Everybody knows the story of Jesus Christ, and how Pontius Pilate, the praefectus of Judea, gave his Jewish subjects the choice between freeing Him or His fellow death-row inmate, Barabbas, in a prevailing Passover custom that allowed Pilate to commute the death sentence of one prisoner. The praefectus did this by popular acclaim, and, as a result, the Jews chose Barabbas. But what people don't know is why the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus.
One theory, which most Bible scholars dismiss, is that, since Barabbas' first name was also Jesus, Pontius Pilate got confused over whose name the Jews were calling out.
"My Jewish subjects, I present to you Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Barabbas! Whom shall I free?" Pilate yelled at the crowd, and, looking down, noticed his hands were dirty. Man, he thought to himself, first chance I get, I've got to wash my hands.
"Jesus!" the crowd yelled back. "We want Jesus to go free!"
"Um... which Jesus do you mean?"
"The one we want to go free!"
"Yes, but they're both named Jesus. Which one are you talking about?"
"The one with the beard!"
"But they both have beards. In fact, everybody here has beards. Even the women. Let me ask it another way: whom shall I crucify?"
"Jesus! Crucify Jesus!"
"Yes, but which Jesus? Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Barabbas?"
"The one with the beard!"
So Pontius Pilate grabbed the nearest Jesus, and told him, "All right, Barabbas. You win by default."
"Let His blood be upon us," the Jews chanted, "and upon our children... but not upon our children's children, because children should not be having sex!"
I always found it amazing how these biblical crowds were able to yell the same thing word for word.
While this story might be true, I tend to side with the biblical scholars who think it isn't, and it has nothing to do with the money they paid me.
What I personally think happened was that the Jews chose Barabbas over the the Son of God because he was such a great guy. Sure, he was a rapist, a thief, and a murderer, but he was also a lot of fun to be around. Jesus Christ may have been the Messiah and all that, but He was always telling everybody what to do. If someone dropped a piece of parchment on the ground, He would say, "Hey! Picketh that up! Were you born in a barn? Verily."
The irony that He, Himself was born in a barn was lost on Jesus. He was too serious for His own good.
Barabbas, on the other hand, was the guy you needed to invite if you wanted your party to be a success. For one thing, he always brought the best wine. Jesus may have once changed water into wine at a wedding, but it was His mother who made Him do it.
"Jesus," His mother sweetly hinted, "this wedding doth stinketh. They've run out of wine."
"And what's it to Me?" Jesus complained. Jesus also had the annoying habit of capitalizing all words referencing Himself.
Barabbas, on the other hand, was the kind of guy who always bought a round of drinks for the house. He may have bought those drinks with gold picked from the pockets of the men sitting next to him, but as long as he had a dollar in front of him, you'd have a drink in front of you.
In comparison, if someone was running out of wine at their wedding, Barabbas wouldn't complain. He was always more than happy to steal wine from the Roman guardhouse down the street. When the Romans would eventually show up and kill everybody, Barabbas would already be long gone. Off raping the bride somewhere. Barabbas was never one to overstay his welcome. I'm sure the bride, on some level, would appreciate that.
Barabbas would also protect he nerdy Jewish kids who were into the biblical equivalent of Star Wars.
"Don't worry," he'd tell them. "If anybody messes with you, they're messing with me. Now... give me all your money!"
And then he would rape them.
If you needed to borrow Barabbas' chariot, he'd lend it to you. It didn't even matter if you were too young to have a Roman drivers license. If you were arrested later for joyriding in a stolen chariot, well, that was your problem. Just make sure that, when you got out of Roman jail, Barabbas had a brand new chariot for the one you lost.
If you were underage and caught him outside of a liquor store, Barabbas would cheerfully buy you a six-pack of Coor's or a bottle of Boone's Farm.
"Just stay away from the hard stuff," he'd warn. "And drugs."
Barabbas always told the best jokes, and was always the life of any party. Jesus, on the other hand, was a bit of a wet mop. He liked to stand around and tell everybody what they were doing wrong.
"Hey!" Jesus would say. "You're not supposed to double-dippeth the chip after thou hast already taken a bite out of it! Verily."
Jesus wasn't interested in what anybody else had to say, mainly because, as the Son of God, He already knew what that someone was going to say before they said it. All He wanted was for HIM to talk, and for YOU to listen.
"Hey!" He'd say. "Listen upeth! I'm telling you this for your own good. Verily."
No matter how wild the party, it would die the moment Jesus walked in the front door. Barabbas would be playing the piano and coaxing everybody into singing a bawdy song, while Jesus would wonder out loud, "Hey, why isn't some girl washing My feet?"
If you were at a bar, and had too much to drink, Barabbas would make sure you made it home safe and sound. You're pockets might be empty of any gold they may have contained, and every orifice on your body violated, but you made it home, didn't you? Quit'cher complaining.
The next morning, while you were suffering from a hangover, what would Barabbas do? Why, he'd bring you some chicken soup, paid for with the gold he stole from you the night before.
If a person was sick or not feeling well, Barabbas would always come to visit to see how they were doing, and, as a gesture of good will, he'd considerately rape them before he'd leave. It was his way of telling them, "Get well, little buddy."
So, you see, the crowd of Jews who called for Barabbas' freedom, instead of for the freedom of the Son of God, had their reasons. You may disagree with those reasons, but you'd have to agree that your disagreement would be disagreeably disagreeable. After all, no one else tried to comfort Peter, one of Jesus' twelve apostles, after he denied Christ three times. No one tried to comfort Judas, when he finally realized he had kissed a man the night before.
"I'll never be able to join the Roman Army now," he cried.
"Here," Barabbas told him, "have some rope."
No one tried to comfort Mary Magdalene after the crucifixion. No, really. I'm telling you. No one did.
No one, that is, except Barabbas.
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