9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. Mark 15:9-11
During this week we have spoken of places and situations that we truly find ourselves that are difficult to get out of on a regular basis. We have looked at the the blockades or impasses that we all face daily and the barriers that can only be overcome through the hope of Christ. But today we enter into a new reality as it comes to our daily battles. As we look at our journey with God, there comes situations that arise in our lives that seem as if they could be so simple to overcome but in reality rock us to our core. These types of situations that seem to bring to different sides of the equation into light and we have to determine which way we are going to go. Opposite directions with two very different outcomes to the same problems that we face. Similar to the choose your own way adventures where you come to an impasse and you have to choose which way you are willing to go. Both ways could lead you to a solution or they can cause you to end your journey all together. Decisions that will shape the next steps of our journey... decisions that would be easier to make if we were able to see the outcome before we have to decide.
These types of decisions are called juxtapositions. Webster's defines these types of situations as, "the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect." It is a literary term that causes the reader to look at situations that are an ironic contrast and forces the viewer to make the determination of why they are similar or different. So why do we use the term to describe our
personal spiritual journey today.. because most of us are living this type of situation every day of our lives. We are facing decisions that confuse us at first and then force us to make decisions to situations that are completely out of the ordinary. Just like the barriers we may face each day, we struggle because the situations that we find ourselves in truly don't make a lot of sense. They confuse us and make us question how the ends can justify the means. As we walk through this life, we will have to continue to discern the world's definition of good and evil and God's definition of good and evil. Some times they may look similar, but other times they may be completely different. We have to recognize this and use our ability of discernment to make a wise decision as we step into the situation. The world is a different place then it was when it was first created, in the time of Jesus, in the days of our parents and for some of us even then it was last week. The world will continue to be different and force us to push the boundaries of truth. However, we need to continue to dig in and set our foundations strong so that we can make a decision that is based on truth and not on popular decision.
Ever since sin entered into the world, it has placed us in a juxtaposition as Christians. We have been called to step in the world but not be of the world. We have been called to deny ourselves and follow Jesus. We have been taught that the only way that we will gain our lives is to lose them. People in the world don't understand that position that we take as Christians. They see black and white differently than we see black and white, good and bad, saint or sinner. Today, we see Mark's account of a moment in Christian history where the world was put in a juxtaposition. Two contrasting images of good and evil, Jesus and Barabbas. One had committed no wrongs, but threatened the livelihood of an empire and the Church of His day. The other a convicted murderer that deserved to die. The world was caught in a moment that we today would say the decision would be easy....right. No doubt about it. We would ask Pilate to release Jesus because He is the Savior we have been waiting for all of our lives. It was so easy, right? I mean they had just cried out Hosanna, Hosanna just a day or so before and laid down palm branches. They had listened to Him speak and were prepared for a change to occur. And now what do we hear... Free Barabbas? Crucify Jesus? Two very different parts of the spectrum of good and evil standing before us and we choose Barabbas? They faced an impasse a barrier that caused them to reach down deep and vote based on their convictions... and they chose their own self-interest over an opportunity to release the Savior.
But all of this had to come to pass. The juxtaposition that they/we were in continues to help us see that this was already a part of God's bigger plan. Yes, they were two contrasting images, Jesus and Barabbas... but the moment on those steps was not for us.. but for Barabbas. God had placed Jesus in a position to show the world that even the worst sinner in all the land had the opportunity to be freed through the life of Christ. They were seen as
the same in the eyes of the world, but the contrast was evident. However, Jesus stepped into the life of the vilest sinner and showed him grace, love and mercy. When Jesus could have
easily asked the Father to step in, He didn't. He knew the decisions that had to be made and Jesus realized that this moment would define history. We may not look at it the same every again and I hope that we don't. I hope that we recognize that we are not just looking at Jesus as the Savior of the world, but at Barabbas as the representation of us all. The RIGHTEOUS, Jesus, died for the UNRIGHTEOUS, Barabbas... You... and Me.. so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. Jesus saw it differently than we would and recognized that this may be the ONLY way to reach the most notorious sinner... who also needed to be given a new life. We have no scriptural basis to know what happened to Barabbas after this encounter with Christ. Some ancient writings say that he followed Jesus to Golgotha and watched the Man who saved him be crucified. Others say that he repented and became a follower of Jesus. We may never know until the day that we go home to heaven. But Jesus saw the moment, an impasse that stood between Barabbas and God and He willingly stepped in to destroy the barrier. What about us? If we were standing before the crowds... would it be difficult to see the similarity with Jesus? Would our lives be like Barabbas and be a total contrast to God's plan? Thank you God for providing Jesus as the ONE that helps us to discern truth as TRUTH. May we continue to strive to grow deeper in our faith so that we will be ready to face anything that may be thrown in our direction, and be an example of how, with God's strength, we can overcome any adversity.