Mistaken identity?

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’ (Matthew 27.15-23)

Are you surprised? Are you confused? The mob is given a choice – free Jesus or free Jesus Barabbas. We know the name Barabbas but did you know that he was also called Jesus and did you realise that his surname means ‘son of the father’? (Remember when Jesus says ‘Abba, Father.) So, make your choice between Jesus who has described himself as son of the Father and Jesus who is known as ‘son of the father’.

Jesus before Pilate

Jesus before Pilate

The early church father, Origen was so troubled by the fact that his copies of the gospels gave Barabbas’ name as “Jesus Barabbas” that he declared that since it was impossible this bandit could have had such a holy name, “Jesus” must have been added to Barabbas’ name by a heretic. It is highly likely that later scribes, copying the passage, removed the name “Jesus” from “Jesus Barabbas” to avoid dishonour to the name of Jesus the Messiah. Only with further scholarship has this been corrected. But it makes it all very confusing and very disturbing. Was there an even greater miscarriage of justice going on?

For all accused of a crime they have not committed;
for all on remand;
for all unjustly imprisoned.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.


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