Vicar Matt Doebler
Holy Tuesday Devotion: April 4, 2023
Based upon St. Mark's passion narrative
I imagine that Barabbas must have been a disappointment to his family. His name means “Son of the Father.” But no father in his right mind would be proud to claim Barabbas as a son. He was an insurrectionist, a robber, and a murderer. He was notorious and violent. He was an angry young man addicted to rage. He was a criminal who was currently doing hard time behind bars in a Roman prison. Men like Barabbas are the reason that we flee to the safety of the suburbs, the reason we install Ring doorbell cameras and don’t leave our valuables in the car, the reason our heart begins pounding when a strange sound wakes us up in the middle of the night.
So it should be a no-brainer when Pilate asks the question, “Do you want me to release Barabbas or Jesus? On the eve of this great feast, do you want me to free the criminal or the king?”
Yet, at the urging of the chief priests, the crowd demands that Pilate release the murderer and murder their messiah. They cry out for Barabbas’ freedom and demand Jesus’ death. They would rather look over their shoulders in fear of the wicked son—the one who through his violence brings shame to his earthly father—than bow their knees to the Son of Man who has come to call them to repentance and faith so that he might bring them into the kingdom of his Heavenly Father. They would rather let a dangerous man go free than believe that Jesus has come to set them free.
But even in the midst of this terrible mockery of justice, we are shown a beautiful picture of God’s love for sinners. Because Jesus is the Son of Man who has come to save the wicked son by offering his own life as a ransom. Jesus is the King who has come to die the death of a criminal so that he might empty the prisons of rebels, thieves, and, yes, even murderers. Jesus is the true Son of the Father who has come to be delivered over into the hands of those who will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him.
He has come for evil men like Barabbas. He has come for wicked sinners like you and me. He has come so that, through his holy and innocent suffering and death, we might receive adoption as sons of the most high God and so that we might rejoice to know that we can now boldly come before our dear Father as his dear children to find grace and mercy, redemption and freedom.