Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
-Mark 15: 9-13
From the Justice Seat on the upper level of the Gabbatha forum, Pilate could see across the square, through the portal to Jerusalem beyond. It looked like an orderly city from his seat, but the crowd below in the square made clear, Jerusalem was a seething hotbed of rebellion, un-bathed pilgrims, and religious agitation. On the raised judgment stone stood a gaunt, remarkably serene, itinerant rabbi, tethered to two Sanhedrin guards. Four priests from the Temple stood behind the accused.
Pilate signaled to his Adjutant officer to quiet the crowd. The centurion raised Pilate’s ceremonial fasces above his head with both hands. The polished blade of the battle axe reflected the morning light onto the crowd. Silence…
Pilate knew of the accused, the rabbi from Nazereth. He had been a burr under the priest’s robes for some time. Directing himself to the chief priest, Pontius Pilate barked, “State the accused’s name and the nature of the crime that warrant’s Rome’s time.
“He is Yeshua bar Yosef of Nazareth. He has spoken blasphemy in the temple…” bellowed the head Priest, “…he claimed to be the son of God!” Laughing, Pilate said, “Oh horror of horrors; if he is truthful, that makes him King of the Jews -- and your boss!” He added, “If Rome had jurisdiction in such trivial, job-security squabbles, which Rome does not, what would you have me do with Yeshua bar Yosef?” The priests and the crowd yelled, “Crucify him!” Jesus stood still, looking up at Pilate, not blinking.
Pilate went on with his interrogation. “And what did your blaspheming rabbi call your god with all the petty rules, ‘Daddy’?” Stone-faced, the priest said, “‘Abba.’” “Why don’t you crucify him for calling your god, “Abba.” said Pilate, knowing the absurdity of the suggestion. The priest said, face red with anger, “Right now you have an insurrectionist awaiting crucifixion in the fort of Antonia just down the street, may We respectfully request that, according to Passover tradition, you release into our custody, the insurrectionist, Yeshua bar Abba. He is the third son of our senior rabbi, we call him Abba Noem.
In a mocking tone, Pilate said, “You would have me free Yeshua barAbba, who is guilty of murder and insurrection, and crucify an innocent man, your Yeshua “barAbba”, son of your god and King of the Jews.”
The crowd cried , “crucify him…crucify him. May his blood be on our hands and on the hands of our children!”
Pilate interrogated the gentle, accused rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef and found him to be innocent, so he flogged the rabbi and turned him over to the Jewish authorities to be crucified.
In the holding cells in the Fortress of Antonia, Yeshua bar Abba, the convicted insurrectionist, sat balanced on the wooden cross-beam he was forced to make for his own crucifixion. The beam kept his body from touching the human waste and foraging rodents on the floor. He listened to the mob in the Gabbatha. He could not hear the interrogation. He heard only the crowd…”barAbba…crucify him…CRUCIFY HIM…let his blood be on our hands…” He wept, crying that he only wanted to prove himself to his father, and once again, created failure.
When the centurions came to bring him to the judgment stone to be released, barAbba thought it was to be the last walk of his life of failure. They walked the corridor toward the daylight, barAbba carrying his cross-beam. As they approached the light, a gaunt man, escorted by two centurions walked toward them, A foot swept barAbba’s path and he fell, dropping the beam. The soldiers ordered the gaunt man to pick up barAbba’s beam. “Pick it up, oh ‘King of the Jews; this is your cross now…” Hearing only laughter, BarAbba walked into the light, not understanding that he was the first of an eternity of sinners for whom Jesus of Nazareth, God among us would pick up the cross for our sins and forgive.
Marsden Leverich Moran
Musical Reflection - Broken for Me, Broken for You
Let all the earth keep silence. Amen.