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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, March 28, 2021

March 22, 2021
  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Mark 15:1-39
  • Psalm 31:9-16

Our Palm Sunday liturgies seem to spark some whiplash.  We begin with the crowd joyfully acclaiming Jesus as the long-promised Messiah as he enters Jerusalem and a few days later they were shouting “Crucify him!”  It’s possible that these were different crowds.  Surely not every single person in the greater Jerusalem area was at each event.  Maybe we see Jesus’ allies at the triumphal entry and his opponents on Good Friday.  Maybe.  Or maybe we see people turning on Jesus after he disappointed them.  They were expecting a Messiah who would finally restore the Promised Land.  For nearly six centuries they were still waiting and hoping for a Messiah who would drive out the occupiers and they could finally once again live as an independent nation on the land God had promised to their forefathers.  Jesus seemed to be that Messiah, the one for whom they’d been waiting for hundreds of years, and now he’s coming to Jerusalem and things are about to start happening, and then they don’t.  Instead Jesus clears the Temple, prophesies judgment against Israel, and tells people to pay taxes to Rome.  Jesus says that his kingdom was not of this world.  This was not what people were expecting to happen next.  Is it so surprising the crowds turn on him?  Would we do any different?

In all four Gospels, Pilate offers to free a prisoner of the people’s choice, and offers them Jesus or Barabbas who “was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection.”  That name is curious.  “Bar” is a patronymic, so “Bar Abbas” means “The Son of the Father.” Jesus often described himself as the son of his Abba.  In fact some early manuscripts give Barabbas a first name, too.  Jesus! 

This choice between Jesus and Barabbas probably isn’t historical.  This “Passover tradition” doesn’t appear anywhere outside of the Gospels and it’s hard to imagine a Roman governor pardoning an insurrectionist in order to appease the local populace.  That is just not the sort of thing that Roman governors would make a habit of doing.  So if the choice between two people identified as “Jesus, Son of the Father” isn’t just some odd historical coincidence, what should we make of it?

Barabbas may have been closer to the sort of Messiah people were expecting.  He was seeking to re-establish the nation of Israel as their own people on their own land as God had promised their forefathers. Jesus was also preaching that the Kingdom of God was now at hand. And yet Jesus was proclaiming that the Kingdom would come in a different way, and frankly in a way that does not make a lot of sense. He rejected worldly power and influence, preached love for our enemies, and predicted his own crucifixion. That is not how revolutions happen. That is not how we get things done. Barabbas on the other hand, knows the way the world works. Revolutions are not clean or pretty and there may well be some murders along the way to the greater good. He seems the only reasonable choice. We probably would have chosen Barabbas too. May Jesus have mercy on us.


  • What are some times when we’ve had to choose between very different means to reach a good goal?How have you made those choices?
  • Jesus’ path does not make a lot of sense, and to a significant extent we won’t see its fulfillment this side of eternity. But sometimes we get glimpses.Have you seen times when the harder, less realistic path brought forth good fruit?

Author: Kristen Filipic


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