When my oldest daughter was four years old, our family made a pilgrimage to the quaint and almost hidden St. Anne’s Shrine in Massachusetts. While praying the Stations of the Cross, my husband told an age-appropriate version of the story to my young daughter. Never before had I witnessed someone hearing the details of Jesus’ sacrifice for the very first time… and it was mind-blowing. A few weeks later she was talking through the story and I asked her if she knew what Jesus was thinking as He carried His cross. Her brown sparkling eyes grew wide as she replied, “No! What?!”
“He was thinking about you.”
Bewildered, she responded, “Me?!”
“Yes,” I answered, “because Jesus would do whatever He had to do to make sure He could be with you forever.”
As we enter into the reflections of Good Friday, we remember that Jesus had one motivation this day. He made His choice and Jesus would do whatever He had to do to make sure He could be with you forever.
In today’s liturgy we will hear a story about another man with a choice. We remember Pontius Pilate simply as the guy who gave into peer pressure. Feeling threatened by the crowds and Pharisees, Pilate devises a cop-out. He remembers that it was customary that he could release a prisoner during the Passover. Pilate thinks he has found his loophole.
So Pilate calls for a murderer named Barabbas to be placed next to Jesus on his balcony. With conviction, Pilate gives the crowd a decision. Yet, imagine Pilate’s face when he heard their reply, “We want Barabbas!” He gives the crowd several chances to change their minds, but their cries are relentless.
In his frustration, Pilate looks to the crowd and asks, “‘Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ But he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ They only shouted the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’ [Then] Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead” (Mt 27:22-24).
Every time I hear this story, I am continually shocked. How could this happen? Even if someone didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, it seems impossible to choose Barabbas! It simply doesn’t make any sense.
But the fact of the matter is that this isn’t just a story of something that happened over 2000 years ago, this is a story about you.
You and I choose Barabbas all the time, maybe even every day. This is what it means to choose sin. It means that we become members of that crowd. We are caught up in the moment, listening to the voices around us and shouting, “I WANT BARABBAS! LET THIS MAN JESUS DIE FOR MY CHOICE.”
But, we can’t miss out on the most important point of this story – even when you choose Barabbas, Jesus chooses you. Jesus says, “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down on My own” (Jn 10:18). This is true even when you choose Barabbas. This is true even when you are Barabbas – guilty and deserving of punishment. Jesus chooses you.
When Jesus was sent to be brutally beaten and scourged: Jesus saw your face and Jesus chose you.
When He was dragged from the ground and a crown of thorns was thrust into His skull as the soldiers mocked and spit on Him: Jesus saw your face and Jesus chose you.
When He was forced to carry the instrument of His execution, bones exposed, blood and sweat filling His bruised and swollen eyes: Jesus saw your face and Jesus chose you.
When He hung on the cross, gasping for His dying breath: Jesus saw your face and Jesus chose you.
Our Savior, barely looking like a man, died the death that was meant for Barabbas, for me and for you.
And that should have been the end of the story.
However, three days later, Jesus cheated death. While He was on the cross, He was tempted as the crowd said, “If you are really God come down from there.” Let’s think how unimpressive this would’ve been in comparison to what He had in store. Instead, three days later a cold corpse suddenly draws in a breath of life. In that moment, Jesus saw your face and Jesus chose you. Jesus bore YOUR sins and He rose from them! You see, Jesus would do whatever He had to do to make sure He could be with you forever.
Today on this Good Friday, you too have a choice. Will you give the Lord the joy of being your Savior?