Homily – Good Friday MMIX 4/10/09

Homily – Good Friday MMIX                4/10/09

Among the many sad scenes in our Lord’s Passion that first Good Friday, one in particular has recently caught my attention.

It is the scene where Pontius Pilate goes and stands before the vast crowd of people that is gathered in the Praetorium for what the synoptic Gospels say was the third time that day.

According to Matthew, Mark and John, Pilate asked the people:  “Which of these two men would you like me to release into your society?  Which of the following two men do you desire to have?”

Do you want, as part of your society, Jesus, called Messiah, the King of the Jews?

Or, do you want this other man, named Barabbas?

Certainly there were a blessed few in that crowd who cried out to Pilate that Good Friday:  “Release Jesus!  We want Jesus in our society, walking among us, teaching our children, ruling over us!  Release Jesus!”

But sadly, all four Gospel writers tell us that the overwhelming majority of people chose to have the other man over Our Lord.

St. Matthew says the crowd in response just chanted Barabbas!  Barabbas!

St. John said that the crowd cried “We don’t want this man Jesus, we want Barabbas!

Mark says the crowd was all fired up at the prospect of getting Barabbas from Pilate, so that they must have cheered for joy when he was finally released into their society.

And St. Luke even seems to imply that most of the people in the crowd were there that day for no other reason but to ask Pilate for Barabbas, indeed to demand that he give Barabbas to them.

So who is this man so desired by the masses?

Again, all four Gospel writers shed a different light upon the character of the man, or lack of it.

St.  John, as we’ve just heard, simply describes him as a revolutionary.  The word is also translated as robber, however.   Barabbas was a revolutionary and a robber.

St. Luke says that he was the leader of a rebellion that had taken place in Jerusalem, and also a murderer.

St. Mark says that Barabbas was imprisoned along with the rebels who had committed murder.  As if to say that the guy was so slick that the authorities couldn’t pin anything on him, so slick that his many fans would say “Barabbas isn’t a bad guy at all!”

And finally, St. Matthew describes Barabbas, the man overwhelmingly chosen over Jesus, as a notorious prisoner.

Matthew also gives Barabbas’ full name: Jesus Barabbas.

And so his full name is Jesus,
Bar (Hebrew word meaning “Son of”)
Abbas (Hebrew word meaning “Father”)

The crowd that first Good Friday my brothers and sisters, rejected and crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God the Father Almighty;

and chose, to great cries of rejoicing, Jesus Barabbas, the Son of Satan the Father of Lies.

So it was that first Good Friday, and so it remains today in this fallen world we live in.  As Jesus tells us, Narrow is the road that leads to life, the road which winds it’s way up Mount Calvary, and those who are on it, those who choose Jesus, are few.

But broad and wide is the road that leads to destruction, and those who are on it are many, with the Barabbas’ of the world leading the parade.

This Day of Atonement, may you and I humbly acknowledge how often we have been seduced in leaving the narrow road of the Gospel to follow after Barabbas the robber who promises us material wealth,

to follow after Barabbas the revolutionary who promises us liberation and a loose morality to live by,

to follow after Barabbas the murderer who exploits poor and defenseless innocent human life,

to follow after Barabbas, the slick, charismatic figure whom we allow to entertain and entrance us, as Jesus is meanwhile cast out of our society, crucified and buried without our even noticing it until it is too late.

O Jesus, by the merits of your Passion, spare us in our day from falling under the spell of Barabbas.

Let the world mock us, let the majority reject us, let the crowd even spit on us and marginalize us and crucify us, we wish by your grace to reject Barabbas, and to choose you Jesus, and your Holy Cross, all the days of our life.

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