Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them,…“I have examined Jesus in your presence and have not found him guilty of any of your charges…. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with that fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (Barabbas had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) (Luke 23:13-19)
I cringe a little when people describe Jesus as a revolutionary. The word is so easily used to justify a particular agenda that may—or may not—have to do with Jesus.
Then I run across stories like this one.
From what I have seen and read, Jesus’ presence in
Yet when Pilate (according to custom) gave them a choice of one prisoner to release in honor of the Passover, the religious leaders chose an insurrectionist and a murderer—the very person to ignite the tinderbox of contemporary
Can you imagine how much they must have feared Jesus?
And why? True, he had caused a frightening stir since his entry into the city. Many in the Passover crowds were loudly hailing him as a king who would throw off the Romans. He entered the temple courts and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. But he also spent time quietly teaching in that same temple. More frightening than a murderer with a record of insurrection? Why?
Maybe it wasn’t Jesus’ actions. Maybe it was his words.
We don’t know whether Barabbas had a vision, but Jesus did: what he called “the
An insurrectionist without vision can be suppressed with brute force. A vision is much harder to quash. So they chose Barabbas.
The kicker, of course, is that Jesus’ vision is just as relevant, and as dangerous, today. All too often, our leaders favor the status quo, or tinker at the edges, and avoid looking at transformation. The current debate over health care is the perfect example: while a single-payer system—a complete transformation of the current situation—might prove the best option, no one wants to put it forward because of vested interests.
I don’t see the Jesus of the New Testament wanting to replace Judaism so much as revive it. That’s more evolutionary than revolutionary. Even so, his vision proved too hot to handle; in many ways, it still is. And yet, in a world that desperately needs transformation, how can we not take up his vision once again?