Bar - abbas
Passage: Matthew 27:15-23
Date: March 16, 2008
Preacher: Rev David Hutchinson
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So much of the Good News of the Gospel - involves - just figuring out -WHO this man is. This man Jesus. So much so that you might say - it's the main point.
Who is - - Jesus of Nazareth ?
The Christ ? The Messiah ? The King ?
Of Israel ? King of the Jews ? King of Love ?
The Son of God ? The Son of man ? The Son of David ?
Jesus is called ALL of these - in the Bible.
John's Gospel - which we have been reading during Lent -
- only ADDS to the list:
The Vine ? The Light of the world ? The Bread of Life ?
The Good Shepherd ? The Lamb ?
There are a lot of TITLES - for Jesus.
A lot of names.
My Lord. The Savior of the World. My - personal - savior.
Rabbi. Teacher. / A prophet - - like Elijah. / A healer.
The list goes on.
And I suppose that Jesus is - in some sense ALL of these. But IF THAT is the only POINT - then it's too SIMPLE. Because THEN - it's just that - Jesus of Nazareth - was quite a guy - and had LOTS of - - sides. And as we PONDER each one - we come to a deeper understanding.
And I suppose that - in some sense - that IS true.
But that is NOT the truth - of the GOSPEL, I don't believe.
Not as we read - from the Gospel this morning - of this man - awaiting his sentence of death. His so called "trial" - before Pilate.
Because here - - we are faced with a PUZZLE about WHO Jesus is.
And we learn - that there are some titles that can be - - -
- - - deceptively - and mistakenly - applied.
Who is this man - from Nazareth ?
Is he - - a - - "Bar abbas" !?
Let me ask it another way -
- who is this NOTORIOUS criminal - - who was released ?
- is he the "son of the Father" ?
- or the "son of OUR teacher" ?
- that's what "Bar - abbas" means.
"Bar" means "son"
As in "Simon - bar - Jonah" - - who is Simon son of Jonah.
or - "Bar-timaeus" - the blind beggar - who is the son of Timaeus.
Bar - abbas - - - is - - - WHO - - then ?
Son of - - - - abbas.
Well who is Abba ? Abba - father - - Son of the father.
Do we dare say: Son of God ??
The title "Son of God" sure comes up a lot - in this chapter of Matthew
Those who mock Jesus say:
"Save yourself - IF you are - - - - - the SON of GOD"
Which is JUST like what the DEVIL said - back in the beginning.
Jesus and the devil in the wilderness.
Jesus tempted - to PROVE - to the devil - - who he is.
The soldiers - - first MOCK Jesus - - putting a reed in his hand -
- for a cepter - and a crown of thorns on his head.
- They mockingly BOW before him.
- And IRONICALLY - THEY know how to treat a king.
- and THEN - after the earthquake - the centurion exclaims:
"Truly this was: the Son of God".
The title "Son of God" sure comes up in the chapter.
A chapter - - in which we meet ANOTHER "Son of the Father"
The imposter. The evil twin ? Bar abbas.
Someone who - was probably named - - - Jesus!
Bar abbas - - was a title. /
Like Messiah - - or Son of God.
More than one person was called by - "Bar abbas".
And someone so identified - would have had a PROPER name too.
In this case - SOME manuscripts of Matthew read:
"Jesus - - Bar abbas"
So - - here we have - -
TWO people named Jesus.
(which by the way was as common a name as "John" is today)
- two people named Jesus -
AND - - TWO people with a very similar title:
Son of - - - the Father - - - or - - - Son of God.
Almost the same person ?
Well - - let's look at who this "Jesus Bar abbas" was.
Matthew only tells us that he was "notorious".
Which could mean WELL known.
He may NOT be as terrible a criminal as Mark claims.
Mark's Gospel calls him a murderer.
But not Matthew. Matthew just says NOTORIOUS.
So - - he is well known - - for something that got him in prison.
Maybe - - a political crime ?
Maybe - - insurrection against the KING - -
- - Which is just what Jesus of Nazareth is charged with - -
- - exactly what Pilate would NOT want.
But - - - maybe THIS "Jesus Bar abbas" - - was willing to use -
- - something that Jesus of Nazareth - was not - FORCE.
Maybe THIS Jesus Bar abbas - - - was willing to be - - the Jesus -
- - that we all wanted Jesus of Nazareth - to be.
Maybe this Jesus Bar abbas - was willing to grab a SWORD -
- - and ride on a big white HORSE - - - rather than a donkey.
Who cares of he's - something of a criminal - -
- - maybe he will be SUCCESSFUL - by worldly standards.
And THERE is the choice. / /
The choice - for people thousands of years ago.
And -the choice for us.
Which Jesus - do we want ?
One who will save us with a sword ?
Or one - who will die - for our sins ?
Pilate's wife had a warning - for Pilate - -
- - as he considered this choice.
She had a dream.
A dream about - whom she called - "this RIGHTEOUS man"
On the other hand - Jesus of Nazareth - by this point in the story -
- had NO answer. He said nothing.
As IF to say - - if you don't have a decision by now - -
- - after the healings - -
- - after walking with him - -
- - and eating meals with him - -
- - after seeing him handed over - -
- - to die - for the sin of the world - -
- - what more is there to say.
But the criminals - - however - - DO have an answer.
"Jesus - remember me - when you come into your Kingdom"
It seems to me - that we ALL have choices - to make about Jesus. /
And - - that - there those who would offer OTHER versions -
- of who Jesus is.
There are those - who would seek a SUCCESSFUL savior.
One who will use violence.
One who will bring security.
One who will provide - monetary blessings - prosperity.
But Jesus promises NONE of these.
Jesus is the one - - who DIES. And the one who rises.
The one who ENTERS INTO the sin of the world.
The one - who invites us - to join him, in death and resurrection..
And the one who offers - - - LIFE - - - and nothing more.
Life - from out of all those things in our world that bring death.
Life - even - from out of our OWN death.
Let us come to this baptismal font - - and this Lord's Table - -
- - in remembrance - - of him.