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About 1000 yards away, at the fortress of Antonia, Barabbas was in a jail cell listening to a conversation between Pilate and the crowd. The conversation went something like this:
Pilate said to the crowd, “Whom shall I release to you?”
The crowd shouted, “Barabbas! Barabbas!”
Pilate then said, “What should I do with Jesus, your Christ?”
And the crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Then Pilate asked, “But what evil has he done?”
They shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
At 1000 yards away, Barabbas would only be able to hear what the crowd had to say. He would have heard:
Barabbas! Barabbas! Crucify him! Crucify him!
Imagine hearing those words. Then moments later you hear the footsteps of
the soldiers approaching the cell, the clanging of keys, the unlocking of the cell door, the shackles falling from your hands and feet. At that moment you brace yourself for the unimaginable torture. Instead, the Roman soldiers say to you, “Barabbas, you are free to go.” You can’t believe what he just heard.
So you ask, “How is that possible?”
The soldier says, “Someone else will bear your cross.”
“Jesus, your king.”
Notice that the day Jesus died on the cross is ends well …for the bad guys. One was released from prison, one was promised paradise, and all the others received forgiveness, and the centurion responsible for the murder converts: “ Truly this is the Son of God.”
Everyone loves Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” Before you get to Psalm 23, you have to go through Psalm 22. The first verse of Psalm 22 is: “My God, my God, why have you abandon me.” The verse sounds as if the psalmist is in distress. And he explains. First, he says he is in complete darkness. Then he mentions that “they can count all of my bones.” That is a poetic way of saying that the psalmist is naked. Next, he reports that he is surrounded by wild animals such as the bulls of Bashan. They are huge because they have an unlimited food supply. There is also a pack of dogs. Just to give myself an idea of what this was like, I recall a family vacation in the deep woods of Maine. The camp and a tool shed in the back. I needed a screwdriver to make an adjustment on the boat. I entered the shed and it was dark so I felt around to find the pull chain light. When the light came on. When my eyes adjusted to the light I could see a web and in the middle of the web was a spider about the size of my face. I still get chills thinking about it being in the dark with that
spider. And it was just a spider. The Psalmist had to deal with horns and sharp teeth.
So, there is the Psalmist in the dark, and the wild animals are closing in on him. Just at the moment of impact, the psalmist lifts up his head, cries out: “Thank you, God. I knew you would come through for me. I am so glad that you are my God.” So there I am reading the psalm and then, “Hold it, stop the psalm for a minute. What happened? What happened to all those wild animals?” It doesn’t say. For hundreds of years, thousands of people read this psalm and they all stop and ask “What happened to the wild animals.” When Jesus is on the cross, he becomes the psalmist. He is the one who cries out the first verse: “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” He is the one who is in the dark of the eclipse. He is the one who is stripped of his clothes. He is the one who is surrounded by enemies. It is at this moment that we find out what happens to the enemies. God does not kill them. He converts them; he saves them. The day Jesus dies on the cross ends well… for the bad guys.
When I die, if I ever encounter Barabbas in the afterlife, I know what I will say to him. “He did not just save you on that day. He saved me too.”Back to All Homilies