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  • Writer's pictureRev. Christopher Tweel

The other son of the Father

(this post was originally published here)

The words of the crowds are in my head with the full body of an imagination founded in cartoons and science fiction; a crowd that is thick with emotion and animation.

“Not this man, but Barabas! Give us Barabas!”

I try to place myself in that place, in that crowd, as a follower of Jesus.

The hope that perhaps Jesus would be released after all, seeing Pilate bring him forward to the colonnade overlooking the gathered mass.

Then the cry, the response.

The panic that rises and the shame that couples it.

There is a part of us that matches the incredulity of the apostles. Why Barabas? Why the robber, or the zealot? Why not the teacher who healed?

For the author of John, the answer has already been written. There is the answer, Quid est veritas? Pilate asks. What is truth? He says.

Not to be coy, but to remind the reader that they know the secret. Jesus has already said that there are a select group of people who will hear the truth of Jesus has had to say in this Gospel. The wise reader responds to Pilate’s question, “There! The Truth is right before you!” The one speaking is not only speaking the truth but is Truth.

The literal Greek is a word that means “unconcealed.” Jesus has revealed himself, there can be no more doubt. The truth, the living truth, now stands uncovered in his purpose and intent in reconciling the world to God. This is what Jesus asked for in John’s Gethsemane prayer.

The words from John 17:17 should stand out to us as we read forward in the week leading up to the moment of the passion.

Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” God’s Word is Truth, just as God’s word is truth. When Pilate asks this question, the attentive reader answers the question. Yet something remains. If the Word is Truth, then why does the crowd choose the lie?

The fact is that the truth is hard for us as finite human creatures. It’s very possible we aren’t able or ready to deal with truth in all it’s many forms.

The truth that our parents are in hospice at the end of their lives is hard.

The truth that our spouse has betrayed our trust, or let us down is hard.

The truth that our children are locked into a battle with addiction is hard.

The truth that the church has wounded us and leaves us in pain instead of healing is hard. We run from truths and in many ways do everything we can to insulate ourselves.

Instead of facing the truth, instead of allow God to reveal the true plan in our lives, we try and refuse the sanctification.

There is a wonderful line in the movie, “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.” (spoilers)

As it turns out, the famous man who was supposed to have done the mighty deed reveals that he is in fact a fraud. The newspaper man who has been recording this story the whole time, upon hearing that, rips up his notes, and comments “This is the west sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Humanity is the eternal west.

We make our habits from “printing” not the truth, but the best story. Often that means the best story about our church, our family, and most of all ourselves. We can feel that the truth is too hard to bear, and so run for the fiction. Give us Barabbas! We cry, over and over. We ask for the other child of God. The human child who requires no trust. We find an odd comfort in the one who is so like us with faults and failures. We reject truth, and attempt to reject Christ.

The character of God is frightening. It is the truth about us as human people who are desperately in need of God’s grace, but blessedly it is also the absolute truth about that Grace. The truth is that we cannot escape our sanctification, The truth is that the prayer from chapter 17 has come to pass.

Even though we cry for Barrabas, even though we seek the comfortable lie, we are not permitted to rest there. Even on a day in which we celebrate the solemnity of the crucifixion, we are prodded and encouraged to go further into the real truth, and even on this day we know from our previous reading in John exactly what that truth is.

We are invited on this day, as we contemplate our inability to call for anyone but Barabbas to take part in the larger and powerful story of truth that is in operation. We are invited to accept our place of failure and need for grace that can urge us forward to a life of faith and expectation for what the coming promise of Easter will hold. And we can be thankful, that our false legend of humanity isn’t the last story to be printed. That instead, the Truth has and will win out, as the lasting story between all of the sons and daughters of God and their Creator of Truth.

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