"Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barab′bas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was wont to do for them. And he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barab′bas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barab′bas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified." —Mark 15:6-15
The presentation of Christ before the crowd is one of the most wrenching moments in the Passion. Here is a last chance for reconciliation, for the people to acknowledge His loving offer of salvation, and instead they brutally reject Him once again.
Joseph Ratzinger, commenting on this passage, highlighted the direct juxtaposition between our Lord and Barabbas. On the one hand stands Barabbas (in Hebrew, literally “son of the father”), and on the other Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The one is a violent insurrectionist against the Roman government, and the other is a king – but not a king of this world. Which of the two will fulfill us? The crowd makes their choice clear; they prefer worldly glory to divine filiation, freedom from Rome to freedom from sin.
As we walk with our Lord through His sorrowful Passion, it might help to meditate on this moment and the choice it represents. It is all too easy to assume that we would cry out for Jesus, but how often in our own lives do we choose freedom from some temporal struggle or frivolous desire over the eternal peace of Christ!
These choices promise fulfillment, just as Barabbas offered a vision of Messianic deliverance for the Jewish people. But, like all things of this world, such promises run dry apart from our Lord. In the countless small choices of our daily lives, we would do well to picture this scene: will we embrace Christ, or will we send Him out of our hearts to crucifixion? With each time we choose Jesus and eternal fulfillment over the false promise of salvation apart from Him, we grow closer to our Lord in His suffering and prepare ourselves for the joy of the Resurrection.
Lord Jesus, help us to choose You always, that we may grow closer to You each day. Thank You for fulfilling our hearts’ desires as nothing else in this world can. May we remember today all You suffered to win our salvation. Amen.
Passage for Further Reading:
About the Author:
Aidan Stenson is a fourth-year at the University of Chicago and Editor-in-Chief of Cana.