Once again, I was so moved by today's sermon and our Sunday School lesson. This week's lesson from Adam Hamilton's book talked about the crowd and Barabbas and Pontius Pilate. There were several things that were powerful to me. First of all, Barabbas was the first sinner for whom Jesus died! We, like Barabbas, have been spared, with Jesus suffering the punishment we deserve.
Another thing that was meaningful to me was realizing (and maybe I knew this but had forgotten . . .or maybe it was brand new to me) that Matthew tells us Barabbas' name was actually "Jesus Barabbas." The name Barabbas means "son of the Father," and the name "Jesus" means "Savior"; so Matthew makes clear the crowd was being given a choice between two messianic figures. If you picture yourself as part of that crowd, which one do you pick? One is going to lead by force; throw out the Romans; reclaim your tax money, wealth and prosperity; and restore the strength of the Jewish kingdom. The other's leadership involves loving these same oppressors, serving them as they dwell among you, doubling the service they demand of you. Whom do you wish to see freed? Whom do you wish to see destroyed? When we see the choice in that way, it is not so difficult to understand the crowd's choice of Barabbas over Jesus. They chose the path of physical strength, military might, and lower taxes over the path of peace through sacrificial love. (pg 73 in 24 hours that changed the world) I told our class that I think I would have chosen Barabbas - which brought me to my knees. Now as Mark said after class, we have the benefit of being on this side of the cross and we would hopefully choose Jesus now. Donna (in class) pointed out that we have that choice every day -actually multiple times each day - whom do we choose?
That brings me to the other point that was so powerful. Mark and I firmly believe in getting up and going to church every Sunday. It helps that I am a teacher on Sunday mornings but we went even before I began to teach. We even went as newlyweds. If you live in our house, you go to church on Sunday mornings. That is the way that Mark and I were both raised and that is the way we have raised our kids. Well, I never thought about it in exactly this way before . . .this is from page 77 of the book: And who is your crowd? Who is your (MY) crowd? We find ourselves drawn in, doing things we know are not right, things we know are against God's will. Part of the reason gathering in church is so important is that for at least an hour every week we are surrounded by a crowd desiring to follow Jesus. It feels good to be among people who think the way we think and who encourage us. This crowd has a voice strong enough that it is hard to resist. We can be swayed by a crowd for good or for ill; so it is CRITICAL (caps are my emphasis!!), if only for an hour on Sundays, to be surrounded by friends who share our values, convictions and faith.
I truly give thanks for "our crowd" - our friends, our church family, our Sunday school class, Emmaus gatherings - I thank God for "our crowd."