Easter weekend is here again; a truly beautiful time of year as signs of spring are everywhere and we are reminded of the renewal and redemption this day represents. We went to church last night for the Good Friday service. Several smaller churches from the city came together in a larger sanctuary for what is called a "Tenebrae" service, Latin for "shadows" or "darkness". For a little over an hour, hundreds gathered in almost total darkness as passages from the gospel of Jesus' final days were read, recited, and followed with song. There are long pauses of silence to encourage those in attendance to pray or process their thoughts. I took advantage of the time to do both.
I prayed for my own mind and heart to be opened to Him and that He would guide me in my time of reflection. I prayed for friends and family members as they came to mind and for things that were on my heart, but most of the time I just sat silently trying to focus on the details of His final hours.
While the Bible is not a short book by any means, it seems some of the most crucial passages are also the shortest, leaving our imaginations to piece details together in our minds -like the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the crowd the day Jesus was sentenced to death. And as I sat in church last night, listening as a few sentences at a time were read I began to dwell on those details... particularly about the man Barabbas (literally meaning "son of the father"), the murderer who was pardoned instead of Jesus per the custom for the Passover feast. This is all that we know about Barabbas but his role and significance has been debated for thousands of years- but can you imagine what that day was like for him?
Barabbas woke up that morning expecting his death. He was a savage, a filthy criminal, and menace to society that had been thrown in jail to suffer until his execution. He should have died the death he deserved... but Jesus took his place. He was free, he had been given a second chance at life; a complete stranger, an innocent stranger at that, had died in his place! If I could write an end to Barabbas' story I would like to believe he went on to help the needy and serve the poor; dedicating the rest of his life to glorifying the God of mercy and grace, living every day to the fullest, pursuing love and justice...
Wouldn't anyone who had been given new life?
Up to this point, I have always figured my role in Jesus' crucifixion was as part of the jeering crowd or one of his close friends who denied him... but last night I realized I am Barabbas. I should have received the death I deserved, but Jesus - taking my place on the cross that day- pardoned me; gave me a second chance... a chance to spend the rest of my life glorifying the God of mercy and grace, serving His people, and pursuing love and justice to the ends of the earth...
to live as Barabbas (may have) lived from that day forward.