When The World Calls For Barabbas

Palm-Passion Sunday – When The World Calls For Barabbas

Luke 22:14-23:56

March 20, 2016

 

Because it was the sabbath,  the  women rested…

that’s how it ends…if you don’t know the rest of the story.

 

Here we are at the beginning of Holy Week.

Some say when we read the passion narrative –

the story of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion –

preachers shouldn’t preach at all

but let the story proclaim itself.

It’s a powerful story.

 

He was betrayed by his closest friends..

one turned him in for the sake of some silver;

others were afraid to acknowledge that they even knew him;

and at his trial?

no one – not one of them came to his defense.

 

Everyone in the crowd shouted “Barrabas!”

Surely one could have said, “How about Jesus of Nazareth?”

 

How about that man who didn’t want anyone to go hungry,

who touched people no one else wanted to touch;

who ate with people no one else wanted at their table;

who was not afraid of foreigners or women or others people hated;

who reminded us that to be great means to serve others;

and love means caring not just for our friends, but especially for the least of these.

 

What about him?

What about Jesus of Nazareth?

 

He’s been killed on a cross…and today his body lies in a borrowed tomb…

 

Maybe some years it feels okay to stop there.

Maybe sometimes we feel free to go on with our week living in the tension

and pretending like we don’t know the real ending…

 

 

But this year I’m not willing to let us sit with Jesus’ body in the tomb –

there’s too much tension already.

This year I need to proclaim loudly that this is not the ending.

 

The women come back…

They come back in the early dawn…

and they find that the tomb is empty.

The story of Easter is that love wins….love wins in the end.

And that’s why I can’t let us sit here with Jesus in the tomb today…

it seems that in too many places in our world right now, love is not winning.

 

Fear is winning;

racism is winning;

hatred is winning.

 

There was an article in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago

saying that therapists and other medical professionals

have been seeing more and more people come to them for help.

They’re saying that this election cycle is making their clients anxious

because of their perception that at this point in our history, love is not winning.

 

We have grown up to believe that our country is special…

special because of the freedoms we have to speak and to worship;

special because of the resources we can share with other nations;

special because of the people who have come here from all over the world

(in my sister’s school outside Boston – over 60 languages are spoken!);

we are special because deep within ourselves,

we believe what Edna Lazarus’ poem written on the Statue of Liberty says…

 

I mean…who doesn’t visit the statue of liberty

and not tear up just a little with:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

 

Many seem to be trying to take down that lamp.

Many are saying not “Give me… Bring them here…” but “Give them back!”

 

And that’s where some of the tension lies…

 

Our core story of who we are as a nation

is being challenged.

The story we’ve been proud of:

that we are a nation that embraces diversity;

that appreciates difference;

that defends religious freedom;

That story is in conflict with a new narrative…a very different narrative.

 

And so when others are crying out, “Barrabas! Send us Barrabas!”

people of faith are saying, “How about Jesus of Nazareth?”

 

How about that man who didn’t want anyone to go hungry,

who touched people no one else wanted to touch;

who ate with people no one else wanted at their table;

who was not afraid of foreigners or women or others people hated;

who reminded us that to be great means to serve others;

and love means caring not just for our friends, but especially for the least of these.

 

What about him?

What about Jesus of Nazareth?

Where is he?

We’re looking.

 

At the moment it feels like he’s still in the tomb….and God went on Sabbath!

But hang on… because Easter’s coming.

 

No matter who is elected, the end of the story is not fear nor hate.

The end of the story is that love wins.

 

Love wins.

Wait for it.

Expect it.

Be part of it.

 

Amen.

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