Not all of us need a theologian to go into the depths of the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. To those not well versed in the Bible, the story is contained within Mathew 26 and 27. Who was Jesus Christ, and who was Barabbas? Jesus Christ came from Judea in Nazareth during the reign of King Herod (See: Mathew 2:1). He was born a Jewish reformer to “save his people from their sins” (Mathew 1:21). His other name was “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us” (See Mathew 1:23). On accounts of available information in some documentaries and writings on Jesus Christ, it was obvious that his origin, Judea, was a small village, perhaps too remote and of little relevance to the central administration in Israel how much more of Rome from where the Emperor lived and ruled (For further details, see: National Geographic Channel and History Channel on Jesus documentaries, See also: Nazareth: American Track Society Dictionary). His title, “Christ” was a translation from the Greek word “Messiah” meaning the “Anointed”, or the “consecrated”.
Jesus Christ started his ministry at the age of 30 and spent the rest of his lifetime spreading what is today known as the “good news”. The centre piece of his movement was “love”. This is very symbolic. His “good news” which he practically demonstrated composed essentially (i) gospel of the kingdom of God (a priority item that everyone should seek), (ii) healing for the sick, (iii) freedom for the oppressed, (iv) forgiveness of sins, and (v) the unrecorded but often forgotten non-aggressiveness approach (For further details, see: Holy Bible, Mathew 5 to Mathew 27). Unfortunately, he was rejected by his own people even for the priceless works that he did. He was accused of calling himself the “Son of God”, and committing blasphemy by claiming to be able to “destroy the temple” and rebuild it in three days. He was arrested by his people and brought up for trial before a lower court made up of the Chief Priest, Mr. Caiaphas, the elders and the scribes. That was the equivalent of the Magistrate Court of our time. There, Jesus was condemned. Even without any appeal but as was the case with the order of the time, the case went up to a higher court, our equivalent of an appellate court, where the Governor of the region, Pontius Pilate, had to make a final pronouncement much like any of our Nigeria’s State Governors of today would do.
On the other hand, Barabbas was the son of “Abba” (See: Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary) and equally a notorious criminal already condemned and awaiting his execution for “sedition and murder crimes” (See: Barabbas – American Track Society Dictionary) before Jesus Christ was arrested and tried. By the time Jesus Christ was taken to the Governor, Pontius Pilate, it coincided with the feast of the Passover when the latter was wont to release a prisoner to the people. Knowing that Jesus Christ was faultless but was being accused out of envy, the Governor wanted to release Jesus Christ. He probably wanted the people to reflect on the condemnable past of Barabbas as compared with the frivolities surrounding Jesus Christ’s accusation when he asked them “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?”. But having being persuaded by their elders and scribes, the people thundered in unison, “Barabbas”. The notorious criminal subsequently regained his freedom while the harbinger of the ‘good news” and “prince of peace” was handed over to the people for crucifixion.
Who were the elders? The elders were the representatives of the people “clothed with authority and entitled to respect and reverence”. In the Old Testament days of the Bible, they were experienced people, a repository of cultural and traditional knowledge and wisdom. They were the followers of Moses and his successors in office. They were the people who had outgrown being bribed or corrupted, and had become the light beaconing on the younger generations to follow their infallible paths. They were the old people in positions of authority and were the “equivalent of sheiks in Arab”. But in the New Testament days, they had become the “pastors”, “bishops”, “leaders”, “overseers” and “rulers” (For further details, see: Elder – Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary). They were those who have seen both the upside and downside of life.
Who were the scribes? The scribes were “men of high authority in the affairs of the state”. They were militants-cum-scholars often working as lawyers, secretaries of state who issued out decrees and officers who enforce the laws of the land. They were teacher of the law, makers of copies of the law and authors on various aspects of the law. But most regrettably, they were Pharisees who on many occasions “frequently came into collision” with Jesus Christ (For further details, see: Scribes – Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary). The Scribes were supported by junior ranking officials called the Levites in the administration and teaching of the law.
In spite of all the good qualities of the elders and scribes enumerated above, one would wonder why they had to conspire to have Jesus Christ condemned and crucified on the cross. One simply reason had been given by Pontius Pilate: envy. It was envy that beclouded all the numerous healings of the sick that Jesus Christ did. It was envy that beclouded feeding of multitudes of people from time to time by Jesus Christ. It was envy that beclouded the payment of tax, like any other group, that Jesus Christ and his companions made at Capernaum. It was this envy that made Jesus Christ a substitute for Barabbas.
And many more! A second reason for his crucifixion was given as the divine intervention required to redeem man from the consequences of sins committed by our forefathers. As such, Jesus Christ became the “Lamb of God” (See: John 1: 29-36) who would take away the sins of the world as well as the “Son of man” who would “save that which was lost” , i.e. save humanity (Mathew 18:11).
Barabbas regained his freedom both from imprisonment and public execution. But being a good substitute for Barabbas, Jesus Christ would not be sent back to the prison for any jail term as a result of envy. Rather, he would face crucifixion; a painful death on the cross and total extermination from the face of the earth!
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