Whose Side Are You On? – Those Who Witnessed the Passion
– by Carlos Mantica
They now take him to Pilate, the representative of the invading empire. His approval and help are necessary. Let this other guy bear the burden of this death. There are three lapidary sentences and an action that made Pilate immortal:
- What is truth? With this question, Pilate was trying to play the philosopher. But he cannot recognize truth when it is standing before him. He is blind to the truth, as so many of us are.
- I find no crime in him. And yet,
- I will, therefore, chastise him and release him.
- Pilate washes his hands and delivers Jesus over to them, for them to crucify him.
The Gospel is clear that Pilate condemns someone he judges to be innocent, through fear of losing his position, his peace and his lifestyle. The Jews said to him,
“He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” (Luke 23:5)
Pilate cannot allow troublemakers or agitators in Jerusalem, and these people say that Jesus is such. Pilate is a coward. The first thing he tries to do is pass the buck to someone else – Herod, the governor of Galilee. So he hands over the package to him. Later he has him scourged and tortured in order to awake in others a compassion he does not have.
But, in addition to being a coward, he is intelligent, and that makes him twice a coward. He knows that Jesus is not a dangerous revolutionary, and so he thinks about placing the Jews in evidence. He forces them to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, of whom scripture says clearly that he was a rebel. That is, he had already been condemned for the crime of sedition, of rebelling against the Roman government.
Whom do you want released – John Paul II, or Che Guevara? And they answered, “We want Barabbas” – the insurrectionist.
Brothers and sisters, there are people who find no use for intelligence or compassion. These people are seekers of personal comfort, they are cowards. They are willing to do anything in order to keep their jobs, their influence, or to please someone else. These are the people who sell their conscience, who let themselves be bribed.
They are the faint- hearted, the ones who always try to pass responsibility on to others, the ones who wash their own hands.
Or perhaps we would identify more with the crowd. “Crucify him!” They want no peaceful leaders.
It is funny – the name “Bar-Abbas” means “Son of the father” (others translate, “son of the teacher”). They prefer the “son of the father” who is a revolutionary, an insurrectionist, willing to kill for their sake, than the Son of God who is peaceful and willing to die for their sake. Release Barabbas!
Carlos Mantica is a founder of The City of God community (La Cuidad de Dios) in Managua, Nicaragua, and a founding leader of the Sword of the Spirit. He served as president of the Sword of the Spirit between 1991 and 1995. Adapted from the book, From Egghead to Birdhood (hatch or rot as a Christian), © copyright 2001 Carlos Mantica.