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Early in the morning on Good Friday, Pilate went out to address the crowd. And this is the conversation that took place. Pilate said to the crowd, “Which of the two prisoners would you like me to release for the Passover? Jesus or Barabbas?” And the crowd shouted, “Barabbas! Barabbas!” And Pilate answered, “Well, what should I do with Jesus your King?” And they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
About a thousand yards away in the fortress of Antonia, Barabbas was incarcerated. He would have heard half of that conversation. He would not have been able to hear Pilate because he would have been too far away, but he would have heard the crowds shouting. And this is what Barabbas would have heard: “Barabbas! Barabbas!” “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
A few moments later, Barabbas most likely would have heard the footsteps of the soldiers approaching his cell, the jangling of the keys, the opening of the cell door, he would have looked up and seen soldiers at the entrance of his cell, approaching him. He would have felt the shackles fall from his hands and feet and he would have prepare for his walk to death. But what he was about to hear, he would have never expected: “Barabbas, you are free to go. You will live.” Barabbas can’t believe what he has just heard. He says, “How is this possible?” And the soldiers say someone else takes your cross.
So the question that we have this morning is who is Barabbas? Who is this person that benefits from Jesus’ death? And the answer?
I am Barabbas.
You are Barabbas.
We are the one that benefited from Jesus’ death. We are the ones that hear the words, “You are free. You will live.” We are the ones that will say, “How is this possible?” We are the ones that realize that Jesus carries his cross for us. And that is how God in Jesus shows his love for us — makes sacrifices for our benefits.
There was a couple that was married before a justice of the peace, and they wanted their marriage blessed by the Church. And so one day, they brought their five children and their parents and the friends and they filled the little chapel. And the couple and I were standing in front of the altar and the couple was about to exchange vows, and the youngest of the children, a year-and-a-half-old boy started to cry uncontrollably. Well, the wife turned to the husband and said, “You’d better hold him.” So he held him, and as he was holding him, still crying, the mother went into her purse and found a lollipop and gave it to the little boy, and that seemed to be the ticket to keep him quiet. So we continued with the vows. We go about halfway through the vows, and the little boy dropped the lollipop, and it landed on my shoe. Instantaneously, all three of us thought it would be a really good idea to reach down and pick the lollipop up off my shoe. As we did that simultaneously we all bopped heads. The videographer thought it was so funny, he said, “I’m going to enter this in America’s Funniest Videos.”
At the end of the ceremony, the husband and dad, came up to me and said, “I’m sorry that was a total disaster.” I said, “Let me tell you this. All the weddings I have ever done, this was the most meaningful and the nicest for me because not only did you exchange vows so beautifully, but you were holding the proof of your love in your arms.
Sometimes we can look at Good Friday and say that it was a disaster on many levels and at many stages. But many people benefited from Jesus’ death. Not only did a prisoner get released and not have to die, a thief will go to heaven that same day, a Roman centurion saw God for the first time, all the murderers were forgiven, and everyone went justified to their home because they were beating there breasts, which in Luke’s Gospel means that you acknowledge in humility that you need God. Everyone benefited on this day. Because that’s how God shows his love for us — makes sacrifices so that we will benefit greatly.
So on Good Friday, we can stand beside Barabbas and all the others and say, “God saved me” as well.Back to All Homilies