Passion Week Meditations IV

“…that saved a wretch like me.”

 I was born this way.

My life was essentially over before it started. My father wasn’t there for me. My name, Barabbas, means son of the father. Funny, huh. My mother was raising a pack of kids. The third of seven, I was lost in the midst of the chaos and made my own way. Determined to never be hurt again, I set out to blaze a trail of my own. I would march to my own beat, and no one else’s. Ever.

I would be my father’s son.

I became known as a hellion. I led a band of marauders. I took an unusual amount of pleasure at the expense of other’s pain. I delighted in division. I reveled in revelry. I lived by the laws of lawlessness. You didn’t want to cross my path.

Eventually my past caught up to my present. It was time. I was guilty of all I was charged, and then some. I deserved my certain sentence of death.

I had become my father’s son.

Now it was the time of the Passover Feast. The governor had a tradition to release a prisoner of the people’s choosing. Some lucky guy is going to walk out a free man, I thought to myself. I wonder who it will be.

Suddenly there was a tremendous amount of commotion. Pushing, shoving and grabbing. I was being led out to Pilate’s courtyard, along with the one known as Jesus. It quickly became clear to my what Pilate’s intentions were: give the Jews a pretty easy choice as to who to “pass over”…a career criminal or the miracle worker?  What a joke, I thought. This won’t take long.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Apparently the human commitment to the status quo is a stronger drive than the desire for righteousness. In a strange twist of irony, the guilty one was set free. As the guards released me from my chains, I glanced incredulously at the one who would take my place. Was that a wink from his eye, and a knowing smile that crossed his face. Did he know all along?

I ran as fast as I could to get away from the crowd of insurrectionists. Oh the irony. Yet, I could not forget this man. I circled back around as they dragged him to Golgotha. My eyes could not leave him. And he uttered these words, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”

Yes! That’s me! I don’t know what I am doing. Or what I have done. That day I determined to receive what Jesus was offering.

And on that day, I became my Father’s son.

Who is he?

It’s about time.

I have to confess that there is some relief in being caught. Living with one eye open at night has taken it’s toll. I trust no one, including friends and family. In a odd way, being in prison has given me my first decent night’s sleep for years. The irony.

Who am I? My name is Barabbas, which means “son of the father.” More irony. I don’t even have a name. But I do. I am known not for I am, but what I do. I am a murderer. No question about it. I am leveraged by hate. My blood boils. I am a robber. I am not bound by the laws of God or man. I am an insurrectionist. I take pleasure in creating chaos and division.

That’s who I am. It’s what I do. Got it.

So here I am, rotting in this hellhole of a home. And I begin to hear the noise of the crowds. There is stirring, yelling. Suddenly I hear my name called, followed by a long pause. Then it starts. The haunting refrain. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pause. “CRUCIFY HIM!” I am tormented! The time has come for me to suffer the consequences for my lawlessness.

I am handled roughly by the Roman soldiers. How they have longed for this day. They begin to lead out toward the angry masses, but stop without warning. I am pushed to the rocky dirt path, given a swift kick to the ribs and told to go. You’re free, they tell me. My expression forms a question. How? The crowds chose the Nazarene, the one known as Jesus, I am informed. As I turn to run, overcome with raw emotion, one of the soldiers mockingly calls out, “Your guilt has been Passed Over.” More irony.

How can this, that I, the guilty one, go free?

As I regain my composure, I can’t help but circle back. I need to see this man who is going to die in my place. I know who I am, but who is he?

The soldiers do unspeakable things to him. Torture and cruelty that defies comprehension. He is humiliated, spat upon, and mocked. His skin is being pulled from his back. As he suffers, he is strangely quiet. There is an uncomfortable peace that seems to rule him, as he dies in my place. Who is he?

He is now moving down the road. Carrying his cross. I gain a vantage point close to the hill. I need to make eye contact. To somehow say something. Then it happens. He glances my way. Does he see me? Does he know that I am the guilty one? He pauses, so very briefly. Was it just me, or did a faint smile cross his face? He knows! It’s as if he knew all along. As if this was the plan. Who is He?

Amazing love, oh the sacrifice
The Son of God given for me;
My debt He paid, my death He died
That I might live