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Mistaken Identity

HOMILY PALM SUNDAY

8/9 APRIL 2017

Mistaken Identity

 

        Many historians tell us that Pontius Pilate despised his posting to the Judean country-side.  This was the outskirts of the Roman Empire.  He considered this posting as the Governor of Judea to be one of the worst assignments of the empire.  He could not wait to serve his time and get on with his career.  What was worse, this assignment required he do something beneath his stature, learn a new language to communicate with these people he was assigned to govern.   And their language, Hebrew, was so much less than the fine tuned, beautiful Romance language of the Empire, Latin.  This gutter language of these people, well, it was less refined, it was less precise, it was less sophisticated...it was, the language of the hoi-poloi; it was their language, and he was constantly forced to use it so as to communicate with them, and we can assume he never quite mastered it. 

        So, when the issue came to give them that annual option of freeing one prisoner and the choice came down between two: Barabbas, and Jesus; well, there might have been an issue of mistaken identity because of who they were and how they were identified.  For in English, it all sounds the same; but in Hebrew, especially to the untrained ear, it probably sounded very much the same.

        the great historian, Josephus, tells us that their name was basically the same:  In Hebrew, it was Jeshua.  The prisoner was known as Jeshua Barabbas.  And the just man from Nazareth:  Jeshua as well. 

        For you see, the name Barabbas, is much more than a name.  It actually is: Bar Abbas, which literally means, the son of the father.  Bar means son, and Abba, or Abbas, means father.  So, when the choice came down to two men, one called bar-Abbas, and one identified as the Christ or literally, Bar Abba -- The Son of The Father, whom did the crowd ask for?  When he had to ask them, in Hebrew, which do you wish for me to release to you, Bar Abbas, or Jesus, Bar Abba, (which would have been the same words used to describe the Messiah -- the Christ) and the crowd begins to shout -- they are shouting virtually the same thing:  Give us:  Bar Abba.  But which one are they asking for? The murder insurrectionist?  Or the innocent Son of the Father, who has done nothing wrong?

        In the end we know which one Pilate gives them and which he condemns to death.  But is it a case of mistaken identity? 

        For in the end, the choice still comes to us.  For the world constantly asks us the same question.  The world, and Satan, constantly asks us to choose between Barabbbas and Jesus. Between Barabbas and Bar Abba -- the Son of the Eternal Father. 

        When we chose death over life we chose Barabbas.  When we chose lust over chastity we chose Barabbas.  When we chose greed over charity; when we chose to do the drunken and the high over the sane and the sober -- we chose Barabbas.  When we chose to do the unjust verses the just; the we chose any sin over virtue -- then we chose Barabbas over Bar Abba. 

        Those choices in life still come our way.  It is up to us to make different choices.  It is up to us to ask the Holy Spirt to help us in our discernment to help us find the voices that shout louder than the rest; to clear the fog of confusion and see the choice that needs to be made.  For in the end, there is only one Son of the Father who gives life; who sets prisoners free; who promises eternity. 

        Whom do you chose?  Barabbas or Jesus -- the Son of the Father?