This Easter Which Messiah would YOU Choose?
On that first Easter week more than 2000 years ago, many of us are familiar with the moment where the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, in keeping with the Passover tradition of releasing one prisoner back to the people, offered the choice of freeing either Jesus of Nazareth or Barabbas. Most people, however, don’t know what Barabbas’ first name was.
It was Jesus!
Even more startling is the meaning of Barabbas. “Bar” means “son of” and “abba” is of course, father.
Barabbas was Jesus, Son of the Father!
Barabbas was also a local hero who had led a riot that had killed Romans.
In this moment Jerusalem had a choice to make. Would they choose to release:
* Jesus of Nazareth, who arrived as a prince of peace into the city just days before, not on a triumphal warhorse, but humbly on the colt of a donkey.
* Jesus, Son of the Father, who had already shown he was ready to pick up a sword to vindicate Israel and drive Rome from the Holy City.
Earlier in the week we see that Jerusalem was ready to back Jesus of Nazareth. But this Jesus didn’t seem to care to much about the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. In fact, he barely mentioned Rome at all! Instead he placed great importance about the state of people’s hearts…and, incredibly, seemed to see a relationship with God being beyond Israel to the nations of the Earth.
But Jerusalem had plans for their Messiah! They were looking for a King of War…
and instead he came as a Prince of Peace.
Jesus knew the choice Jerusalem would make on that fateful day:
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Jesus offered them peace. But deep down, they didn’t want peace.
- They wanted a messiah that would prove they were right!
- They wanted a messiah that would defeat their enemies!
- They wanted a messiah that would show the world that God was on their side!
The crowd made their choice:
We want Jesus, Son of the Father, the false Messiah.
And what should be done with the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Alpha and the Omega…the “I AM”?
Jerusalem responded with one voice, “Crucify Him”! (Luke 23: 13-23)
So what about today?
When I hear (some) Christians talk today, I can’t help but notice the similarity in temperament with those citizens of Jerusalem so long ago. They want Jesus to come again…but they have a certain agenda for him when he gets here.
Like the Jewish people who felt oppressed by the Romans, many Christians in the West increasingly see their values at odds the society around them. One Christian in America I know even wrote to me, “the Barbarians are at the Gates”.
This is not good!
When Christians develop a “siege mentality” like Jerusalem did so long ago, their interests become parochial, political, and very self-serving. They wave palms for Jesus on Sunday morning but secretly hope when he returns he will “kick a little butt” (so to speak).
- They wanted a (returning) messiah that will prove they were right!
- They wanted a (returning) messiah that will defeat their enemies!
- They wanted a (returning) messiah that will show the world that God was on their side!
But that first Easter Sunday the Son of God declared that he was on no one’s “side”. Instead, through his sacrifice, he would draw all men and women to his side. (John 12:32)
But that second list looks a lot like the first list. Have we really changed? Have we learned?
Given the choice between Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus, Son of the Father…I wonder which messiah Christians today would choose?
(Just want to note I was inspired to do this post after hearing a great teaching by Pastor Brian Zahnd which can be found here )
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