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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 20- Barabbas Is Released While Jesus is Condemned

Matthew 27:15-26

Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. 9 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called (Jesus) Barabbas. So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, "Which one do you want me to release to you, (Jesus) Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?" 10 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. 11 While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him." The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. The governor said to them in reply, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They answered, "Barabbas!" 12 Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" But he said, "Why? What evil has he done?" They only shouted the louder, "Let him be crucified!" 13 When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves." And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children." Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, 14 he handed him over to be crucified.

In his commentary, Binz explains that the Roman government released a prisoner at Passover in order to calm the nationalistic crowds gathered to celebrate Israel's independence from Egypt.  Pilate knows that the chief priests have impure motives for wanting Jesus to die, so he offers the worst of the criminals to the crowd, Barabbas.  Barabbas' name means "son of the father" which is interesting because Jesus is really the true Son of the Father.  So, the crowd has to choose between the truth and a lie.  I think you know how the story ends.  It is interesting to note that Pilate's wife sent him a note asking him not to condemn Jesus.  As we see, Pilate chooses to listen to the crowd's pressure and silence his own and his wife's intuition.

How many times have we chosen Barabbas over Jesus?  How many times have we silenced that voice telling us what is right and wrong?  How many times have we let our passions drive our decision rather than our minds or our hearts?  It is so easy to see how wrong the crowd is when we are reading it from afar.  But, it is not so easy when we are in the crowd.  It is not so easy when we are asked to be the one lone voice standing up for what is right- like a lamb surrounded by wolves.  But that is exactly what Jesus was- a lamb surrounded by wolves.  When we are asked to live this life, we are asked to live Christ's life.  He lives in us and through us.  He is the flame while we are the candle.  He asks us to completely surrender to Him just as he completely surrendered to us- agape love.  As we see in the Passion account, the lamb was slain by the wolves.  He allowed himself to be slain for the sake of the wolves.  When we find ourselves in a crowd of wolves, will we announce that we are not one of them?  Will we say who we really are?  Will we risk our lives so that the lamb can live through us?  Or will we be one of the wolves?

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