I have been thinking a lot this week about the events of what we call Holy Week. Its a time when I needed to read those familiar Scripture passages as if it was the first time and let the images take shape in my mind. As I did, a long forgotten memory came back to me.
Years ago, I was singing in an Easter cantata, where during a portion of the drama, the choir became the crowd at the trial of Jesus. When Pilate asked the crowd who they wanted released, we yelled, “Give us Barabbas!” Next Pilate asked, “What would you have me do with this man (meaning Jesus)?”, we yelled louder, “Crucify him!”
I diligently rehearsed my lines in the drama and the choir music. I was so focused on the production and knowing my part inside and out that I was not really meditating on the message we were presenting. Then came Easter Sunday’s performance.
As the Word was read, and as we sang about Jesus, the presence of God flooded that little church. The homemade costumes transported me to Jerusalem. I saw Pilate rise to address the crowd before him.
Pilate said, “I have Barabbas and Jesus. Which do you want me to set free for you?” The people answered, “Barabbas.” Pilate asked, “So what should I do with Jesus, the one called the Christ?” They all answered, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked, “Why? What wrong has he done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he could do nothing about this and that a riot was starting, he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. Then he said, “I am not guilty of this man’s death. You are the ones who are causing it!” All the people answered, “We and our children will be responsible for his death.” (Matthew 27:21-25 NCV)
The choir shouted out as the crowd of that day, but as my mouth started to form the words, I found I could barely whisper them. How could I choose Barabbas? How could I look at Jesus standing there and say that I and my children would be responsible for His death? Unexpected tears ran down my cheeks as I wondered how people could forget so quickly the miracles, the teaching, the love of Jesus as He walked among them the past three years. I have never before or since felt the immensity of His sacrifice for me. For me.
So easy it may be to judge those in that crowd. I have the advantage of the knowledge of Scripture and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. But am I any better? I haven’t always chosen Jesus. There have been times when I will be honest, I have chosen to follow the crowd rather than to stand apart. Times when I have chosen to act selfishly rather than serve. Times when I acted out of pride instead of remembering that all good gifts, come from God. Times when I have chosen Barabbas, and pushed aside the plan of God for that moment.
Forgive me Lord.
Such an incredible sacrifice made. Torture, humiliation, ridicule, torment and death. For me. For you. When it all came down to the wire, Jesus chose me. The least, the very least I can do in my life is choose Him every time.
As I prepare my heart to ponder the sacrifice of Good Friday and celebrate Resurrection Sunday, I hear echoes of the words of this African American spiritual:
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world,
Give me Jesus.