30 June 2022Acts 3:11-21
'But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you.' (v. 14)
On Tuesday, we read about Peter healing a lame man outside the Temple gates in Jerusalem. Following on from this, Peter here takes the opportunity to tell the gathering crowd about Jesus. Peter declares there is nothing special about himself that brought about this healing, instead he points people to Jesus as the ‘special one'.
Peter reminds the people of the trial of Jesus that happened only a few months earlier in Jerusalem. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate had declared Jesus innocent, and then suggested he set Jesus free in a prisoner amnesty. But the Jerusalem crowd, egged on by the Jewish priests (who wanted Jesus killed) demanded instead the release of another prisoner, Barabbas, a murderer who was awaiting crucifixion for inciting a rebellion against the Romans.
There are so many interesting parallels between Jesus and Barabbas. Firstly they share the same name; both are literally called Jesus, and both could also legitimately be called Barabbas, since the literal meaning of Barabbas ls ‘son of the father’. So we have here a ‘son of the father’ being put against the ‘Son of the Father’; Jesus Barabbas versus Jesus of Nazareth.
In some ways they can be said also to share the same aims. Jesus Barabbas wanted to free the Jewish people from Roman occupation. Jesus of Nazareth similarly wanted to free his people, and he taught about freedom (“and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” John 8:32). But the freedom Jesus of Nazareth brought was bigger than political freedom from the Romans – it was about spiritual freedom from sin and death.
Where Jesus of Nazareth radically departs from Barabbas (and from so many subsequent freedom fighters) is the method he uses. Jesus teaches us that violence is not the way to achieve justice. Even during his arrest, when Peter is ready to fight, Jesus has to remind him “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52) Jesus fights his revolution with love, not with violence, and teaches us to do the same. He teaches us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). His revolution is one that spreads through peace, not violence.
- What injustices are you passionate about fighting?
- How are you able to fight against these injustices with love rather than with violence?
- At what times do you think it is appropriate to use violence to enforce freedom or justice?
Lord Jesus, guide us in following your ways. May we build your kingdom and overcome evil through love rather than violence. Amen.