggle for the freedom of his nation. It is precisely the same struggle that continues today by the citizen of the modern state of Israel, and by the Palestinians!
In Twenty First Century America it means the very same thing. A patriot, like Barabbas, is one who devotes herself or himself to the nation of the patriarchs, the fathers of the nation. Washington, Jefferson and other stalwart insurrectionists such as Patrick Henry, Paul Revere and those courageous ones who staged the Boston Tea Party. Barabbas was most likely a Jewish patriot fighting against foreign domination and taxation without representation – the very same thing that sparked the Tea Party.
The significance of the choice, seen in these terms, is greatly expanded when we pause to consider that this is precisely the choice that Jesus has set before all men everywhere throughout the ages. I am speaking of the choice compelled by obedience to his commandment as found in Matthew 23:9:
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
The choice is ours and it is mandatory. Which will it be? The patriotism of man, or the Patriotism of God? Man the father – or God the Father? Barabbas – or Jesus?
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